An article in yesterday's New York Times reports on recent advances in using software to automatically generate sports reporting. The software, created by a firm called Narrative Science, reportedly generates human-like text, and has already had one big operational success:
"Last fall, the Big Ten Network began using Narrative Science for updates of football and basketball games. Those reports helped drive a surge in referrals to the Web site from Google’s search algorithm, which highly ranks new content on popular subjects, Mr. Calderon says."
The role of Google here cannot be stressed enough. Once again, the preferences of the search engine giant are shaping our contemporary media environment in profound ways, perhaps without much conscious reflection on our part.
My biggest anxiety in cases like this is always the one expressed by Norbert Wiener at the close of his 1947 volume Cybernetics:
"The modern industrial revolution is similarly bound to devalue the human brain at least in its simpler and more routine decisions. Of course, just as the skilled carpenter, the skilled mechanic, the skilled dressmaker have in some degree survived the first industrial revolution, so the skilled scientist and the skilled administrator may survive the second. However, taking the second revolution as accomplished, the average human being of mediocre attainments or less has nothing to sell that is worth anyone’s money to buy."