Artificial intelligence is everywhere. The technology has seemingly touched nearly every aspect of our everyday lives – companies such as Dr. Ali Parsa’s Babylon Health are using it to detect and diagnose medical conditions, whereas Phoebe Hugh’s InsurTech firm, Brolly, is using AI to collate data and provide insurance quotes. With the rise of digital media over the past decade, it seems perfectly reasonable to assume that the technology will eventually expand into the complicated world of journalism.
Anxious journalists across the world have observed the growth of artificial intelligence with caution, and it’s clear to see why – news agencies across the world have begun experimenting with bots that are capable of collating massive swathes of information into clear and cohesive news articles. As an example, it has been nearly two years since The Washington Post started to use Heliograf, its own homegrown artificial intelligence technology.
Originally created to generate hundreds of brief reports on the Rio Olympics, Heliograf has now published well over a thousand news reports for The Washington Post, from congressional and presidential election races to high-school football games and sports results. The absence of a human reporter has yet to impact the popularity of the newspaper’s content: In the first year of Heliograf’s operation, the technology generated over 850 articles amassing over half a million clicks.
In this case, artificial intelligence is presented not as a threat but as a useful aid and time saver to human reporters. It is impossible to discuss AI’s relationship with journalism without analysing the technology’s impact on revenue. Journalism and digital media have become reliant on advertising profits to sustain their existence – and artificial intelligence has yet to catch up. As it stands, journo-AI is centred upon producing content in mass volume. Ultimately, the technology’s business-to-business applications have not yet been developed. Whilst artificial intelligence has the capability of serving huge and sometimes niche audiences, the concept has not yet progressed beyond the pageview. Where artificial intelligence stops, human intelligence starts. Artificial intelligence is still in its infancy – and the days when the technology will be able to produce analysis and creative features could well be seen in the not-too-distant future.