The robots haven’t just landed in the workplace—they’re expanding skills, moving up the corporate ladder, showing good productivity and retention rates, and increasingly shoving aside their human counterparts.
During the elections, when Republican Steve King beat back Democratic challenger Kim Weaver in the race for Iowa’s 4th congressional district seat in November, The Washington Post covered both the win and the wider electoral trend. “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 Heliograph, 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.
When Jeff Bezos bought the Post back in 2013, AI-powered journalism was in its infancy. A handful of companies with automated content-generating systems, like Narrative Science and Automated Insights, were capable of producing the bare-bones, data-heavy news items familiar to sports fans and stock analysts.
But strategists at the Post saw the potential for an AI system that could generate explanatory, insightful articles. What’s more, they wanted a system that could foster “a seamless interaction” between human and machine, says Jeremy Gilbert, who joined the Post as director of strategic initiatives in 2014. “What we were interested in doing is looking at whether we can evolve stories over time,” he says.
To get more historical insights about AI click: Killer Robots
“At the Press Association's (PA) headquarters in London is a small team of journalists and software engineers. They're working on a computer system that can do the work of multiple human beings, picking out interesting local data trends - everything from crime statistics to how many babies are being born out of wedlock. As part of a trial, the PA has begun emailing selected machine-generated stories, no more than several paragraphs or so in length, to local newspapers that might want to use such material,” reports BBC.
"We've just been emailing them samples of stories we've produced, and they've been using a reasonable number of them," says Peter Clifton, editor-in-chief.
Sometimes human journalists will rewrite or add to the algorithms' copy, but quite often, he says, it is published verbatim. Automated stories about smoking during pregnancy, recycling rates, or cancelled operations have all found their way online and in print.
Mr Clifton hopes to be distributing 30,000 of these stories every month by the end of April. The project, called Radar - is a partnership with Urbs Media and is funded by a €706,000 (£620,000) grant from Google.
Mr Clifton points out that, at this stage, the system simply amplifies the work human journalists do, some of whom are involved in developing the system's output. The automated part is currently limited to trawling through the data, something that would take humans far longer to do.
China's state news agency, Xinhua, is now reorganising itself to increase the use of AI.
"There could be such a thing as a robot reporter calling up the loved ones of a deceased person and asking them how they feel," says Mr Fanta, referring to "death knock" calls - a sometimes controversial, but often important task for journalists.
Our assessment is that technological advancement in robotics poses both an opportunity and a challenge for mankind. We believe that good journalism is not just a matter of reporting the news, there needs to be insights and opinions which has evolved over decades.