Robot Content Vs Real Content: Can Journalism Survive AI?

by February 14, 2017 0 comments
theconversation.com

The Nomura Research Institute (NRI) published in collaboration with Oxford University a shocking report in December last year saying that 49 percent of jobs in Japan will technically be able to be performed by robots within 10 to 20 years. The report predicts that robots will be able to replace workers such as reception clerks, bank tellers, security guards, assembly workers, supermarket clerks, delivery workers, train operators, cleaners and those in many other unskilled jobs.

The report also lists jobs that will survive the era of robots — doctors and health care staff, artists, musicians, actors, critics, stylists, lawyers, teachers, TV broadcasters, photographers, and writers.

The NRI report does not use the word “journalists,” but are we sure? Aren’t we on the doorstep of an era when human beings will no longer be necessary to do a journalist’s job?

We are living in an era where automation is not limited to high-end engineering and medical sector but has shifted to writing as well. Journalism is the new sector in which robots are being used for generating quantitative content.

Robot journalism may sound very futuristic but there is no doubt about the role it’s going to play in our lives.

We already know about Wordsmith software developed by the Associated Press to automatically generate news stories about college sports. This software has been created by North Carolina-based Automated Insights.

Wordsmith works on algorithms to create content. The AP — which is also an investor in Automated Insights — already uses Wordsmith to generate stories on quarterly earnings reports of various corporate firms. The Associated Press has also announced that it will use Wordsmith, to generate up to 4,400 corporate earning reports per quarter, more than ten times the number of reports produced by human reporters. News organizations are experimenting heavily with robot journalism, using computer programs to transform data into news stories or multimedia presentations.

AI and robots can steal thousands of preprogrammed jobs as it has the ability to process massive databases in a couple of minutes in a preprogrammed way.

It is logical to conclude that reporting of routine governmental announcements, mundane statistics, press releases will be taken over by AI and robots. On the other hand, humans will still perform investigative reporting, provide deep analysis and produce profile stories with rich human emotions.

AI may think it does not need an analytical story, but a human reporter can find an important new economic trend worthy of deep analysis.

There is no reason to be worried about the rise of robot journalism as they are purely into structured and quantitative data analysis and not into the mainstream journalism related to human emotion or opinion.

Automation leads to job loss but this is not the case here. On the contrary, automation is freeing up the reporters from digging deep into hard numbers. It will be more problematic for us when a machine with highly developed and ever expanding AI, enters into other fields of journalism like editorials, comparative analysis, and human interest stories. If humans, with the aid of espionage and technology, were capable of developing the machine which destroyed the Enigma, then I don’t have any doubts regarding our future, where a sizeable amount of human workload will be transferred to the robots.

Recently, Xiao Nan – a robot reporter created its first article for Chinese media outlet Southern Metropolis Daily. The machine produced an article (300 words) on the subject of the Spring Festival travel rush – the largest annual human migration where millions of employees in China travel the huge nation to get home to their families for Chinese New Year.

The robot was developed by Wan Xiaojun, a professor at Peking University who is working on developing several AI machines.

However, humans have motivation and passion which AI lack for now. Nowadays it is said that AI can conquer human intelligence. In fact, AI has won in such games as chess, Japanese shogi, and poker.

To conclude, we can be sure of one thing that AI is there to help journalists do more investigative work by analyzing massive sets of data and pointing to the most relevant ones. While this technology can improve efficiencies in newsrooms, what will the future of news look like when it becomes powered by AI? We will soon find out.

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