Patt Morrison for May 16, 2012

Could algorithms replace writers with robots?

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A server tray is seen on April 19, 2012 in Forest City, North Carolina.

In 15 years, 90 percent of news stories will be written by computers.

That’s according to Kristian Hammond, the founder of the Chicago-based company Narrative Science, which is creating algorithms that can write news stories. They’re starting small and simple, with Little League games. Using play-by-play data submitted by parents through the iPhone app GameChanger, Narrative Science’s algorithms wrote nearly 400,000 accounts of Little League games last year.

The current thinking is that such stories won’t edge out top journalists, but expand the media universe -- computers can sift through vast amounts of data to produce cheap, readable accounts of stuff no journalist is currently covering.

Algorithms can't offer analysis, have no personal voice and still aren’t sentient, but when asked whether a computer could win the Pulitzer Prize in 20 years, Hammond stated he thinks it will happen in five.

WEIGH:

Do you think you could tell if a computer wrote your news? Do you believe that using algorithms for reporting would increase coverage of currently ignored topics?

Guests:

Steven Levy, senior writer, Wired magazine

Robert Hernandez, assistant professor, professional practice, USC


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