If you think that journalists can’t be replaced by robots, think again.
Associated Press partnered with Automated Insights last year to automate the writing of quarterly earnings reports with their Wordsmith platform. While you can’t tell immediately, it’s evident which articles were generated automatically, thanks to a disclaimer that simply says, “This story was generated by Automated Insights“.
Now with quarterly earnings season in session, automated article generation is at its peak. And this development is understandable, since most of these articles are based solely on facts and statistics. Yet the speed at which they are generated is quick, and impressive enough to put the most basic writers out of a job.
According to The Verge, AP covered the reports for the quarterly earnings of an estimated 300 companies before Wordsmith was implemented. Now, around 3,000 reports are automated each quarter, out of which 120 are rewritten to have a human touch, either with an update or a followup story. The system can reportedly produce 2,000 articles per second or millions of articles per week, leaving writers like me quaking in my inadequate human boots.
Other companies like Yahoo are already using the system to automate their fantasy football reports.
The lesson in this story is clear, and transcends every industry: having the most basic of skills, which, in this case, means having a decent grasp of a written language, does not a career make. Machines have long been threatening to take over this industry — after all, haven’t we been relying on spellcheck since lovable paperclip avatars could blink?
Now spellcheck has evolved, and ‘robots’ are writing articles faster than we can think of them. It could be a curse, where dime-a-dozen writers are left jobless, recoiling in the backlash of mediocrity. Or, it could be a blessing, where real writers with a critical mind and a fresh perspective are able to shine, going where no robot can go.
Robots aren’t armed with a sharp wit and the ability to make nuanced analyses. They throw facts and figures about easily, drawing simple conclusions from lines that meander across the charts. Eventually, they will be armed with business descriptions and forward-looking guidance. They will be used by thousands of companies around the world.
But our readers are people, and people are still drawn to the words of people. And hopefully, that is something we can aim to bring to our readers here at Vulcan Post. After all, my job is at stake.