Kristian Hammond, Narrative Science’s co-founder, estimates that 90 percent of news could be algorithmically generated by the mid-2020s, much of it without human intervention. If this projection is anywhere near accurate, we’re on a slippery slope.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Are journalists about to meet their machine overlords?
According to the New York Times, it's possible.
And, if a bot can already write the lede graf in a pro sports story well enough to fool most humans, we're past the days of police blotter and quarterly financials. And, yes, there's an example of a bot doing just that on a sports story, about eight grafs about that pull quote. (And if that one example isn't enough, there's a quiz at the bottom of that link. I got five of eight correct, double crossing myself on one, but getting a gimme on another, per discussion in the story.)
Now, there will still be room for some time for sports columnists, but beat writers? You could be in trouble. Ditto for news writers.
Because of cost, and looking at this from a selfish personal angle, this is less likely to trickle down to the community level by 2020. Hyperlocal bots specialized to write about the police blotter and real estate deeds are one thing; general purpose bots writing about a contentious city council meeting are another.
Among other things, the bots have to be fed information. If a city secretary is slow in posting meeting minutes, at least the version she transcribes off audiotape, a human's going to knock that out. Ditto if a high school coach is slow on posting game stats.
But, community newspaper editors and writers shouldn't sleep too easily, especially in suburban or exurban vs. rural areas.
One editor who knows the lay of the land on the set of suburbs or exurbs, assuming a company has a group of such newspapers, can polish up the bots' writings easily enough, one would think.
And, one would think that one editor would be expected to do so by corporate hierarchy.
Posted by Gadfly at 2:58 PM