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Robot Journalists Are Still a Ways Away, But Robot Editors Are Here To Stay 

Robot journalist do not exist, at least not in the real world. News organizations such as Reuters employ thousands of human journalists in order to generate the quality articles on an ongoing basis. Wikipedia may not employ any journalists, but thousands of human volunteers have spent countless (millions?) of hours writing the wonderful content we all enjoy. The thousands upon thousands of articles and blog post shared across Facebook daily are all written by humans. All in all, it is a monumental human effort that creates such content. And it does not stop there, articles published online are essentially eternal, yet the world in which they are written about is in a state of perpetual change. Keeping content up with the changes is a whole other effort unto itself.

This is where the real robots enter the scene. Robots may not be the most original creatives. But they are naturally adept with large volumes of mechanical editing. Furthermore, they are infinitely scalable, which is a premium skill for today’s massively online socially engaged media. Take the case of Wikipedia, where huge amounts new content being continuously created, but over the time this content can potentially become stale. Well now MIT has a robot that is here to help. This robot is continuously scanning through thousands of Wikipedia articles to compare against known fact basis to correct as knowledge evolves over time. And it is able to update articles with sentences written as a human would write it. Now this robot is still in training, and while it is scoring high marks, it is not yet certified to publish edits without one final human review. However, this robot is real, and just like a real human apprentice it needs real world experience before hanging out a shingle – this is one robot that’s well on it’s way to autonomy.

Or consider that pretty much all videos and articles are published on platforms where readers continue the conversation with their own commentary. YouTube is notorious for viewer participation, usually for harmless entertainment or thoughtful insights inspired by creators. But not always. Well aware of this challenge, YouTube has pragmatic policies in place to guard against potential toxins such as hate speech. And again, with the scale of the web in play, the magnitude of incoming comment streams across the YouTube landscape makes human-powered moderation impractical if not impossible. Here we find the kindred ancestor of our Wikipedia editing robot. The robots working for YouTube have been moderating users to ensure adherence with comment posting guidelines for years now. And they are doing quite a good job these days; a recent deep study analysis found that these robots are quick and objective.

This is really helping for massive media and content platform companies. It’s great for consumers to have such fresh and freely available content as well.

It’s not only big companies that can benefit from robot editors. While many of these robots are too complicated and expensive for individual consumers and amateurs to obtain today, the same was true for many advanced technologies when they were first deployed. Voice-to-text software used to be a premium product. Going back even further, a good spell checker was was once only available in expensive professional-grade word processors. Yet nowadays thousands of regular consumers have advanced AI powered grammar checking software built-in to their everyday lives from providers like grammarly (note – we have no affiliation). In fact these robots have become so commonplace that we don’t even realize we are using a robot anymore.

It is not hard to imagine that one day, a consumer-grade proofreading robot will be available to the average consumer as well. And by that time, such robots will be much more powerful then what these major media corporations are currently using here. For example, Facebook as just brought on Reuters as a partner in the Facebook Fact Checking Program. They are facing similar challenges, the complexity and necessary quality for Facebook scale moderation demands human effort by way of a joint team of dedicated moderators. Considering the AI capabilities of Facebook, it is easy to foresee them directing their AI engineers at this problem to develop robots of their own which will one day then join with this evolving ecosystem of robot editing.

Fully autonomous content creation is quite a ways off, however AI assist is so prolific that you have already consumed such content today, perhaps without realizing so. These robots editors may not be easily available to the average consumer or individual journalist. But they will be one day. How might they help you?

As we ponder AI assist from our friendly robot editors, let’s enjoy a fusion of Styx | Come Sail Away:

Photo by Moss on Unsplash

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