And the Pulitzer goes to Robo journalist
To date, our ideas about AI have been shaped largely by fiction writers and the time has come when AI can itself write works of fiction. Writer bots are already penning short stories and novels but the plot and prose may be far from keeping many readers interested.
The publishers may be closely watching the developments as these bots will submit manuscripts on time, will never suffer writer’s block and will only partake a measly or no commission at all.
While it may still be a few years before a bot generates a bestseller novel, news and media companies have already deployed the services of robo journalists. Narrative Science, a Chicago based company, provides solution which is a pretty interesting step forward for artificial intelligence, and a pretty frightening step towards eventual replacement of human creativity by machines. It is a piece of software that takes data (sports statistics, financial reports, etc.) and turns it into news articles. Writing in the nuances can simply be a matter of setting the software’s parametres: a devastating loss for a sports team can be written in a sympathetic style for the team’s home audience while regulatory financial filings can be as exhaustive and granular as required for the client.
In the realm of sports, it learns the meaning of terms like ‘come from behind’ and ‘team effort’ and leads the article with the aspect of the game it deems most important. This keeps it from being a plug-and-chug fact regurgitator and actually adds some variety to the articles it is writing.
In China recently, a first business report written by a robot has been published stoking fears among local journalists that it could make forays into the country’s state-controlled media and threaten their jobs. The robot workers take no holidays, miss no deadlines and produce clean, well-researched copy for as little as USD 7 an article in the US.
No doubt that they are looking to win the Pulitzer shortly.
There are many creatures in nature having much more physical strength than humans, and many creatures exhibiting some level of intelligence. Similarly, there are many man made mechanical machines surpassing human strength and manmade Artificial Intelligence (AI) exhibiting certain forms of intelligences. That’s where we have believed the limit lies. Nature seems to have bestowed only humans the power of creativity. We have long considered creativity as the characteristic, which actually makes us human and distinguishes us from all other creatures.
However, the machines are taking on the creative pursuits considered till now uniquely human.
There are robo journalists writing newspaper articles read by us as we sip our morning tea. Wikipedia has over 2.7 million articles written by robot and dilettante attempt at writing books by bots is already available as hundreds of thousands of titles on Amazon. Besides writing, bots are also creating music and can do calligraphy.
“The idea that humans will always have a unique ability beyond the reach of non-conscious algorithms is just wishful thinking. It is based on the traditional assumption that intelligence and consciousness are inextricably linked to one another. For millions of years of evolution, this may have been true. But no longer,” says Yuval Harari, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
Will robots equal or surpass humans in creative arts? The answer to the question is subjective just as all creative arts are.
Gazing through the crystal ball
- Think rationally about being a writer or journalist; the bar is increasing by the day – as more humans and many more bots are writing.
- Selling a novel will be a full time job for successful authors as readers will communicate back with their views and suggestions for future stories.
- Translation of works in different language will also be another opportunity; reach is phenomenally high in the case of e-books, all that’s needed is a good book.
- Collaborative works of prose/poems will also increase with the bots acting as intermediaries and also as co-authors.
- A closer symbiosis with bots will also enable writers to enrich their own work – more volumes, more genres, more in depth research.