Do robo-writers actually exist?

”Is Frase going to take my job?” – this is what writers frequently ask me while I am giving them a demo of the Frase Research Assistant. My answer is always the same: Frase doesn’t intend to replace the writer, but rather automate research tasks so you can focus on the creative aspects of content creation.

The closest Wikipedia entry for “robo-writer” is automated journalism:

”Also known as algorithmic journalism or robot journalism, where news articles are generated by computer programs. Through artificial intelligence (AI) software, stories are produced automatically by machines rather than human reporters. These programs interpret, organize, and present data in human-readable ways.”

Over the last five years, many stories have emerged about mysterious robo-writing projects, mostly in the context of how AI will radically disrupt journalism. Besides journalism, there is evidence about robo-writing being used in different contexts, from advertising copy to financial reporting. As I mentioned before, I I am personally in favor of robo-writing when automation can help writers become more creative and insightful.

The most shared stories on robo-writing:

For this post I’ve collected 12 of the most shared articles on the subject (ordered by published date), and then had Frase summarize them for me:

Robot Writing, AI, and Marketing: It’s the End of the World as We Know It (skyword.com) – January, 2018

Topics: big data, content marketing, lead generation, marketing automation, data mining, information architecture, internet of things, digital marketing

  • The definition of AI has merged and melded since the early days of sci-fi, so let’s clear this up: When we talk about AI today, we’re generally talking about “narrow AI,” or algorithms that are set up to do a very specific task, like trade a stock or make a widget.
  • Now, I’m here in Pittsburgh and there are self-driving Ubers everywhere on the road, so in a few years we employed a lot of folks, gave them a great livelihood and then all of those Uber drivers may potentially lose that livelihood.
  • If your job consists of a lot of repetitive marketing tasks like these, then you may want to consider how to evolve your role and skill set, as it will become more cost-effective and productive to have AI handle these types of activities.
  • “Truthfully,” he says, “I believe that where these jobs and these professions are going to shift to with the impact of AI is actually to the creation aspect; that’s where humans thankfully will still have a role.
  • AI does have a role in taking away a lot of the time that we spend looking at analytics and processing and crunching the data—all of that should be fulfilled by AI to free us up to do truly creative work.”

Coca-Cola chooses AI over brains to generate latest adverts (thedrum.com) – April, 2017

Topics: digital marketing, social media, Content creation, creative agencies, Coca cola, Adweek, Mobile World Congress, software algorithms

  • Coca-Cola is ditching flesh and blood creatives in favour of software algorithms in an experiment to see whether AI bots have what it takes to beat their human masters.
  • Mariano Bosaz, Coca-Cola’s global senior digital director, is spearheading the move as part of wider efforts to push the bounds of technology to see what they are capable of.
  • Bosaz added: “I don’t know if we can do it 100 percent with robots yet—maybe one day—but bots is the first expression of where that is going.”

Can Artificial Intelligence Replace The Content Writer? (digitalagencynetwork.com) – August, 2017

Topics: content marketing, customer experience, structured data, augmented reality, natural language processing, Gartner, data processing, artificial intelligence

  • While less likely to be automated, these areas are not exempt—roles such as data collection and data processing, once revered for their level of required expertise, are now 64% and 67% likely to be automated, respectively.
  • This can be seen in the above example: the second extract, written by Wordsmith, is more matter-of-fact and event-driven than its human counterpart (and the overuse of ‘season’ at the end particularly gets to me).
  • With the information already at hand, writers will have more time to focus on how articles are structured, how argument or opinion is built to leave the best impact on the reader.
  • Analyst giant Forrester have claimed that 16% of jobs in the U.S. will be lost to artificial intelligence by 2025.

Can robots truly be creative and use their imagination? (theguardian.com) – February, 2017

Topics: neuroscientist, research associate, professor emeritus, University of California, associate professor, machine learning, University of oxford, Artificial intelligence research

  • I’ve been working on writing novels computationally for well over 10 years now and I’m still trying it, although I believe that within the next two to three years I will have broken its back and will produce 100,000-word novels in half an hour or so, novels that I think most people would consider to be creative.
  • We are used to machines being used as tools that do not have a high level of cognitive ability, so it’s difficult for people to think of them as being able to exhibit truly creative behaviour.
  • Another problem is that it is difficult to automate the combination of ideas from many different sources that forms the source of much of human creativity: you might find inspiration from an interview with a neuroscientist in designing a new office layout.

What News-Writing Bots Mean for the Future of Journalism (wired.com) – February, 2017

Topics: BuzzFeed, Usa today, Fox News, Washington Post, Twitter, news articles, Megyn Kelly, Los Angeles Times

  • “Republicans retained control of the House and lost only a handful of seats from their commanding majority,” the article read, “a stunning reversal of fortune after many GOP leaders feared double-digit losses.” The dispatch came with the clarity and verve for which Post reporters are known, with one key difference: It was generated by Heliograf, a bot that made its debut on the Post’s website last year and marked the most sophisticated use of artificial intelligence in journalism to date.
  • It works like this: Editors create narrative templates for the stories, including key phrases that account for a variety of potential outcomes (from “Republicans retained control of the House” to “Democrats regained control of the House”), and then they hook Heliograf up to any source of structured data—in the case of the election, the data clearinghouse VoteSmart.org.
  • There may not be a wide audience for stories about the race for the Iowa 4th, but there is some audience, and, with local news outlets floundering, the Post can tap it.
  • “If we took someone like Dan Balz, who’s been covering politics for the Post for more than 30 years, and had him write a story that a template could write, that’s a crime,” Gilbert says.

 

New AI Can Write and Rewrite Its Own Code to Increase Its Intelligence. (futurism.com) – February, 2017

Topics: machine learning, deep learning, Google, program synthesis, MIT Technology Review, learning algorithms, large companies, mathematical framework

  • A company has developed a type of technology that allows a machine to effectively learn from fewer examples and refine its knowledge as further examples are provided.
  • For example, an AI system is fed data about how the sky is usually blue, which allows it to later recognize the sky in a series of images.
  • This form of probabilistic programming — a code that uses probabilities instead of specific variables — requires fewer examples to make a determination, such as, for example, that the sky is blue with patches of white clouds.

 

Automated content: Can algorithms write your content for you? (futurecontent.co) – September, 2016

Topics: online content, data science, Fast Company, Steve Jobs, Yahoo, business intelligence, Microsoft, Medill School of Journalism

  • French spent years scanning portions of two Susann books, Valley of the Dolls and Once Is Not Enough, into Hal’s databanks, and deconstructing the writer’s style into 100 different parameters which Hal then turned into the final prose.
  • Joseph Medill was an editor and journalist in the purest sense, and he created a publishing legacy both familial—three of his grandchildren went on to run newspapers—and professional, through the Medill School of Journalism (MSJ).
  • We know more about what readers read than ever before, but we also know how they interact with articles, what they look at next and what their responses mean.
  • Add to this vast improvements in other technology like facial recognition is it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that an AI will be able to pull in all these different data sets and create a story from scratch with all the nuances of a seasoned writer.

 

Artificial Intelligences Are Writing Poetry For A New Online Literary Magazine (popsci.com)

Topics: postmodern, artificial intelligence, human beings, average person, traditional sense, curation, common sense, good poetry

  • The project’s name is itself an apt title for the work done by humans for the site: the implementation of an artificial intelligence designed to write, and the curation of what it has written.
  • ” You can talk about what the creator was trained on, or how the creator works, but not the creator’s intent— maybe the algorithm writer’s intent, but it’s a step removed, which is more fun for the reader, I think.”
  • Still, reading an excerpt from ” Gimble” in a poem titled ” Madness,” makes one wonder how detached we can be from a machine’s ability to synthesize what reads as a believable abstraction on such an emotional and human subject:
  • i am all the world and the day that is the same and a day i had been

 

Google’s AI has read enough romance novels to write its own (thenextweb.com) – May, 2016

Topics: Google, final round, software engineer, annual event, Buzzfeed, Japan, deep learning, National Novel Writing Month

  • In an effort to make its apps more conversational, Google fed its AI engine a whopping 2,865 romance novels so it can improve its understanding of language.
  • After going through the massive trove of novels, the engine was tasked with writing sentences of its own based on what it had learned.
  • Given the rapid pace of development in the fields of AI and deep learning, it seems like the day isn’t far off when our next read will come not from a library shelf, but from a computer that tailors a custom book to your exact specifications.

 

Will Robots That Can Write Steal Your Creative Job? | Observer (observer.com) – April, 2016

Topics: machine learning, analytical tools, virtual world, artificial intelligence, blog post, Google, Ibm, computer program

  • In a way, it felt like going to see any other indie rock band, but I got the sense that the computer doesn’t have much sense for when a song should come to an end.
  • When I saw Narrative Science’s Kristian Hammond on a SXSW panel, he described how his company has built software that can turn piles of data into texts that can be read and digested by human brains.
  • For example, you might rely on some expert’s framework to devise a stock market portfolio for yourself, but you can’t call that expert up every night to ask how your picks are performing in light of his or her system.
  • Sometimes referred to as the economic singularity, it posits that soon so much more work will get done, and done better, by machines that hardly any people will be needed at all.

 

Japanese AI Writes Novel, Passes First Round for Literary … (digitaltrends.com) – March, 2016

Topics: Japan, artificial intelligence, press conference, writing process, award committee, Matsubara, literary award, human creativity

  • Yet, now that a Japanese AI program has co-authored a short-form novel that passed the first round of screening for a national literary prize, it seems that no occupation is safe.
  • One of the team’s two submissions to the competition made it past the first round of screening, despite a blind reading policy that prevents judges from knowing whether an AI was involved in the writing process.
  • But there are still some problems [to overcome] to win the prize, such as character descriptions,” said Satoshi Hase, a Japanese science fiction novelist who was part of the press conference surrounding the award.

 

This News-Writing Bot Is Now Free for Everyone | WIRED (wired.com) – October, 2015

Topics: Yahoo, news stories, beta version, structured data, mail merge, total sales, Associated Press, similar technology

  • Today Automated Insights has launched a beta version of its new free service based on Wordsmith, the technology it uses to generate stories for companies like the AP.
  • There are many rules—known as branches—that you can set, such as the ability to use one set of words when a variable happens to be greater than a certain number and a different set when it happens to be lower than that number.
  • You could create a template that will generate the text ” sales increased in quarter two” if the number in the spreadsheet cell containing the quarter’s total sales was bigger than the cell for quarter one.