Computers have started writing stories. Not literature yet, just news stories. Now why should I be amazed? If computers can play chess, writing a news story should be a piece of cake.
Computers are already churning out copy faster than people. The Financial Times reports:
"Now a US news service has found a way to replace human beings in the newsroom and is instead using computers to write some of its stories.
"Thomson Financial, the business information group, has been using computers to generate some stories since March and is so pleased with the results that it plans to expand the practice.
"The computers work so fast that an earnings story can be released within 0.3 seconds of the company making results public.
"By using previous results in Thomson’s database, the computer stories say whether a company has done better or worse than expected."
The company is using computers not to cut costs but to "deliver information to our customers at a speed at which they can make an almost immediate trading decision," said one of the executives.
People are still needed to write other kinds of stories, he added. "This means we can free up reporters so they have more time to think."
Computers should be able to think as well if they can play chess. But I guess what the executive meant was out-of-the-box thinking, something that can’t be programmed into a computer yet.
And the executive had another complaint. The computerised reports are very standardised, he said, adding: "We might try and write a few more adjectives into the program."
I never imagined computers would one day be able to write too. But some oldtimers are unfazed. Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine.com in an article in the Guardian refers to the Financial Times story. And he welcomes these "roboreporters". But a man who went from print to digital media, he’s an early adopter, isn’t he?