Automated Insights, an American technology company that specializes in making narratives using big data, published a case study detailing how its Wordsmith platform has helped the Associated Press produce close to 4,300 stories per quarter – 14 times more than the previous manual output of AP's reporters and editors.
In January, the Associated Press (AP) revealed that Wordsmith has been rolling out content since July 2014 without any human intervention.
AP implemented the automation specifically for business-related stories that involve corporate earnings and stock market performance. Companies like Yahoo, Greatcall and Allstate have also put the technology to use. Yahoo, for instance, uses it for personalized recaps and reviews of Fantasy Football.
When done manually, write-ups would be very time-consuming for human writers. There is also the likely possibility of committing errors when faced with so many figures. In contrast, Wordsmith can produce 2,000 of such stories in a second and all of which will have fewer errors.
So are humans losing their jobs over this?
No, not yet at least. At the moment, the program is still in its early years. It's more of a tool for journalists within the AP rather than competition. Wordsmith deals with the figures and journalists can shift their focus on to other things.
"One of the things we really wanted reporters to be able to do was when earnings came out to not have to focus on the initial numbers," said an AP assistant business editor, Philana Patterson.
"We are going to use our brains and time in more enterprising ways during earnings season," detailed Lou Ferrara, managing editor for the Associated Press. "Rather than spending a great deal of time focusing on the release of earnings and hammering out a quick story recapping each one, we are going to automate that process for all U.S. companies."
However, it cannot be denied that as time progresses and the software gets further developed, the platform will have the capability to replicate less figure-based write-ups such as editorials.
"There is a threat of robots doing our work," said Barbara Ehrenreich, a New York Times columnist, in an interview with Hasan Minhaj of the "The Daily Show." "Prepare to be unemployed."
Yes, it is inevitable that the software will get to a point that it can replicate certain writing styles and even formulate its own opinions. However, it's not quite there yet. In fact it's still far from that just because it cannot see, hear, smell, taste and feel. An impartial robot wouldn't be able to review an iPhone and describe the "premium" feel to justify the cost. The technology to enable this is still in development.
Photo: Laurence Simon | Flickr