Do you think a software program could perform your job?
Before you scoff, a U.S.-based company has created an algorithm that takes data, like sports statistics, company financial reports, and housing starts, and turns them into newspaper articles.
The code is the work of Narrative Science, offering proof of the progress of artificial intelligence—the ability of computers to mimic human reasoning.
The New York Times wrote about the company this month: “For years, programmers have experimented with software that wrote such articles, typically for sports events, but these efforts had a formulaic, fill-in-the-blank style. They read as if a machine wrote them…[but] articles produced by Narrative Science are different.”
Here’s an example written by the software:
“WISCONSIN appears to be in the driver’s seat en route to a win, as it leads 51-10 after the third quarter. Wisconsin added to its lead when Russell Wilson found Jacob Pedersen for an eight-yard touchdown to make the score 44-3 …”
Not too shabby, considering it was written by software.
The company apparently has 20 clients so far. On its web site, the company notes that the technology is being used for sports stories, financial reports, real estate analyses, sales and operations reports, and market research content. No mention of technical writing but I don’t see why it couldn’t be used for some documents.
I believe that the technology could be used for documenting bug fixes and new features that might appear in Release Notes. Of course, there are many things that a writer does every day—such as project management and interviewing—that would be difficult for a piece of software to emulate.
This article reminds me of a blog entry I wrote last year: “In short, some of the highly analytical jobs are becoming commodities that can be performed by a computer or an inexpensive worker in Asia.” See my earlier blog entry.
What do you think? Could a piece of software potentially write some of your content?