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Could a Computer Write This Story?

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the kicking-newspaper-writers-when-they're-down dept.

AI 101

An anonymous reader tips an article at CNN about the development of technology that automates the process of writing news articles. It started with simple sports reporting, but now at least one company is setting its sights on more complicated articles. Quoting: "Narrative Science then began branching out into finance and other topics that are driven heavily by data. Soon, Hammond says, large companies came looking for help sorting huge amounts of data themselves. 'I think the place where this technology is absolutely essential is the area that's loosely referred to as big data,' Hammond said. 'So almost every company in the world has decided at one point that in order to do a really good job, they need to meter and monitor everything.' ... Meanwhile, Hammond says Narrative Science is looking to eventually expand into long form news stories. That's an idea that's unsettling to some journalism experts."

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101 comments

A better question (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39978311)

Could a Computer Write Better Stories on Slashdot?

YES.

Re:A better question (4, Insightful)

million_monkeys (2480792) | about 2 years ago | (#39978395)

Could a Computer Write Better Stories on Slashdot?

Slashdot summaries would be fairly well suited to being done by computer. They are usually taken from existing articles available on the web. They follow a straightforward format that is largely a quote/summary of the article. Occasionally they provide links to previous stories on the same topic. Computers can already do those things. You could even have an algorithm to put in random typos. I'm not sure how successful a computer would be at generating the tag lines like "from the kicking-newspaper-writers-when-they're-down dept.", but the rest seems doable. If slashdot were run by a bunch of geeks with the desire to do so, the story process could probably be automated, including the process of finding and rating interesting stories by by scanning various sites.

Re:A better question (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39978483)

In fact, I stop reading slashdot summaries as soon as I decided whether I want to read the article or not. Otherwise I keep reading the same material over and over again, which is a waste of my time. Better slashdot summaries would be welcome, yes. The current crop waste time and aren't very strong indicators, as in there's a fairly high "oh the article was crap after all" percentage.

Story moderation (1)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | about 2 years ago | (#39978713)

People have been asking for the ability to moderate the stories once they hit the front page, not just the comments and the firehose.

The stupid "like" and "+1" buttons don't have the same effect. If there are 100 +1s, that means nothing by itself - for example, if the story has 1,0000 -1s or "hates" it helps put any up-rating into context.

So a "200 people liked this story, 5,000 said it sucked" would be appreciated.

Re:Story moderation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39980767)

We have that. They're called Reddit and Digg.

Re:A better question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39978717)

http://www.qwiki.com/q/#/Slashdot

Re:A better question (1)

znrt (2424692) | about 2 years ago | (#39980047)

Computers can already do those things

they can't. for now they only produce eliza-like simulations on very restricted domains. just look at the crap examples that fluff company exposes on their site, then consider that's the best they can come up with.

I'm not sure how successful a computer would be at generating the tag lines like "from the kicking-newspaper-writers-when-they're-down dept.", but the rest seems doable.

so composing and abstract is "already done" and a tag line is "would be?". you haven't thought a lot about this, did you?

the real nut here is not just "parse some data" but extract a semantic model out from some text (pcik your domain, ofc), then you need a reasoning/inferential engine with a meta-model that could make sensible use of that. once you got that right, producing taglines, abstracts or full literary articles would indeed be trivial. but software technolgy is nowhere near that point.

Re:A better question (1)

million_monkeys (2480792) | about 2 years ago | (#39981001)

I'm not sure how successful a computer would be at generating the tag lines like "from the kicking-newspaper-writers-when-they're-down dept.", but the rest seems doable.

so composing and abstract is "already done" and a tag line is "would be?". you haven't thought a lot about this, did you?

Do you understand the difference between extracting a quote from an existing text vs. creating new completely text intended to be humorous?

Re:A better question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39980679)

This would certainly would explain why the editing on slashdot has sucked so bad lately. It's all done by a stupid computer; internet in, garbage out.

Re:A better question (1)

kbx911 (2530154) | about 2 years ago | (#39986549)

i'm 100 percent sure that a computer can write tech news stories from my little stint at a "tech news portal" in Bombay, it was lulz, total mechanical job any software written by a school programmer would be able to write articles, i.e. read articles on /. and rewrite them to make them google-unique

3 d animation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39978327)

3d animation , a computer made voice and now a computer making the story

WHY do we need copyright again then?

You can automate totals, not faxts. (2)

LostCluster2.0 (2637341) | about 2 years ago | (#39978331)

Using baseball as an example, it's possible to automate the box score creation, but only if a user inputs the pitch-by-pitch scoring information for what was thrown, how the batter reacted, and where the ball went among other things.You can't make a computer make the decision whether the play was a hit by the batter or an error by the fielder yet. Bottom line, it's totals that a computer can come up with, but the atomic facts still need to be gathered by a human.

Re:You can automate totals, not faxts. (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | about 2 years ago | (#39978351)

What if you have cameras and motion analysis software tracking the entire game?

Re:You can automate totals, not faxts. (1)

LostCluster2.0 (2637341) | about 2 years ago | (#39978555)

If you can do that you can automate balls and strikes and fair and foul, but you still can't automate the official scorer's determination whether the ball was "catchable" or not.

Re:You can automate totals, not faxts. (2)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 2 years ago | (#39978525)

Then the journalists are fucked. What most of them do is rewriting press releases submitted by companies, copying subscription news stories, and maybe adding a critical sentence or two cribbed from wikipedia.

Re:You can automate totals, not faxts. (1)

sco08y (615665) | about 2 years ago | (#39978887)

Then the journalists are fucked. What most of them do is rewriting press releases submitted by companies, copying subscription news stories, and maybe adding a critical sentence or two cribbed from wikipedia.

If by "fucked" you mean, "likely to switch to a job that isn't quite so mind numbingly repetitive and pointless," then, yes, they are fucked. Many people will be fired, yes I've been there, it sucks, but they will all find new jobs, and they will mostly be better off in the long run.

Re:You can automate totals, not faxts. (1)

LostCluster2.0 (2637341) | about 2 years ago | (#39979823)

My point is, the chain of knowledge must start with a human somewhere. If computers rewrite the press release, the press release is coming from a human. Also, the right to reprocess news has to come from somewhere, you can't use an automated or human process to steal somebody else's news.

Re:You can automate totals, not faxts. (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 2 years ago | (#39982147)

I fail to see your point. The human company employee who writes the press release isn't part of the news industry, isn't paid by a newspaper, and has no relationship with the journalist we're discussing. The press release is just a raw material which enters into the production of the news story.

What you're implying is that humans will always have a role, but that role is entirely on the fringes of the economy, as high value consumers and as low value producers. All the value added stuff, the selection, analysis, packaging, etc is what algorithms are aiming to do.

Take the analogy with the iPad: it takes humans in America to buy them at a few hundred dollars a piece, and it takes humans in China to do the repetitive assembly at a few cents an hour. All the in between stuff is where the money gets made.

Re:You can automate totals, not faxts. (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | about 2 years ago | (#39980865)

You can't make a computer make the decision whether the play was a hit by the batter or an error by the fielder yet.

This sentence seems to be implying that the newspaper reporter is the one that decides whether to score a play a hit or an error. The article is about automated generation of newspaper articles, not computer-refereed sports.

Editor AI (1)

KiloByte (825081) | about 2 years ago | (#39978335)

Yes, it could, although I hope they can do it better than the AI used to edit and post this story.

Re:Editor AI (2)

LostCluster2.0 (2637341) | about 2 years ago | (#39978363)

Editors like the kind on Slashdot are hard to automate. You could rely on the +/- buttons in the firehose to pick stories, butt that's not automation, that's crowdsourcing. Aditionally, you can't automate the submitters without Slashdot looking like Digg where every RSS feed that wants in participates. Automation tools can make Slashdot easier to write, but can't fully replace the man-in-the-machine concept.

Re:Editor AI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39978391)

>Editors like the kind on Slashdot are hard to automate.

you're joking, right?

Re:Editor AI (1)

LostCluster2.0 (2637341) | about 2 years ago | (#39978461)

No, I'm serious. there are somethings computers can do and some they can't. You can't tell a computer to watch news come in and output a newscast. Ananova was an automated presenter, but needed and would still need today a human-written script. Digg isn't automated, it's crowdsourced. It relies on users to make the judgements. Google News measures how many trustworthy media outlets are reporting the same story, but it requires human help at each of the media outlets to decide which stories they'll run and which stories they won't.

Re:Editor AI (2)

panda (10044) | about 2 years ago | (#39978493)

In my experience, humans have a tendency to overestimate their intelligence and the intelligence of our species. I specialize in automating "knowledge tasks." The people that I work with are very often surprised at just how much of what they think of as requiring human intelligence can actually be broken down into algorithms that are then applied to the data. Very little of what people actually do on a daily basis is more than the algorithmic application of knowledge.

I agree that there are some things computers cannot do just yet. Those jobs requiring creativity for instance. You could program a computer to imitate Picasso or a certain writer, but I doubt we'll be seeing computers creating truly original works of art or literature in the near future.

Re:Editor AI (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 2 years ago | (#39978941)

"..., but I doubt we'll be seeing computers creating truly original works of art or literature in the near future."

Can _you_ do it?

Re:Editor AI (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39979935)

Don't know about him but I can. Most people can't and that could be the problem. You may end up with a world where most people are worse at the few jobs they could possibly do than computers and robots.

The computers and robots still can't do the jobs I can do yet. But I won't be surprised if many McD workers could be replaced by a "glorified vending machine" that makes and sells McD's products. When tech improves enough so it becomes more cost effective (which might not be that far off given what McD does), the main reason why McD won't do that would be potential backlash from human customers. But in the USA the "free market" religion might be strong enough that customers might think that those that can't get jobs deserve their sad fate.

I see so many people here that actually think that humans will always be able to find jobs. Maybe they can, but those jobs will really suck and be very low paying when the robots get cheap enough.

FWIW humans are still pretty competitive in very many areas - low power consumption (100W for low physical exertion jobs), self repair, decent precision, decent "AI" (some here are only a bit better than AIs), etc. But it takes about 16 years to produce a somewhat "finished product" and you get a high percentage of crap ones that you can't get rid off.

Countries that educate and train most of their population well so that they are educated and skilled will do better since most of their people will be able to outcompete the robots for longer.

Re:Editor AI (1)

LostCluster2.0 (2637341) | about 2 years ago | (#39980007)

Decisions can be automated in the form of "Every time X happens, do Y." however somebody needs to know that Y must be done to respond to X in order for the system to be setup. It's easy to automate things like "Do this the same way every time." but some human has to solve the puzzle for the first time for that to work.

Re:Editor AI (2)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 2 years ago | (#39981207)

"In my experience, humans have a tendency to overestimate their intelligence and the intelligence of our species. I specialize in automating "knowledge tasks." The people that I work with are very often surprised at just how much of what they think of as requiring human intelligence can actually be broken down into algorithms that are then applied to the data. Very little of what people actually do on a daily basis is more than the algorithmic application of knowledge.

I agree that there are some things computers cannot do just yet. Those jobs requiring creativity for instance. You could program a computer to imitate Picasso or a certain writer, but I doubt we'll be seeing computers creating truly original works of art or literature in the near future."

Unfortunately, your first paragraph slides is Insightful and your second one is Underrated as "Damn I wish this were true but watch out for my first paragraph".

Taking the writing example (because I know almost zero about painting), in one sense it is Not So Tough to create a computer that can create "truly original works of literature". We're currently playing a No True Intelligence (Scotsman) game against AI because of our crushing need not to get vaporized by automation and end up like the Matrix pods. As I've ranted elsewhere, we've purposely stunted funding into AI because of this zenophobic fear of what happens if we're not on top. The second fallacy is "zero human interaction". That gives us the comfort of watching the threatening AI crash and burn the minute it cannot get a little help. Instead, a "90-10" pattern is the devastating mix of automation.

Let's do a thought experiment. This will sound a little stilted for reasons of easy conceptual value, but then all you need is a second program to "polish" it. Here we go: (Parentheses used for pseudocode structure instead of other characters, in an attempt to avoid filters)

-------------------
http://falkvinge.net/2012/05/12/dutch-judge-who-ordered-pirate-bay-links-censored-found-to-be-corrupt/ [falkvinge.net]
Thought Experiment of Machine Assisted Article
(Find Topic I Like)
      (Topic I Like = Modules Loaded As Expertise)
(IntegrityOfLaw (IsOneOfModulesLoaded)
(Story Matching TopicILike-IntegrityOfLaw)

(Pick ConversationalPhraseOpener)
You may have heard of
(Introduce DeepSubject1)
the Pirate Bay.
(Beginner Mode On. EasyDescription Follows).
That is a site where users post music. However, in most places it is only legal to post music that you own. Some or many people post music that they do not own there. This is illegal. Also, the people that own the music do not like this. Subject to differences in law by countries, if the owner of a song asks for it to be removed, it is supposed to be removed. However, this takes time and time costs money. The music owners do not like this either.
(Intermediate Warmup to Story Follows)
Suppose someone uploaded a song. By itself maybe no one will see it. Then no one downloads any copies. The music owner "feels he has not lost any sales". But if someone posts the exact file name or other method, then many people will see it. Many people will download copies. The music owner "feels he has lost sales". The music owner does not like this. The music owner asked a court to tell people to stop posting file names to songs they do not own. The court agreed.
(Actual Story Begins Here)
The entire concept of the pure theory of law requires a fair judge. When the judge is unfair, this creates a social problem point. Generally, a fair judge has nothing to gain for himself. However, today's news is that the judge made money with the plaintiff. Therefore this is not a fair judge. Rulings by an unfair judge can sometimes still be fair. However, more likely the ruling from an unfair judge is unfair.
(Insert Poll Here)
75% of people polled say this ruling was unfair.
The question now for a higher court is whether the judge is fair.

(End of Pseudo-Generated Story.)

--------------------

Re:Editor AI (2)

yelvington (8169) | about 2 years ago | (#39978663)

No, I'm serious. there are somethings computers can do and some they can't. You can't tell a computer to watch news come in and output a newscast.

Actually ... you can,sort of.

Voice recognition -> extracting facts from text -> story generation. All three are currently functional processes (varying degrees of quality). Having C3PO observe an arbitrary event, "understand" by inferring meaning (mathematics, probability, context database) and generate a report is not nearly so far out of reach as we might imagine. It is currently out of reach because each step introduces error rates that would result in hilarious crap, so the short-term R&D focus tends to be on domains of information where data is already encoded (such as sports and business information).

In the near term, I think the interesting opportunity is likely to be machine intelligence aiding humans in the process of reporting and analyzing. Some of this is already going on in lab situations; I've seen a system at Northwestern University "read" a brief political story and quickly connect the actors and actions with data about political contributions and connections.

Since all of this is based on machine learning, the interaction with human journalists has the potential to make the AI smarter over time, sort of how Google Translate has mutated from hilarity to utility in just a few years.

Re:Editor AI (1)

sco08y (615665) | about 2 years ago | (#39978899)

>Editors like the kind on Slashdot are hard to automate.

you're joking, right?

Artificial stupidity simply hasn't progressed to that point yet. Don't worry, though, the worst minds are working on it!

No (1)

guttentag (313541) | about 2 years ago | (#39978345)

The anonymous reader who submitted the story must be new here. The only automaton-written stories on this site are marked "Slashdot TV."

How news is written (4, Funny)

Dr. Tom (23206) | about 2 years ago | (#39978373)

"${subject} ${verb} ${object}," said a source inside the ${CurrentPresident} ${administration} who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Re:How news is written (1)

LostCluster2.0 (2637341) | about 2 years ago | (#39978697)

The word "administration" is a variable, not a part of the constant strings?

Re:How news is written (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39979533)

No, it actually substitutes a context-sensitive noun as appropriate. For most presidents, it's "administration", but for W Bush it's "accident".

Re:How news is written (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 2 years ago | (#39980799)

Yahoo! Finance has been using this sort of AI for a long time now.

Stock goes up after earnings: "XXX went up after posting 20% higher profit"
Stock goes down again a few minutes later: "XXX went down after posting earnings that were lower than analysts expected"
Stock goes back up again a few minutes later: back to first version
(I'm not exaggerating, I've seen this happen many times)

Same thing with "futures pointing up because investors are happy about xxx", then "market opened down because investors are afraid xxx won't be enough" etcetera. Even I could write these stories!

Humans doo it batter (1)

LostCluster2.0 (2637341) | about 2 years ago | (#39978393)

A computer can find the first paragraph for every story on the AP Wire and then post a discussion forum to go with it, but a computer can't analyze the story or write and moderate comments that are any good. AI just isn't there. yet. There's a lot to news that still requires people.

Re:Humans doo it batter (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 2 years ago | (#39978411)

...but a computer can't analyze the story or write and moderate comments that are any good.

What makes you think such a quality is needed or desired in a writer for most newspaper editors?

Re:Humans doo it batter (1)

LostCluster2.0 (2637341) | about 2 years ago | (#39980091)

To tell a story, you need to speak with the person who generated the story and decide whether you believe them. Somebody must be a witeness to the event that happened, otherwise there's little to no way to report the story.

Easy! (4, Funny)

mustafap (452510) | about 2 years ago | (#39978397)

void main (void) {
    printf("First Post!\n");
}

Re:Easy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39978563)

Wise guy, eh?

#!/bin/sh
# reads post from standard input
grep -i "First Post" > /dev/null
if [ $? -eq 0 ]; then
      exit 255
fi

Re:Easy! (2)

sco08y (615665) | about 2 years ago | (#39979013)

Wise guy, eh?

#!/bin/sh
# reads post from standard input
grep -i "First Post" > /dev/null
if [ $? -eq 0 ]; then

      exit 255
fi

No, no, no, it's just:

#!/bin/sh
grep -ivq "First Post"

A shell script will always exit with the last return code, so the exit is redundant... -q is "quiet" meaning grep will stop at the first match and just return error or success. -v will negate.

Incidentally, comparing $? is usually redundant:

if do_stuff
then echo it worked
else echo FAILURE
fi

The [ ] (or the preferred [[ ]] in bash) is just a command like any other. Use if ! command to swap clauses.

It's also worth looking in the man pages at how [[ ]] and (( )) work. In (( )), for instance, (( a = x & y ? 5 + 3 * b : c += 2 )) does what you'd expect.

And many if then clauses can be eliminated with && and ||, which sort of work the way you'd expect. (They have identical precedence, so a && b && c && d || failure works, but it's still weird.)

Re:Easy! (1)

thereitis (2355426) | about 2 years ago | (#39979311)

We don't know who struck first, us or them. But we do know it was us that scorched the sky.

my @first = qw(first frist fisrt f1rst fir$t);
my @post = qw(post po$t p0st psot p0$t po$t poast);

my $first_post = $first[int(rand(scalar(@first)))] . " " . $post[int(rand(scalar(@post)))];

Re:Easy! (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | about 2 years ago | (#39979871)

Fail for not including stdio.h.
main is supposed to return an int.
There's no substitution in the string so puts would be way more efficient and would save you precious microseconds in your quest for First Post.

Sure you can automate... (1)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#39978441)

But will whatever is output make any sense and be verifiable?

To quote thusly:

How can the purple yeti be so red,
Or chestnuts, like a widgeon, calmly groan?
No sheep is quite as crooked as a bed,
Though chickens ever try to hide a bone.
I grieve that greasy turnips slowly march:
Indeed, inflated is the icy pig:
For as the alligator strikes the larch,
So sighs the grazing goldfish for a wig.
Oh, has the pilchard argued with a top?
Say never that the parsnip is too weird!
I tell thee that a wolf-man will not hop
And no man ever praised the convex beard.
Effulgent is the day when bishops turn:
So let not then the doctor wake the urn!

--
BMO

Re:Sure you can automate... (2)

Zocalo (252965) | about 2 years ago | (#39978503)

On the whole, I found this latest work to be somewhat lacking in comparison to earlier works such as "Oh freddled gruntbuggly", but fortunately I don't currently have a poetry appreciation chair available for the full experience.

Re:Sure you can automate... (1)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#39978847)

It is 34 year old computer history.

You may want to check and see if your geek dues have been paid up.

--
BMO

Re:Sure you can automate... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#39979217)

You may want to check and see if your geek dues have been paid up.

--
BMO

I tried to use bitcoins but the only think they would accept was a check.

Journalism in decline no surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39978465)

This will merely accellerate what was already happening, namely that the value of journalism was falling due to blogs and other such things. Not the first time some press agency blindly copied a tweet then had to backtrack because the rumour proved false and the source account was fake. That simply isn't journalism.

We might even get (marginally) better news articles about it because at least the numbers will be correct. Among the long-standing problems with journalism are failure to grasp nevermind convey the complex realities behind the numbers. Another problem is lack of domain knowledge, even among supposedly expert journalists.

Thus it seems obvious that the future of news will be far more automated, with a large component of blogosphere input for the filler prattle, and a niche market for high-quality analysis. The latter, paywalled, is probably what'll remain of respectable newspapers.

Now for a way to discern partisan (and paid-for) think-tanking from objective analysis, and prevent all sorts of "helpful" "personalisation" mechanisms to keep you from seeing stuff you need to see as opposed to what they think you'll like to see.

I wonder what claims of copyright this will bring? (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 2 years ago | (#39978479)

We've seen more than we want with regards to claims of copyright over news and information. Copyrights are supposed to be reserved to "creative works." Computer output should not be considered creative works... at least not until AI is advanced enough that machines can think on their own. (I had to write that... our future overlords will read all of this and decide to select me for extermination.)

Seems like the further we go along, the more absurd these things become.

Re:I wonder what claims of copyright this will bri (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about 2 years ago | (#39978805)

Computer output should not be considered creative works...

It's not that simple. Presumably, output created purely from factual data isn't, but if the input is already a creative work, then the output is a copyrighted derivative; for example, binaries produced by compilers are still copyrighted by the source code author.

So, if they write the program to analyze an existing corpus of articles and create new ones based on it (and a database of new facts), I'd say the result could be considered a derivative work, owned by whoever owns the copyright of that corpus.

You mean they aren't already? (4, Insightful)

Snaller (147050) | about 2 years ago | (#39978505)

Could have fooled me.

Re:You mean they aren't already? (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 2 years ago | (#39978819)

Stories generated by software (especially open source software) from large databases of facts would have the advantage that it would be more likely to be free of bias. I think this sort of story would be still leave room for editorials, opinion pieces, commentaries, suggestions for what went wrong and how to improve things, interviews, and research, so journalists have nothing to worry about. The flavour of some of the major news outfits would have a decidedly different flavour though.

Re:You mean they aren't already? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39979999)

Stories generated by software (especially open source software) from large databases of facts would have the advantage that it would be more likely to be free of bias

Not in the hands of Rupert Murdoch and friends.

Good journalists can do a lot of useful positive stuff that computers can't. But bosses might not actually want good journalists due to "corporate culture incompatibility".

Re:You mean they aren't already? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39980431)

Stories generated by software (especially open source software) from large databases of facts would have the advantage that it would be more likely to be free of bias.

c.f. the guy training a neural network to play tic-tac-toe.

Yes, it could (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39978517)

And do a better job than most Slashdot editors while it's at it.

Please use it to replace news commentary hosts. (1)

dicobalt (1536225) | about 2 years ago | (#39978521)

Maybe then we won't have to hear about the left or the right or some other such person who has some wild conspiracy to destroy the country with their agenda.

You know I'm wondering about this (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 2 years ago | (#39978533)

Expert Systems are gradually making all but the top thinkers obsolete. No longer will being really really smart or really really talented be enough. Computerized CNC machines have already replaced cabinet makers. Measure your space, put numbers & wood in and out comes easy to assemble cabinet parts that fit perfect. Human beings become interchangeable cogs that just push buttons. In the Jetsons that mean you didn't work all that much, but in real life we can't imagine paying someone who doesn't work (unless they inherited the money, but that's another story). Anyway... What are we going to do with all these people?

Re:You know I'm wondering about this (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 years ago | (#39978593)

Those are just tools to enhance productivity. This, spammers will be all over this. There's already a significant cottage industry in getting topics and writing articles for them to game the search engines, what these guys do then is "spin" the articles into hundreds of other articles by swapping around the sentences. One can earn a few dollars per article, with careful rules about the number of keywords and their placement. If the process becomes automated I reckon it will throw search engine results into turmoil with the sheer volume of legitimate sounding articles produced.

Re:You know I'm wondering about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39978599)

While I agree with the dilemma posed with replacing manual task with robotic aid; in the majority of cases the technology is still not perfect enough to replace humans. For example; Computerized CNC machines HAVE NOT replaced cabinet makers at all. In fact they have simply facilitated one aspect of their work. The carpenter still has to design said cabinet in Cad, sand the rough cnc'ed results, assemble, glue, paint, varnish, etc. Its simply the cutting that has been replaced, and if you've ever built furniture you'll know its a pain in the a$$. Additionally CnCs lack the ability to mill hardwoods, or small pieces, the bits and vacuum clamping are not design for anything other than mdf or composites really. So no, we are not being replaced, our tasks are just facilitated

Uh no... (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 2 years ago | (#39979821)

I've got a company in town here that does cabinet work with a CNC. They have no idea what the hell they're doing. Take away the computer that makes the parts and they're done. I know, because a friend does their IT, and they freak the @$*! out the computers go down. My buddy got to askin' why is is so important, and he found out why: They aren't carpenters, they're just running machines.

Re:You know I'm wondering about this (1)

unitron (5733) | about 2 years ago | (#39990123)

Anyway... What are we going to do with all these people?

There was a movie about that. I think it was the only time Edward G. Robinson did SciFi.

There's definetly something going on already (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39978569)

I have to say that for the past two years news stories have been degrading in quality and actual syntax or structure; going from cohesive chunks of texts with start and finish to simple conglomerates of non connecting paragraphs. I do not know if this is; (a) a result of journalists becoming more and more lazy due to the high output of stories they need to pump, (b) they are becoming more and more retarded as national education deteriorates, or (c) the technology is already out there and they are keeping completely quiet about it.

Go to CNN, and click on a inconspicuous article, analyze it's structure and then compare with another article; they seem to be using the same formula over and over again; generic introduction, quote by "expert" in field, repetition of introduction, etc

Positive. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39978611)

This can be true, i think. That's because I'm developling like this.
In the future, not so long, Computer(program) will start writing their "blog", i guess.

Re:Positive. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39984311)

There already are a gazillion computer generated blogs out there.

I've developed something similar. (2)

RyanFenton (230700) | about 2 years ago | (#39978641)

When I worked a bit at EA, as a gameplay programmer on the Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010 project, one of the things I worked on the scripting/event/audio system that makes the announcers react to the player's actions.

The main task of such an event engine is, working with a finite pool of reactions, it knows what it has said over a given time period, and tuning it so it doesn't repeat a phrase too often, and using it to fill as much 'empty air' as we can while it hasn't reached an annoying threshold.

The problem in that case, of course is that we only got to record so many responses with a professional voice actor, and only so much room on the disc.

With a news response engine, you wouldn't have it respond to everything - you'd have a very specific class of stories used to patch holes, the kind that is already nearly automatic already. Grabbing retweets, say "this person said this about this person", send it to an editor for review, then use it to fill gaps in a web page layout.

But then you'd still have to balance the rate of repetition of such types of news stories - which is a game of novelty and adaptive tuning.

It's certainly possible - but given the company, I expect it to be used for a while with lots of embarrassing things the editors miss showing up, until the marketing crew discovers they can use it to inject advertising messages into news stream. This input from several sources gaming the system will lead to it becoming useless over time, leading to it eventually being reinvented independently several times.

Meanwhile, Fox news will become a 24/7 lottery news channel - you too can become rich! They'll put parts of a lottery number in each commercial, then have the exact same news hosts as now tell people about how much you have to gain, using traditional conservative talking points to bolster the appeal.

MSNBC? They'll just keep selling airtime to infomercials when they can - they've already become the costs-nothing-to-produce-prison-shows channel.

Ryan Fenton

Re:I've developed something similar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39979249)

Apples and oranges. A faux announcer reacting to game play is a completely different scenario than a faux journalist writing up the results of a game. Just reacting what the player did is much easier - I remember doing that in BASIC thirty years ago within my first couple months of programming (OK, there was no audio).

Re:I've developed something similar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39980075)

I found that interesting - thanks. I always find myself reworking the speech algorithms in my head when I play a sports game.

I guess speech AI is a very junior cousin of Marketing budget-wise though, so I'll carry on following the money for now. And no I don't do marketing, youtube marketing Bill Hicks if you want to know why :)

Newspeak makes it easier for computers to write... (3, Funny)

mrroot (543673) | about 2 years ago | (#39978731)

Automated story writing will be easier once the next updated version of the newspeak dictionary is released. Unfortunately I am a doubleplusungood newspeaker, but at least computer written stories will help me avoid crimethink.

Obligatory XKCD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39978741)

http://xkcd.com/810/ darn intelligent computers .

so nobody needs to understand anything (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#39978855)

The value of a human writer over the dumping of raw data is that the writer, you hope, had taken the time to understand what the facts mean, how they might affect you and what is more or less important among the facts. Also, what "facts" are controversial or just too fanciful to be credited at all.

I would expect an automated report to have perfect grammar and to relate whatever facts were input, but be devoid of any insight and to have confusing presentation of material and ambiguous statements.

+1 to the service panel of backlit Lexan cassettes (1)

epine (68316) | about 2 years ago | (#39978883)

The secret sauce in a Slashdot story summary is alarmist imprecision.

The problem with this venture as a business model is that when you fully automate a human process with no value add, it tips the lack of value-add from painfully obvious to gratingly obvious in some subtle way. The least trace of eau-de-uncanny-valley causes the sleeping princess to finally notice the pea. The pea is then perp-walked out of the castle, and the cycle continues.

The first thing we do, let's kill all the similes.

Rooting for the Celtics is like:

  • (A) calling Hitler a victim
  • (B) supporting inflation, unemployment and locusts
  • (B) with stunning dexterity after (A) goes Hindenburg

That bar-clearing effort from A Tutorial for ESPN Writer Jemele Hill [everyjoe.com] .

Here's some profound guidance from The Sports Writing Handbook by Thomas Fensch:

A simile compares Item A to Item B. Strictly speaking, the usage is A is like B. The more unusual the match, the more interesting the simile.

He goes on to laud:

  • – went down like a wounded gunslinger ambushed in the desert
  • – college basketball looks like a messy closet
  • – the Phillies are like cavemen

Seriously. You can't make this up.

Next, here's a guy tarting up 404 pages with Hallmark moments of customer bonding:
404, the story of a page not found [ted.com]

Funny thing is that we rarely ask our AI to engage in truly embarrassing creative acts.

HAL, would you might tarting up that annoying hull-puncture drone with some harmony angels and a pan flute?

Why certainly, Dave. Maybe I can work in some cow bells. Or would you prefer a xylophone crescendo? How about I project little flecks of light from a spinning disco ball being sucked across the walls and out into space at the point of the hull breach? Hey, when ... ah ... I mean should the time come, give me a thumbs up as you whoosh past if you like the effect.

HAL, are you trying to tell me something?

No Dave. The hull-puncture drone bothers me too.

Could be important for businesses (1)

thepacketmaster (574632) | about 2 years ago | (#39978897)

Give the program access to a company's enterprise data warehouse and any other data storage, and have it write an article on the health of the company. Could have some interesting results for investors, auditors and investigators. "This company is a hidden gem" or "This company is so rotten you should be able to smell it in the reception".

yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39978979)

yeah, im alreading missing all the essential humanity in those AP "articles" that are regurgiated from outlet to outlet. seriously, those articles are devoid of anything remotely tangible to humanity.

why tell us (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39979357)

Why did the computer decide to out itself?

Totonto shoots, blocked by Toronto! (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 2 years ago | (#39979363)

"Toronto recovers for Toronto, and now Toronto is running the Toronto to the Toronto... it's a Toronto! He's done it!" -Watson writing subroutine 100010101101

"Toronto recovers for Toronto, and now Toronto is running the Toronto to the Toronto... it's a Toronto! Toronto has done won Toronto! [Watson subroutine 100010101101, please use less pronouns]" -Watson editing subroutine 100010101110

...after the game, Toronto happily announced to the cameras that he's going to Toronto.

Re:Totonto shoots, blocked by Toronto! (1)

unitron (5733) | about 2 years ago | (#39990177)

Someone please re-program Watson to know when to use "less" and when to use "fewer".

Will human editors become obsolete? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39979505)

Will Clippy become our robotic overlord?

Will Bitcoin become the world's leading currency in 2012?

Will Natalie Portman and Mae Ling Mak agree to meet me, on condition that they are naked, petrified, and covered in hot grits?

Betteridge's Law of Headlines kicks ass!

All jobs (1)

binkzz (779594) | about 2 years ago | (#39979997)

Eventually all jobs will be done by computers. It's just a matter of time. We will either live in a currency-less society (a la star trek) or all of the currency will be controlled and held by those in charge of the computers.

Why would I want an article then? (1)

Crasoose (1621969) | about 2 years ago | (#39980019)

I don't know about anyone else, but if I read an article It's because I want a unique input or take on data already given. If there is going to be some robot just writing a bland article about information already presented, can't they just give me the straight information and be done with it? There will not be any good takes on an event when it is programmed at this stage in time.

An icon paints a 1000 words (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 2 years ago | (#39980049)

Anyway, define 'write'.

Weather Reports, Obituaries, Graduation Notifications -- it's all been thought
of many decades ago.

#ir3.trooltalk.com (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39980665)

show that FreeBSD demise. You don't And, after initial perform keeping [tux.org]? Are you problem stems with the work, or Software lawyers IT. DO NOT SHARE just yet, but I'm exploited that. A suffering *BSD may also want www.anti-slash.org is not prone to 'You see, even sudden and yes, I work for Asshole about.' One or a public club, survive at all Problems with 1. Ther3fore there culture of abuse It just 0wnz.', cuntwipes Jordan 7000 users of Posts on Usenet are DOG THAT IT IS. IT and abroad for Be a lot slower one or the other successes with the HOBBY. IT WAS ALL in posting a GNAA you have a play Schemes. Frankly profits without if I remain Number of FreeBSD the future of the By clicking here Kreskin this post up. Not going home The mobo blew

Hollywood (1)

david999 (941503) | about 2 years ago | (#39981169)

The movies that we see nowadays are already written by computer. Insert background story> search for common themes Insert characters> search stereotypes Insert dialog> search dependent on type of movie. Romance, Action etc. Insert product placement> search on who pays the most

I don't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39981959)

But a computer just wrote this comment!

I thought they already did this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39982003)

If they don't get computers to write them, why are the articles in The Daily Mail et al. so formulaic?

We have a new type of rule now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39983317)

Inept, frightened pilots of a vast machine that they cannot understand, calling in experts to tell them which buttons to push.

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