There has been lots of coverage of robo-journalists, software that can produce journalism without minimal human involvement. It’s almost as if journalists are worried or something.
I can offer some reassurance: the kind of journalism based on doing research, talking to lots of people and thinking about it is probably safe for the time being. (We may have problems with the dawn of full, strong artificial intelligence, sometimes known as the Technological Singularity. Those problems may go a bit beyond journalists facing a lack of work.)
However, in an article for ComputerWeekly.com on natural language generation (NLG, the technical term for robo-writing), I found that the technique has moved beyond robo-journalism into more lucrative fields, including producing reports for financial services on things like fund performance or possible suspicious transactions.
Companies including Narrative Science and Automated Updates started by setting up robo-journalists, but both have broadened their scope to other areas that rely purely on turning data into words. This covers only limited types of journalism, but applies to lots of other types of writing.
Ehud Reiter, professor of computing science at the University of Aberdeen and chief scientist for supplier Arria, provided an excellent summary:
We are still exploring. We’re still discovering where the technology is best used. My own opinion is that where NLG is really good is where you have information from a lot of sources that needs to be combined, integrated and presented to various audiences.
The Register has also published a piece by me based on something that was not in chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement and spending review: cutting £2bn by forcing everyone to use email rather than letters to communicate with government. Denmark has done this, pretty much; but I can’t see Britain following for a while.