Wrobot Writers

April 19, 2011

‘Robot Journalist’ writes a better story than human sports reporter

The Next Web (Headline – 4/19/11)

What a cagey concept.

The robot journalist.

Think of the money we can save!  Think of the personnel issues we can eliminate!

How does it work?

It’s easy….

A ‘bot harvests the content farms and “writes” stories. No muss. No fuss.

Robots purring away, stringing words together words.

Wrobot writers. Like so many hacks.

Given a few more years, when everyone all media is playing everywhere constantly.. when cell phone and skype video is the new standard of quality… then the time will be wripe for the wrobot writers to worm their way into your mind.

Will anyone care but me? Will anyone miss the human touch?

Insight, perspective, a sweet crafting of words… an ability to capture a moment. Fact checking, at the very least.

Who needs any of that, anyway?

If this wrobot stuff were so great — why wouldn’t we have ‘Max Headroom-esq’ virtual reporters presenting the news on TV now – 20 years after the TV series about such possibilities.

Ok – maybe the visuals on TV were too tough to pull off.  Then. Certainly not now.

Want an easier medium?

How ’bout bots on radio?

Certainly, text to speech synthesizers exist with more feeling and ability to communicate than, well, the average customer service reps at a low end call center in Bangalore.

How come these bot voices aren’t on the air?

I’ll tell you why –

They are unreliable. They are inaccurate. They need more monitoring than humans. They mis-speak. They can’t adjust quickly to changing events. They can’t make judgements. They have no nuance.


Actually that kind of describes my favorite local newscast some nights.


Here is a vision of the future 20 years ago… from a segment I produced, directed and wrote for the USA Today On TV program, out of the LA Bureau, about the star of the TV show Max Headroom. Dale Harimoto was the correspondent. Max had just been cancelled and Matt Frewer was promoting some of his newer projects – you know the lead-in to the segment as well as I do, they still use it now: we caught up with Matt Frewer...

I spared you the rest of the product placement.


Update 10/21/11

The New York Times is reporting that robots are most likely behind the wholesale harvesting of wikipedia articles that are extruded into overpriced books sold on Amazon. Huzzah!


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