Algorithm and Robots Writing The News


I have only been at Techaeris 2 days and it already looks like I will be replaced, by a Robot no less. As the printing press was replaced by technology advances, so to are the people that write it. Icon group produces works of literature, news stories and even crosswords, all using a computer algorithm.

Meet Philip M Parker, a published author with over a million books under his belt. But you won’t have seen his name banded around.  Considering he has a small amount of help though, from his company Icon Group International series of computer algorithms. These algorithm are able to produce anything from novels to crosswords.

It is a means to an end to overcome certain market failures, to cover topics that human authors cannot or will not ever cover, yet for which there is a need. ‘Automation is a method of reducing the costs of production, a common issue in all industries. – Philip M Parker, Icon Group

Robot Writers And Algorithm

He is not alone either The Associated Press (AP) has just started using technology aimed to automate the thousands of financial reports needed every single day of trading. All using a algorithm previously developed by Automated Insights. This complex algorithm is able to produce 300 word breakdowns of companies earning. Doing so faster and more efficient than any journalist.

Our technology goes places humans don’t, in AP’s case, Wordsmith will write thousands of earnings stories that would not have otherwise existed. Wordsmith operates at a speed and scale humans cannot match. Our technology frees journalists to do more interesting work. – James Kotecki, Automated Insights.

Thankfully they are not using to the technology to rid itself of paid employees. It means journalists can spend more time researching and producing articles that articulate something more meaningful to the reader. Not spend time typing out figures that could be easily generated automatically.

Financial reports or sport reporting, churning out masses of data is the blunt end of reporting. Could an algorithm really produce something that people would enjoy reading? Well Narrative Science are trying to find out. Its Quill algorithm platform is being used by media outlets such as the LA Times and Forbes.Able to turn data into meaningful reporting.

The Quill algorithm platform is even able to use and interpret human expressions including sarcasm. Just last year Quill produced a published article reporting a recent earthquake, all within seconds of the event happening. However systems such as these still rely on human input. Requiring an operator to input in the data and set the algorithm, but not a trained journalist!

algorithm writers press

The Future

There defiantly is an argument that a robot or algorithm could not produce something meaningful at the moment. Stuart Miles at Pocket Lint shares this opinion. Robot writers and algorithms serve a purpose but will not replace real journalism. “If a robot can whizz up an earthquake report in seconds and it would take a human ten minutes to do that – and it’s the same thing – then it makes sense for the robot to do it” said Miles.

We’re not at a point where a computer is able to go off and interview someone and then create a really thought-provoking piece, I don’t think we’re there yet with computers. However, will we be there in ten years’ time? Maybe. – Stuart Miles at Pocket lint

But Philip M Parker producer of the platform that made a million books was rightly more pessimistic. He believes journalism is just like any other industry. “Journalists as writers will be less important than journalists as investigators – investigation will be harder for computer algorithms to mimic”. Similar to changes in the manufacturing industry, technology will advance to such a stage journalists become replaced. After all journalists are simply manufacturers of news.

We are standing at the cusp of when the artificial truly starts to become intelligent. Advances in many areas are all leading towards truly artificial intelligence. Should we start to get used to our robot overloads now. Fear the technology advances and rue what might happen. Or embrace the efficiency and enjoyment that these advances give us. The choice is yours.

Last Updated on November 27, 2018.


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