Apr 4, 2014

Robot Reporting

I love all things tech and I love writing. This program (or app or algorithm) stokes both of my passions. Robots are now writing mainstream media articles. Three minutes after one of the earthquakes hit Southern California a few weeks ago, an article was ready for publication, before reporters were awake or aware of the happenings.

The author was quakebot, a program created two years ago, that reacts to input from devices that report seismic activity. It is called a 'bot', because it reacts to outside stimulus without human intervention. The algorithm adds text to fill in between the 'facts' to create a readable story, suitable for publishing. In this case, it extracted the relevant data from the US Geological Service report, plugged it into a pre-written template, and sent it for publication in the LA Times.

Here is the actual article created: "A shallow magnitude 4.7 earthquake was reported Monday morning five miles from Westwood, California, according to the US Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 6:25 a.m. Pacific time at a depth of 5.0 miles. According to the USGS, the epicenter was six miles from Beverly Hills, California, seven miles from Universal City, California, seven miles from Santa Monica, California and 348 miles from Sacramento, California. In the past ten days, there have been no earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and greater centered nearby. This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author."

There are many other examples of 'bot' reporters and one company even  has some that scan entire books and publish indexes of words, by topic, and sells the results, in the form of books, on Amazon. Wow, honest reporting without humans twisting the story to fit the politics. There is hope.

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