If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
What would our computers tell us if we gave them a voice? We'll soon find out thanks to Natural Language Generation which gives computers a written opinion on virtually anything. For now, we must program their responses, but soon they'll form their own opinions and develop a creative voice. This may seem a long way off, so let's consider their progression as a writer in comparison to a human. A child progresses as a writer by starting with basic creative writing exercises: What did you do over summer break?
Robo reporting can expand the audience In its first year, the Post has produced around 850 articles using Heliograf. The AP estimated that it's freed up 20 percent of reporters' time spent covering corporate earnings and that AI is also moving the needle on accuracy. "In the case of automated financial news coverage by AP, the error rate in the copy decreased even as the volume of the output increased more than tenfold," said Francesco Marconi, AP's strategy manager and AI co-lead. Jury's out on local news impact … Robo reporting can serve a lot of niche audiences that, added up, can increase a news outlet's reach in a meaningful way.
The rise of artificial intelligence in journalism brings up many questions about the future of reporting. The dogged reporters, members of the vaunted Fourth Estate, the men and women who bring us the news stories we read every day? It's happening, and odds are that you've been reading stories created by artificial intelligence in local and world news already. Over the past year, the Post has published 850 stories from Heliograf, expanding its reach to include reporting on subject like congressional races and high-school football games.
Meanwhile, marketers are also getting more comfortable sidestepping publishers, creating branded content on their own and distributing it themselves. Jarrod Dicker, vp of commercial product and innovation at the Post, said Own is aimed at brands that don't want to pay a publisher to build a custom campaign but still need distribution for their branded content. Other ways publishers are trying to get more competitive is by offering to let them run the publisher-created branded content on other sites and by offering more video and other features, said Tom Blim, partner and chief strategy officer at Group SJR. "So this is solving for margins and managing turnaround times."
As part of an international trend toward machine-written news reporting, Google is giving the United Kingdom's Press Association an $800,000 award to create robot journalists. After Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post in 2013, the newspaper developed an artificial intelligence program, Heliograf. According to Wired, the Post's program still depends on editors to create "narrative templates" for the stories and uses Heliograf to access a data sources, such as the data clearinghouse VoteSmart.org The Heliograf software then matches the relevant data with the editors' pre-written templates for each race, and merges the two together for the first published version of an election story. The bots then automatically update the published stories with updated election returns.
It tells the story of a pair of Hollywood writers who learn that they are going to be replaced by an artificially intelligent algorithm that generates screenplays. By now I'm sure you've guessed the kicker: "It's No Game" was itself written by an artificially intelligent algorithm that generates screenplays. Their idea was to feed a neural network lots of sci-fi screenplays and teleplays to give it a feel for dialogue, setting and plot, and then switch on the bot and see what came out. In a paper last year, Google explained how it has trained a neural network to write what I suppose we might call short stories, apparently by feeding it a heavy diet of romance novels.
But strategists at the Post saw the potential for an AI system that could generate explanatory, insightful articles. It works like this: Editors create narrative templates for the stories, including key phrases that account for a variety of potential outcomes (from "Republicans retained control of the House" to "Democrats regained control of the House"), and then they hook Heliograf up to any source of structured data--in the case of the election, the data clearinghouse VoteSmart.org. Instead of targeting a big audience with a small number of labor-intensive human-written stories, Heliograf can target many small audiences with a huge number of automated stories about niche or local topics. Gilbert sees Heliograf developing the potential to function like a rewrite desk, in which "the reporters who gather information write more discrete chunks--here's some facts, here's some analysis--and let the system assemble them."
The Washington Post plans to cover every House, Senate and gubernatorial race in the country on Election Day with the aid of what it describes as artificial intelligence. The plan is to use a data-crunching program called Heliograf, which was built in-house, to bolster efforts by the Post's team of 60 political reporters to provide detailed coverage of nearly 500 contests across the U.S. Reporters will focus their attention on covering high-profile contests and races expected to be close or pivotal, while the program fills in the gaps. "This will give readers Washington Post-quality coverage at all levels but will also be used to alert reporters to things that they may not see, or draw their attention to a particular race that they didn't expect to be a close one," said Jeremy Gilbert, the Post's director of strategic initiatives. For example, a reader from North Carolina will see stories from North Carolina races more prominently placed in the Post's online election live blog.
On Election Day, journalists at The Washington Post will get an assist from their non-human counterparts. The newspaper announced Wednesday morning that it will use automation to cover 500 races. The automation technology, Heliograf, was first used by The Post to cover the Rio Olympics and will be repurposed to provide "up-to-date reporting, analysis and results for nearly 500 races." The Associated Press has relied on natural language generation to cover earnings report stories and sporting events.
A 2015 article from Time magazine revealed that Facebook determines ads and pages users see on their newsfeeds by "injecting a human element." According to The New York Times, Facebook determines political preference based on the pages you like; if people who like the same pages you do have similar political preferences -- even if the pages are not political -- then Facebook automatically categorizes you with the same political preference. By censoring posts with hashtags like #lunch in newsfeeds in favor of more newsworthy or agreeable stories, Facebook actively limits a user's supposed freedom on social media to see things that they might personally value. However, the argument could also be made that AI is useful in the many ways that journalists do statistical data analysis and publicize their findings to viewers.