Will journalism fall to artificial intelligence?

We’re not especially worried about this one, however. A tireless machine that can read text that has been fed into its systems (almost) as well as a human being is one thing, but it most certainly is not journalism

Updated: Nov 16, 2018 15:07:47

Hindustan Times

In this photo taken on November 7, 2018, a screen shows an artificial intelligence (AI) news anchor introducing himself at the Light of Internet Expo during the 5th World Internet Conference in Wuzhen in China's eastern Zhejiang province. (AFP)

Putting Artificial Intelligence (AI) to ever newer uses, China has created the world’s first AI news anchor. Two AI newscasters — one speaking in English and one in Mandarin — were showcased at China’s annual World Internet Conference, a platform for China’s technology and vision. The two newscasters, being robots, need no breaks; and can deliver news typed into their “systems” continuously 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These AI news anchors have been modelled on real life newscasters on Chinese television. They will be able to learn from other broadcast videos, and are capable of reading “as naturally as a professional news anchor.” Both AI broadcasters are, interestingly, male.

As always with news on AI, jokes and semi serious observations about more kinds of jobs that could be lost to AI have been doing the rounds. Could journalism be the next career that could be lost to AI? Driverless cars could put drivers out of jobs; automation has already taken many shop floor jobs; natural language processing and better translation options are taking away even language-related jobs; and now that AI has mastered the ancient Chinese game of Go (it is a far more complicated game than chess, having more than 300 times the number of plays as chess), maybe journalism is the next career that could fall to AI!

We’re not especially worried about this one, however. A tireless machine reading text that has been fed into its systems (almost) as well as a human being is most certainly not journalism. Until AI finds itself a nose for news and, more importantly, the ability to speak truth to power, journalists will not be without jobs. The beauty of machine learning and neural networks that power AI is that they allow it to learn skills such as driving and master the ability to deal with multiple probabilities, but the ability to handle moral ambiguities responsibly, and to weigh individual frailty against collective good remains a very human part of the job. No doubt AI can make useful companions to journalists, being able to scrape data, find needles in haystacks, and break complicated codes, all the while ensuring that their fridges are never out of milk (using the wonders of the Internet of Things). But the day when an AI can make trusted contacts, chase endless empty leads based only on a hunch, and fearlessly stand its ground even as authoritarianism rages around it is not about to happen just yet.

First Published: Nov 16, 2018 15:07:28


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