OFF INTO THE WILD WET YONDER How does this...
It seems as if everyone nowadays has a strong opinion about the state of mainstream media. We here at knowmadic news are certainly no less guilty of this.
But beyond the all-too-familiar refrains of “it’s bought and paid for by (insert corporations or the government here)” and “it’s totally left- / right-wing bias,” there is another, and no less valid, criticism. It has all become too “plastic-ey.” All too soulless.
And it is the later that seems to quickly be becoming the norm thanks to “robot journalism.”
Media behemoths such as Associated Press (AP), Forbes, and Fortune seem to have decided that it is far more efficient (and cheaper) to use content-producing algorithms than actual writers.
AP now relies greatly on a platform named Wordsmith, created by the fittingly named Automated Insights. The program’s algorithm is capable of analyzing and writing quarterly earnings business reports, and soon will be used to write sports articles. Moreover, the quickness at which it is able to write these stories is unparalleled.
NPR (National Public Radio) in the United States threw down a challenge, inviting veteran White House correspondent Scott Horsley to act as the thoroughbred horse to compete against Wordsmith, the modern-day iron horse.
The competition was simple. An earnings report from U.S. restaurant chain Denny’s would be released and the two competitors would race to grind out the story for radio broadcast.
The results for Horsley were impressive at just seven minutes, and yet this paled in comparison to Wordsmith’s two-minute turnaround. Moreover, while creating the story Wordsmith was also able to spit out 9,999 more just like it. Effectively putting to shame any multitasker on the planet with its ability to retrieve, analyze, identify, write, and even publish all 10,000 stories.
The one strong advantage that Horsley had over the machine was style. The competition was not just about speed. The contest needed to be balanced, and so eloquence was also taken into account. In this regard, Wordsmith failed to impress. For now, at least.
How long until Automated Insights (or some other tech company) gets the style issue worked out is anyone’s guess, but Wordsmith can be tweaked enough now to even mix a few jokes into its writing, so the time is definitely getting closer.
ADVANTAGEOUS OR DETRIMENTAL?
The argument for this type (and level) of automation is that it frees up writers to do more interesting or significant stories. Anyone who has ever written an earnings reports will certainly attest that it’s not exactly fascinating work. The argument could be made, though, that any serious writer willing to work full time writing earnings reports in the first place probably isn’t the type to use any newly found free time to write something all that interesting. Not casting any judgment, simply attempting to point out the likelihood.
No, what’s more probable is that this technology will just end up taking away jobs from seriously indebted college students who desperately need to start at the bottom of a company. Although the concept of “working your way up from the mailroom” is long gone and buried, it does not bode well for those employers who complain they “can’t find non-entitled young recruits these days.”
Nevertheless, it is not just journalism that needs to reflect on what’s coming. Every industry and economic driver on the planet needs to seriously consider the reality of living in an automated world. The jobs lost, the economic and political threats, and the mental and physical deterioration of humans could be major unintended consequences of our futuristic inevitability.
There is very strong evidence that a healthy and happy life includes freedom from retirement and lots of simple pleasures from honest work. So what happens to us, to our societies, when everything becomes effortless?
Some say the world will become more creative (maybe hold off telling that to all the left-brain people out there), but now even human creativity is threatened as there are platforms for that also.
No matter which side of this you stand, there needs to be some serious, open discussions about the future because this technology is not waiting for us to decide. It’s rapidly approaching, and no one seems to be prepared, especially governments (although ideally politicians will be the first to become automated and shown the door).
Carve out 15 minutes of your day and give the video below a watch. It’s appropriately titled, “Humans Need Not Apply.” You’ll definitely want to at least apply some of your unique (and decidedly human) thinking skills to the issues surrounding the future of an automated global economy, and how your career may or may not survive it.
H/T: Digital Trends