Publishers using AI to help create blogs and articles isn’t exactly a new idea, but with news articles produced by robots on the rise, are we seeing the beginning of the end for the human content creator?
The vision of artificial intelligence taking over the world doesn’t seem too far away. Robots are assembling the cars we drive – and will soon be driving them for us; chatbots are waiting in the corners of websites, eager to answer our queries; we don’t even need to push our own hoovers around any more. So is it possible that the AI could replace the job of the content creator in the near future? Do all us poor old writers need to worry?!
The short answer is no.
The most recently reported big user of AI tech for journalism is Patch, a company that runs news sites in over 1,200 regional US communities, and is using artificial intelligence to write about 3,000 articles every week. Sounds impressive, but it’s not what you think.
The computer-generated content pulls data and information from sources to drop into a pre-existing template, and mostly covers weather reports – and real estate sales. What this does mean, is that it frees up time for actual real journalists to focus on writing the actual decent stuff.
Since the study of artificial intelligence began in the early 1950s, there have been many less obvious instances of robots taking over human jobs. Do you remember the days of having a lift operator opening and closing the doors for you? Or seeing the black blip in the corner of the cinema screen where the film projectionist was manually changing the reels?
Where you might have expected to see a backlash against automation, it seems it’s a strangely human action to develop the very thing that will ultimately render us redundant
Having an automated system in place for these jobs has streamlined these experiences, but real people have lost their livelihoods to these machines. And looking back, where you might have expected to see a backlash against this automation, it seems it’s a strangely human action to develop the very thing that will ultimately render us redundant. So is this happening to writers now?
A report released in November 2017 by McKinsey Global Institute found that up to 800 million global workers will lose their jobs to new technology by 2030. (Read more about this here: future-of-work).
So how does this affect the creative?
The job of a writer is simple: to communicate a specific message to an audience. Whether that’s an informative piece about a new product or an opinion-based film review, the idea is to engage the reader, to make them care about it. So can AIs write with the emotion necessary to produce a convincing, relatable article? Could they delve deep into an emotional human story, for example?
We know that AI can produce facts, you can ask your phone a question and an automated voice will answer you. And apparently can write about the weather and house sales. But if you ask it how it feels about a certain situation, it will not be able to tell you —they’re not programmed to feel like humans do. They do not understand happiness, anxiety, sadness.
If an AI wrote a blog on Veganuary, would it be able to convey sympathy towards the animals used for our food? Or would it simply write 900 words on the facts surrounding veganism? I would argue that it would be the latter.
And if we entertain the idea that a bot could write an informative piece on Veganuary, it seems unlikely it would be able to distinguish between which facts pulled from the ‘Net are real or fake, especially as we humans fail to do so daily. How do we train the AI to spot a lie, let alone relate to an emotional response?
These questions are all hypothetical… for now.
AI has already replaced some human jobs and they can tell us facts trawled from the Internet, and it seems likely that in time, bots will be able to learn to mimic emotions in their writing.
But AI cannot replace real journalism, or heartfelt, creative content. The nose for a good story, or the deeper understanding of the emotions that drive a brand identity or tone of voice. There are increasingly AI platforms that help you improve your blog visibility, and we’ll be looking at those next week, but they’re based on data and algorithms, rather than emotion and experience.
So for now, we’re done with hearing about how AI is going to kill content marketing. It’s not even close yet.