SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—Artificial intelligence lab The Big Prefrontal has reported a major breakthrough this week, broaching what is generally acknowledged to be the final frontier in AI development after the defeat of the world champions in chess and Go. They claim to have made significant progress in answering the age-old question, “So where have you been?”

For generations, males coming home late from work after a quick drink with the boys have been stumped by the seemingly simple question that greets them as they stumble through the front door. Unable to recall recent chronological, spatial and autobiographical information, the male worker is at a loss as to how to answer and typically resorts to the last retrievable data: “Uh … at work!”

The Big Prefontal went to ground in late 2016 for two years of secretive development, according to industry observers. The work was rumoured to have been sponsored by an alliance of the Lansdowne, Unicorn and Courthouse hotels. The Big Prefrontal has revealed it conducted intensive trials of simulated deep neural networks to answer the question of where male workers have been between 5pm and 7pm on a weeknight.

The Confounding Variable caught up with the CEO of The Big Prefrontal, Larry Goldmine, an hour and a half into “a pint with the lads” at the Unicorn.

“The AI we’ve developed is uncannily realistic,” shouted Prof. Goldmine over a spontaneous rendition of George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” from his boisterously good-natured fellows, before breaking into an air guitar riff to hoots of approval. “We’ve put this technology into an app and started clinical trials to see just how far we can take prefrontal augmentation in the typical male worker.”

The app is installed on the smartphones of male workers and is activated as they approach their homes in the evening. As a bonus for males with the rare empathic gene, there is also a “Sensitive” mode in which the software learns from the holder of the phone as he beholds the face of his beloved upon arriving home. It analyses real-time temperature, perspiration and heart-rate data to assess the level of vague guilt and foreboding arising in the user and scale its answer on a spectrum from “Full” to “Curtailed”, with a view to minimising personal and structural damage.

When the worker’s wife asks the inevitable question, “So where have you been!?” or ”Do you realize what time it is?” and even “What the hell!?” the app will provide the inquisitor with a suitably informative answer.

Yet not all workers were satisfied with the solution.

In response to feedback during trials, an in-app purchase was added to provide the option of dispensing with an answer altogether in favour of a trending meme. At least one worker, now in traction in St Vincent’s Hospital, reports it was worth it.

Data from the first trial has nevertheless shown promising results: Two subjects were forced to return to the pub after being locked out of the house for the night; one was repeatedly beaten across the head with a copy of House & Garden, and one divorce has been filed.

“These outstanding results demonstrate the superior intelligence of the application in contrast with the cognitive impairment of the subjects,” said Goldmine. The company is now working on an even more complex question: “Why did I marry him?” Results are not expected for some time.