Life with A.I.

Here's what happened when MIT students used A.I. to make pizza (Hint: It involved shrimp and jam)

Shrimp, jam and Italian sausage pizza made with human-computer collaboration. 
Photo courtesy Pinar Yanardag, the How to Generate (Almost) Anything project. 

Ever heard of "wale [sic] walnut ranch dressing" as a pizza topping? No? That's probably because pizza-making AI made it up.

A group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found a way to demonstrate that robots and humans will have a peaceable future — and they're doing it with pizza.

Monday, MIT student Pinar Yanardag and her colleagues launched the "How to Generate (Almost) Anything" project (it's not part of a class). Each week, the group will release something (perfume, art, food) created with an artist or artisan or scientist and a machine working together.

"By augmenting human capabilities and pushing the boundaries of creativity, can AI inspire us to create things that wouldn't have existed otherwise? A dress designed with a crazy hat, a pizza made with shrimp & jam or a scent that has never been smelled before?" a Medium post about the project asks.

Shimp and jam pizza? Indeed.

For the pizza chapter of the project, AI processed hundreds of artisan pizza recipes, and with what it learned, came up with combinations that it thinks would go well together.

"In general, AI models are very good at connecting different pieces of information together — that's why there is usually a surprise factor in anything that an AI generates," Yanardag tells CNBC Make It.

"In our pizza experiment, we saw something similar where AI combined ingredients like shrimp and Italian sausage with jam, which it picked up from a dessert pizza."

Some recipes seemed weird or were missing sauce or cheese. Some even called for ingredients the AI made up, like "snipped caramel cheese" and "wale walnut ranch dressing," says the Medium post. But others actually "looked yummy (like sweet potato, beans & brie pizza)."

The students then worked with Tony Naser, owner and chef of Crush Pizza in Boston, as the human artisan to tweak the recipes and bake the pizzas.

The result? Things like blueberry, spinach and feta pizza; bacon, avocado and peach pizza; shrimp, jam and Italian sausage pizza; sweet potato, beans and brie pizza; and apricot, pear, cranberry and ricotta pizza.

The pizza making team. 
Photo courtesy Pinar Yanardag, the How to Generate (Almost) Anything project. 

The shrimp, jam and Italian sausage pizza was actually the team's favorite.

"We didn't really see it coming but it was definitely the BEST pizza of all," says the Medium post. "After the tasting, Tony also decided to put some arugula on top which really elevated the taste as well (human-AI collaboration, yay!)." It was so good, in fact, that Naser is considering putting it on the menu at his restaurant.

Ultimately, the project aims to show that humans can look forward to a future where artificial intelligence makes life better.

"Everyday, we started to see more news about how machines are becoming better at human jobs, which makes people worried that AI will ultimately lead to mass unemployment by replacing them," Yanardag tells CNBC Make It.

How to Generate (Almost) Anything (AI-generated pizza, fashion, perfumes and more):

"In this project, we playfully wanted to show to the public that we don't have to fear from the AI, but rather, we can work together with AI to achieve the most creative and productive outcomes," says Yanardag.

"AI is here to help us — in anything from pizza-making to fashion design — not to replace us," Yanardag tells CNBC Make It.

See also:

How this cybersecurity company is using AI to fight hackers
How this cybersecurity company is using AI to fight hackers