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Opening Arguments

Robot news

Looks like I'm being obsoleted:

Professor of Computer Science Dr. Kristian Hammond predicts that by 2030, 90 per cent of all news stories will be written not by human reporters but by computer algorithms.

Hammond, co-founded of Narrative Science, helped develop a program with reporter and programmer Ken Schwencke that relies on a fusion of statistics and journalistic clichés to write simple news stories.

This is how the L.A. Times was able to publish an article about last week’s earthquake just 3 minutes after it happened, because the whole story was artificially generated by Schwencke’s computer algorithm.

While the L.A. Times is open about its use of the program, many other mainstream news websites are using “robo-reporters” completely anonymously without a disclaimer.

According to Singularity Hub’s Jason Dorrier, Professor Hammond, “thinks some 90% of the news could be written by computers by 2030.” And don’t think this will just be restricted to sports results or earthquakes. Hammond also believes that “a computer could write stories worthy of a Pulitzer Prize by 2017.”

Or, rather, my colleagues on the news side are becoming obsolete. I'd like to think it's not quite as easy to replace the stirring and stinging sentences spun by opinion writers, although it's probably easy to churn out a stock liberal or conservative editorial mostly by stringing together standard political rhetoric.

News has become easy to produce automatically for a couple of reaons. It's very formulaic, so it's relatively easy to come up with an algorithm that just plugs in the facts in the right places. And it's become, oh, routine. Gone are the hard-hitting in-depth investigations, replaced by rewrites of government press releases.

And "worthy of a Pulitzer Prize"? Not hardly, unless it is degraded even more than it is now.

I find this an especially sad observation:

This speaks to the increasingly redundant role of mainstream news reporters. Journalists working for the corporate press have abandoned their role as adversarial checks against the state to such a degree that they are now being replaced by computers.

Mainstream reporters have become so adept at merely regurgitating official narratives and echoing government talking points unchallenged that they are now being replaced by robots – and nobody is even noticing.


Larry Morris
Thu, 03/27/2014 - 8:58pm

Well, by then I'll be 80 and it won't be me programming the things ... we'll both be out of jobs.