Famous last words

Shockingly, professional journalists doubt that computer programs can replace their journalistic output:

Kevin Smith, head of the Society of Professional Journalists Ethics Committee, says he laughed when he heard about the program. “I can remember sitting there doing high school football games on a Friday night and using three-paragraph formulas,” Smith said. “So it made me laugh, thinking they have made a computer that can do that work.” Smith says that, ultimately, it’s going to be hard for people to share the uniquely human custom of story telling with a machine.

“I can’t imagine that a machine is going to tell a story and present it in a way that other human beings are going to accept it,” he said. “At least not at this time. I don’t see that happening. And the fact that we’re even attempting to do it — we shouldn’t be doing it.”

It’s going to be interesting to see how quickly the white collar workers change their tune once they understand that white collar automation has been eliminating their jobs nearly as fast as blue collar automation eliminated blue collar jobs two generations ago. We’ve seen the same arguments every time, from stock brokers to bank tellers and everything else, but the arguments keep getting blown away in the face of improving technology and poor human performance. Does anyone really think that a computer can’t fill in the blanks as effectively as the average left-liberal journalist?

Forget news, I mean, how hard would it be to write a program that produced columns indistinguishable from Maureen Dowd’s commentary? After all, it’s a simple matter of scouring the Associated Press for a) a reported problem and b) a Republican’s name, then producing a few snarky spins on the latter while blaming (a) on (b).