Are Sports Writers' Jobs at Risk?

Monday, September 12, 2011

First a computer beat us on Jeopardy, now their taking jobs from reporters. A company know as Narrative Science has created a machine that can write sports stories that seem quite…well, human.

The New York Times reported on the fascinating new technology. An excerpt from the article is as follows:

“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... . ”

These words were written by a computer within 60 seconds of the end of the third quarter of the U.N.L.V. – Wisconsin game. The Big Ten Network seems to be capitalizing off of the efficient and apparently cheap story writing technology. According to Chris Gayomali of Techland, a division of TIME, the current rate for a 500 word story is merely $10. This seems quite a bit cheaper than employing a freelance human writer.

How long until machines take over writing human interest stories or romance novels?

Or homework!?


David Wiley September 12, 2011 at 8:08 PM  

I think this is quite an interesting topic, and one that deserves a bit of debate. There is some truth behind the fact that a computer may be able to write a sports story with some proficiency, but I have reason to believe that they will not replace writers as we move into the future.

A computer does not have emotion. It responds in a set way to an input of data. With something that is statistic-driven, such as a football game, it can input names and numbers into pre-programmed sentences. If you want a simple story with nothing more than matter-of-fact statements, this will suit your needs.

What makes great stories, in fiction and in journalism, is the ability to play upon human emotions. How can a computer determine whether to lead off with the who or the what or the why? It would view all story inputs in the same manner and follow the same cut-and-paste formula. Sometimes it will lead to very weak leads in the story. It might bog the story down with names and ages of people that are unknown to everyone but close friends. It has no real way of weighing such things.

Until we make a machine that can experience emotions in a human manner, we will have plenty of use for humans in writing.

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