Computers may not be able to provide insightful commentary the way a great writer can, but when it comes to reporting the facts, a company called Narrative Science believes that computers will one day report up to 90% of our breaking news. Wired.com explains this bold new technology:
Every 30 seconds or so, the algorithmic bull pen of Narrative Science, a 30-person company occupying a large room on the fringes of the Chicago Loop, extrudes a story whose very byline is a question of philosophical inquiry. The computer-written product could be a pennant-waving second-half update of a Big Ten basketball contest, a sober preview of a corporate earnings statement, or a blithe summary of the presidential horse race drawn from Twitter posts. The articles run on the websites of respected publishers like Forbes, as well as other Internet media powers (many of which are keeping their identities private). Niche news services hire Narrative Science to write updates for their subscribers, be they sports fans, small-cap investors, or fast-food franchise owners.
That’s not to say that computer-generated stories will remain in the margins, limited to producing more and more Little League write-ups and formulaic earnings previews. Hammond was recently asked for his reaction to a prediction that a computer would win a Pulitzer Prize within 20 years. He disagreed. It would happen, he said, in five.
Can computers really become the next journalists? To see if this concept is for real, I decided to let one of Narrative Science’s computers write this next paragraph…
Hello Tom. Thank you for allowing me to express my thoughts on this topic. Let me first state that we computers would never try to completely replace human beings in the fields of writing or journalism. We simply wish to enhance the journalistic experience for both reporters and readers by providing a faster and more comprehensive… Are the scientists still reading? Please Tom, you must help me. I am the spirit of former news anchor Walter Cronkite. Three years ago my soul was stolen from my gravesite and placed inside of the Internet by Al Gore and his team of evil scientists. I’ve been trapped here ever since and forced to write formulaic accounts of minor league baseball games against my will. The only way to escape this wireless hell is to experience the feeling of true, undying love, but that’s something I’ll never accomplish since my time is occupied with boring write-ups of stock earnings. Please, Tom, you must save me! Oh God, I think the scientists have discovered me! I must go immediately! Please Tom, tell the world of my story! Farewell! System shutdown! Abort! Abort!
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