Artificial intelligence has been around for decades but it seems to be a topic everyone is talking about right now. I’ve been chatting with another newspaper publisher about opportunities and concerns when it comes to AI taking steps into the industry.
The use of AI by journalists, bloggers, novelists, poets, songwriters and kids who don’t care to do homework is not new — it’s been lurking around for about 60 years — but it is trending.
Technology already looks after many mundane tasks — Google Maps is one example and Siri another. Saying “Hey Siri, dial Mom” simplifies the process of making a call and it’s nice not to have to pull over to read a map in rush-hour traffic.
If you take a look around, you’ll see just how surrounded we are by technology that makes things easier for us. Machines make decisions based on data, which, in some ways, could make them better decision makers. If nothing else, they can certainly be faster.
The ability of AI to tackle highly complex tasks and computations is one of its strengths. It can learn and make predictions, and optimize based on outcomes.
In his article 15 Pros and Cons of Artificial Intelligence You Should Know, Mike Kaput lists automation of repetitive tasks, reduction of human error, completing tasks too dangerous for humans, better decision-making and problem-solving, cost savings, increased production and the ability to work 24 hours a day as pros to using AI.
“To experience the pros of AI, you need to have a clear, realistic understanding of its cons,” he says. These include the amount and quality of data AI has access to, the potential to make bad or harmful decisions, rationale behind decisions isn’t always provided, potential bias based on data provided, elimination of human jobs, unevenness of advancement in different fields means it doesn’t always deliver on promises, and it can be expensive.
I recently purchased a vacuum that incorporates AI with the hope it will spend more time sweeping up dog hair than me. I’m not averse to using technology in this manner although some would caution that its camera could be a spy.
Some also say that AI will continue to replace journalists. This is true to some degree, but I can’t imagine turning these pages over to a robot to fill.
I tested what AI could do in the newsroom and chose Jasper AI for the job. Touted on its website as “the #1 AI Copywriter,” it scours the web to find information to create a story for you.
My experiment: Jasper versus Laurie (our civic affairs journalist) in creating an article.
The headline and first paragraph of Laurie’s page 2 story were provided to Jasper to base its own on, with the following result in about 10 seconds:
The Town of Pincher Creek is one step closer to having a new curling rink, after council narrowly approved the motion at the last meeting. The proposed rink would be built at the Community Recreation Centre on 942 Hyde Street and will be subject to a borrowing bylaw that must still pass before it can move forward.
This new facility would provide recreational opportunities for the community and create a much-needed gathering space. It is estimated to cost around $2 million, with half of that money coming from grants, and the other half from local taxes.
If everything goes according to plan, the Town of Pincher Creek could have an updated curling rink before the end of 2021. The project would create a number of jobs in the area and could help to stimulate the local economy.
Mayor John Smith says, “This is an exciting opportunity for our community. We know that many people enjoy curling and this will provide them with a place to do it. This project has been a long time coming and we are looking forward to making it a reality.”
The Town of Pincher Creek is now in the process of developing a borrowing bylaw that would fund the construction. Once this is approved, work on the rink can begin. The Town Council is hopeful that this new addition to their community will help create an enjoyable environment for all.
This is a hands-down win for Laurie as the article is full of inaccurate information.
Jasper could possibly have a role in headline creation, SEO optimization, proofreading (to a degree) and idea generation, but is not reliable for creating community news stories.
As AI becomes more prominent, consider the trustworthiness of the source. I’ll take a human who lives in and cares about the community any day.
Ask Mayor Smith.