There is an ongoing debate about the consequences of artificial intelligence and the part it will play in shaping our future. It is already being used across the world in newsrooms to write news stories and data trends. Does that mean that eventually, as machines become more intelligent, robots will replace reporters?
John Wihbey, an assistant professor of the Northeastern University, shakes his head in denial. He says “My hypothesis is that even as computers are able to do more of what we now consider news, capital-n ‘News’ will move up the value chain. It will become more analytical, more critical, and potentially increasingly opinion-oriented.” He further added “The rise of artificially intelligent technology and the sheer volume of information freely available online has forced a change in the role of journalists. They are no longer the gatekeepers, the only ones filtering information for the general public. They’re becoming more akin to locksmiths”.
According to Wihbey, artificial intelligence is based on doing huge multiplication problems very fast. Computer algorithms can be trained to calculate the probability that certain words will appear next to each other and use those probabilities to construct full sentences. “As computers get better and faster at this sort of multiplication, things like automated writing become more possible. The kinds of automated stories we can imagine being produced will happen, but will start to become part of the information architecture that isn’t necessarily news” Wihbey said.
Writing a valuable story about a publicly-televised meeting requires some new insight, some information that’s not readily available. It requires someone to unlock the more compelling stories hidden inside. Therefore, the reporter has to think about what she can add to the conversations that’s genuinely valuable. Wihbey said he has a hard time imagining that computers will ever satisfy a fundamental human need for good news stories.
“This is the story of technology and society. Anything that can be automated, will be” Wihbey said.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman