Why are so many AI systems named after Muppets?
Say “01101000 01101001” to BERT and ERNIE. | Illustration: Getty Images / The Verge / Alex Castro
One of the biggest trends in AI recently has been the creation of machine learning models that can generate the written word with unprecedented fluidity. These programs are game-changers, potentially supercharging computers’ ability to parse and produce language.
But something that’s gone largely unnoticed is a secondary trend — a shadow to the first — and that is: a surprising number of these tools are named after Muppets.
To date, this new breed of language AIs includes an ELMo, a BERT, a Grover, a Big BIRD, a Rosita, a RoBERTa, at least two ERNIEs (three if you include ERNIE 2.0), and a KERMIT. Big tech players like Google, Facebook, and the Allen Institute for AI are all involved, and the craze has global reach, with Chinese search…