Robot Journalists Join Associated Press

The Associated Press welcomes its robotic employees this month, as it starts using computer algorithm journalism to write company earning reports.

"For many years, we have been spending a lot of time crunching numbers and rewriting information from companies to publish approximately 300 earnings reports each quarter. We discovered that automation technology, from a company called Automated Insights, paired with data from Zacks Investment Research, would allow us to automate short stories – 150 to 300 words — about the earnings of companies in roughly the same time that it took our reporters.

"And instead of providing 300 stories manually, we can provide up to 4,400 automatically for companies throughout the United States each quarter.

"We believe technological automation will be a part of many businesses, including those in media. As part of its business relationship with Automated Insights, AP participated in the company’s latest round of investment financing with other strategic partners...

"This is about using technology to free journalists to do more journalism and less data processing, not about eliminating jobs. In fact, most of the staff has been receptive to the effort and involved for the past few months of discussion.'

- AP Managing Editor Lou Ferrera in AP Blog

Science fiction fans are comfortable with this step, or at least familiar with it. In his 1963 short story If There Were No Benny Cemoli, Philip K. Dick introduces the idea of a homeostatic newspaper, described as

...a vast complex electronic organism buried deep in the ground, responsible to no one, guided solely by its own ruling circuits...

The edition, when it was laid on his desk by a bustling CURBman, surprised him by its accuracy. Even in its dormant state, the newspaper had somehow managed not to fall behind events. It's receptors had kept going...

It was uncanny, Hood thought as he read the lead article. The very news-gathering services of the homeopape had reached into his own life, had digested and then inserted into the lead article even the discussion between himself and Otto Dietrich. The newspaper was - had been - doing its job. Nothing of news-interest escape it, even a discreet conversation carried on with no outsiders as witnesses...

Dick also described the physical being of an algorithm posing as a reporter - the autonomic interviewer from his 1965 novel The Zap Gun.

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