Journalism Need Not Fear Artificial Intelligence
How new technology is coming to a newsroom near you
The impact and potential for artificial intelligence (AI) seems boundless, and although the technology is being met mostly with great optimism, one thing its detractors fear is the looming wave of AI-driven automation that will put many people in many industries out of work.
Morbid curiosity about their own professional obsolescence has made the impact of AI in journalism a popular subject among many tech and media writers, as more and more news organizations are publishing stories written by computers. In the two years since The Washington Post introduced Heliograf, its in-house automated storytelling technology, thousands of auto-written articles have been published on its website.
“Do we need to worry about robots replacing journalists? The answer is a resounding no,” says Meredith Broussard, a data journalism professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University and author of Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World. “The state of the art isn’t there yet.”
Much of the fear of artificial intelligence is being driven by a misunderstanding of what the technology actually is. Popular depictions of AI, like the sentient hosts in Westworld or the charismatic droids of Star Wars, don’t quite capture reality.
“One of the things I usually say is that ‘AI is math’,” Broussard explains. “It sounds like because of the name ‘AI’ that there’s a little brain inside of the computer but there’s not … it’s computational statistics on steroids.”