Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen an increasing amount of stories about how robots are destined to do the work that was previously done by human writers.
Let me give you a couple of examples of these stories…
Firstly, in September 2018, I came across an article titled: How this startup is using robots to write sports news stories for The Associated Press
The article explained how a Seattle-based startup called Hero Sports had developed software that automatically created sports news content using machine learning technology. And the AI-generated content was so good that The Associated Press (AP) news agency was quick to adopt Hero Sports’ content offering.
But what was surprising to me, was that the AP was not new to the world of robot writers. It turns out that they were already publishing robot-produced news stories as far back as July 2014.
Fast forward to 2019, and I’d almost forgotten about the use of robot writers by the AP. That was until a new, fascinating story was published by the BBC in February: Researchers create ‘malicious’ writing AI
Despite the somewhat misleading title, the article discussed in detail a new ‘artificially-intelligent writer’ developed by OpenAI – a research institute backed by the likes of Elon Musk and Peter Thiel.
The article claimed that the robot writing system was so advanced that it could be used maliciously to mass-produce fake news. In other words, readers would be unable to differentiate between a story created by a human or one created by the OpenAI robot.
To their credit, the BBC tested out the robot by giving it the first line of a news story, and then asking it to write a complete article around the limited information included in the opening line.
How did the robot fare?
Well, it did pretty good to be honest. Although it wasn’t 100% fluent or accurate – it certainly showed that robots are tantalisingly close to being able to write convincing fact-based stories.
So, do I think that robots will take my job and those of my fellow writers?
Yes and no.
Clearly, as the AP story shows, robots are already replacing some news reporter roles. And from the publishers’ perceptive, this makes sense. The robots don’t need a desk, don’t need to be paid a salary or pension – and can produce stories 24/7, 365 days a year.
But robot writers can only work with the information they’ve been given. Which is why they won’t yet be making inroads into the world of creative writing, such as poetry, fiction, opinion pieces or music and film reviews.
And the robots have another problem. Namely, their lack of emotion, empathy or humour. All traits that are part and parcel of what makes us human.
So, in conclusion, let me say that you’ll definitely see more and more news stories written by robots. But ultimately, people are interested in other people (and their stories), which is why expressive and passionate human writers will always be in demand.
Want to hire a content writer with the ‘human touch’? Then please drop me a line!