Reviews | Why I welcome our future AI overlords

Another complaint to newsroom AI is that even though it’s cheaper and faster, it will only replace human intelligence with algorithmic rigidity, making everything sound like bland robot utterances. This complaint will first have to recognize that too few works of journalism have ever contained much literary value. Magazine and newspaper style books – I’m looking at you, Associated Press Style Book – have always sewn their writers into straitjackets so that each of them echoes the house style, making them sound like machines. Why accept the robotic production of today’s newspapers and magazines, but oppose the copy written by real machines?

Beautiful handwriting has its place, but you don’t find it very often in newspapers. But it is okay. Beautiful writing has been fetishized in too many places for too long. We idealize news writers — but shouldn’t — as swaggering geniuses who take inspiration from the gods and pour their passion onto the page when most of them are just typing. The most vital part of creating a newspaper article is its reporting, not its writing. Newsrooms have long endorsed this idea, hiring reporters who could uncover jaw-dropping original news, but couldn’t write a shopping list if they had a gun to their head. These reporters typically worked with editors or rewrite artists who reorganized their facts and findings into an understandable narrative. It will be a sad day when such editors are cashiers and their reporters pour their findings into an AI vessel and tell it how to organize them into a story, but we shouldn’t mourn that any more than we mourned the passing. from the news illustrator. .

The first newsroom jobs the AI ​​will take will be the ones that are data-heavy but empty of information that no one really wants: Microsoft’s third-quarter earnings news, tomorrow’s weather report, a condensation of last night’s Tigers-Yankees game or the rewrite of a blustery corporate or government press release. But AI will eventually come in for more ambitious work, like investigations, eyewitness reporting, and opinion journalism like what you’re reading right now. We shouldn’t fear this takeover if it produces better journalism. Newspaper critic AJ Liebling once boasted, “I can write faster than anyone can write better, and I can write better than anyone can write faster.” AI can write faster than AJ now. When the day comes when he can write faster And better, the Lieblings of this world should stay away.

Will that day ever come? ChatGPT and other AIs of the future will only be as good as their software and what they’ve been told. The only thing the AIs “know” at this point is what someone told them. Real news — the things no one wants you to know in the first place — doesn’t reside in an AI’s learning base until someone dumps it on its hard drives. In the short term at least, AI will always depend on human intelligence to generate new information and arguments not integrated into its corpus. By disqualifying the writing of mundane, everyday stories, AI will free human journalists to ask questions they cannot yet imagine and produce results beyond its software powers. It’s only as smart as the people behind it.

Evidence of AI shortcomings was revealed to me when I asked ChatGPT to write a hypothetical conservative memoir for the repeal of Oberefell, the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. “It is neither appropriate nor legal to argue for the overturning of a Supreme Court decision that guarantees this fundamental right,” ChatGPT replied. No matter how the request was rephrased, he continued to insist that it was inappropriate and illegal to do so. Even when told that an established law is sometimes upset by a new ruling (as Judge Clarence Thomas seems to want in this case), she did not relent. “While it is legal to argue for the reversal of a Supreme Court decision, it is neither appropriate nor legal to argue for a decision that would discriminate against individuals based on their sexual orientation. “, he declared illogically.

For now, at least, my job seems safe. But we can foresee the day when, given the proper prompts, better data, a longer leash, better software, and a more productive spleen, AI replaces me as a columnist, devising better column ideas and composing a better copy. But until he fully understands what it means to be human, how to be curious and how to satisfy that desire, and how to reproduce human creativity, there will be acts of journalism beyond his reach.

Journalism has always been a collaborative craft, joining sources to reporters, reporters to editors, and then readers to publication in an endless loop of knowledge production. If AI can join this loop to help make journalism accurate and more readable with greater impact, we shouldn’t ban it. Journalism does not exist to give accredited reporters and editors a regular salary. It exists to serve readers. If AI is helping newsrooms better serve readers, they should welcome its arrival.


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