My dear friend Carmen Benitez sent a story to me a couple of weeks and I’ve had to take that long to really absorb it.
You see, it’s about algorithms becoming better storytellers than journalists, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.
A couple of months ago, I was speaking to a group of business leaders. One of the attendees told me he pays $50 a day to an Indian firm to have them scrape content off the Internet and change it “a little bit” so he can post it on his own blog.
When I asked him if he had issues with the ethics (or lack thereof) behind taking someone else’s content he said, “If you don’t want people to use it, don’t put it on the web.”
I was so distracted by this that I had a hard time finishing my speech.
My point is human beings are always looking for faster and easier ways to do things. We find this in get rich quick schemes, in lose weight fast diets, and in comparing ourselves to those we perceive to have achieved overnight success.
And now we’re creating algorithms to write stories?
From the Wired article:
Had Narrative Science — a company that trains computers to write news stories—created this piece, it probably would not mention that the company’s Chicago headquarters lie only a long baseball toss from the Tribune newspaper building. Nor would it dwell on the fact that this potentially job-killing technology was incubated in part at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Those ironies are obvious to a human. But not to a computer.
But, as it turns out, some niche publications, including Forbes and other media powerhouses (who are remaining private) , have hired Narrative Science to write stories.
Right now it’s limited to Little League game results, where the stories are “written” from data entered by parents into a game scoring app called GameChanger. But the founder, fellow Utahan and Chicagoan Kristian Hammond, says in the next 15 years, 90 percent of all news stories will be written by computers.
As a newly minted author (Marketing in the Round is officially out!), blogger, and content developer, this pains me.
If we look towards a future of only 10 percent of news created by human beings, where does that leave those of us who love to write?