Robot reporter gets first article published in China

Robot writes 300-character story in just one second

Reports are out that a Chinese robot has written and published its first newspaper article.

That's right... a robotic reporter.

The news comes the same month as a Japanese insurance company announced it was replacing 34 workers with an artificial intelligence system.

[Related: The best Japan Robot, gadget and car expo gallery]

"This is absolutely a wake-up call," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, who added that it's time for people to think about their careers and if a robot or A.I. system could easily replace them.

"We are the beginning of robots taking jobs," he added. "That's a big focus area at the World Economic Forum going on right now in Davos, Switzerland. But the fact is, we've had other revolutions -- like the birth of the assembly line."

People thought that revolution would kill jobs, and it did -- but other jobs were created to replace them. So people's skills needed to change.

The same, according to Kerravala, will happen with the robotic revolution.

The China Daily reported on Wednesday that the robotic-written article was published by the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily. The article was a 300-character piece on a local spring festival.

The report also noted that the system, designed to write both long and short pieces, wrote the article in one second.

"When compared with the staff reporters, [the machine] has a stronger data analysis capacity and is quicker at writing stories," Wan Xiaojun, a professor at Peking University who leads the team developing the robot, reportedly said. "But it does not mean intelligent robots will soon be able to completely replace reporters."

At this point, the robot cannot conduct interviews, ask follow-up questions or select the story's angle based on information and interviews.

This isn't the first time that story-writing has been automated. In 2014, an algorithm called Quakebot, developed by a Los Angeles Times reporter, wrote a story about an earthquake. That same year, the Associated Press announced it would use software to automate the writing of corporate-earnings stories.

Kerravala said reporters should be sure to be able to conduct interviews, write analysis pieces and move beyond simply writing up facts for a story.

Reporters and insurance workers aren't the only people at risk of losing their jobs to robots and intelligent systems.

With robotics and artificial intelligence making strong gains over the past several years, there is increasing talk -- and concern -- that they are better positioned to replace human workers and save businesses from paying salaries, benefits and giving vacation time.

A recent Forrester Research report predicted that robots and A.I. systems could take as many as 6% of U.S. jobs by 2021.

Smart systems, chat bots and humanoid robots could take over jobs that range from hotel employees and customer service reps to truck and taxi drivers.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
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