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article imageIs it possible for a robot to write the news?

By Tim Sandle     Aug 5, 2017 in Technology
The future of media may one day involve news articles being by robots. These may not be the most in-depth or creative pieces; but standard news reports could be created in seconds by artificial intelligence.
While Digital Journal's team of journalists go through the in-depth process of identifying news, researching it, checking sources, and then engage in the process of tapping away at a keyboard, news of a more standard type as found on generic news sites could soon be produced by a robot. At least this is something being considered in both technologically, and philosophically, by researchers based at Jönköping University.
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The researchers are looking at the societal impacts of the advances in technology, robotics and artificial intelligence. Here they pose the question: as artificial intelligence advances and either supports or replaces people in medicine, driving, even journalism, does this have a positive benefit for society or will the future be something chillingly dystopian?
To explore these concepts, and taking the impact of news reporting at its heart, Jönköping International Business School's Media Management and Transformation Centre has launched an exploratory project called DPer News (an acronym for Digital Personalization of the News).
The types of subjects explored, the program's director Dr. Mart Ots explains, are: "The general question is how can algorithms replace humans in repetitive professions? Journalism may not seem like a repetitive job, but when it comes to writing about finance and sports, it very well can be." For more straightforward areas of news reporting, if this process can be digalitized and where digitalization brings cost benefits, why would a major news corporation not take advantage of artificial intelligence to, say, give a summary of a football match or report on Apple's latest share price?
Currently, with areas like data driven journalism (a journalistic process based on analyzing and filtering large data sets for the purpose of creating a news story), robots can ably assist journalists by finding and analyzing data. However, the end process still needs an experienced journalist to put the story together. However, advances with robotics have led to robots being able to produce intelligible sentence structures fitted around a general theme.
Here Dr. Ots adds: "It worries me that just because we can get robots to mine and condense data, that's all we'll do. Robots can target you and quickly give you the content you want, like the latest sports scores. But what about giving you content that would surprise you, that would help you think in out-of-the-box ways?"
In other words, until machines can think creatively there will always be a place for human generated reports and articles. The concern is whether major news outlets, seeking to lower costs, will turn more and more to robotic generated news content once the technology has advanced sufficiently?
The outcomes of the Jönköping University will be interesting. To explore the full range of possibilities, the university is to work with the news company Hallpressen, computer consultants Infomaker and PDB, on-going research projects at MMTC: DATAMINE and the Digital Business Innovation Studio.
More about Journalism, Robots, Computers, Artificial intelligence
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