Programming creativity: rise of the robot writer

Congo the chimpanzee was just two years old when he first picked up a paintbrush at London Zoo in the fifties. Like a true creative, Congo famously refused to show his work to others and would throw a tantrum if his paintbrush was taken from him. Interestingly enough, Chimpanzees aren’t the only non-human artists in the world. Birds and elephants have also been known to develop natural creative traits without any human influence.

By Laura England

Technical PR | Engineering PR | Technology PR
The belief that creativity develops naturally is common. But as technology advances, could it be digitally programmed?

We’ve grown to accept that in many industrial settings, workers can easily be replaced with robotic machinery. Creative jobs on the other hand are usually considered safe from the threat of artificial intelligence.  

In 2014, Automated Insights introduced Wordsmith, an automated writing program capable of generating news – essentially, a robot writer. The news is produced by collecting standardised data and applying algorithms to translate the data into journalistic language. Last year Wordsmith wrote over 1 billion stories. But with such speed, can it possibly be up to the standard of a human journalist?

Scarily, Wordsmith is able to emulate human writing by alternating its story structure, using varying phrases and even incorporating historical anecdotes into its work. In fact, in the time it’s taken me to write this, Wordsmith could have produced upwards of 7 million articles in this programmed journalistic style.

Despite its advantages, any passionate writer is bound to be sceptical. While Wordsmith may be a threat to the kind of figure driven, lifeless journalism you come by every so often – for the majority of writers, there’s nothing to worry about.

Let’s face it; a computer couldn’t possibly imitate the tone, personality and emotion of a good writer. Put simply, there’s nothing like the real thing.

The key to outsmarting our robotic counterparts is having personality that a robot can't imitate and, as a result, the emotive writing we see in magazines, blogs and newspapers will remain unparalleled. So don’t worry, any nightmares about Rupert Murdoch reigning over us with a legion of robot writers can be safely erased from your mind for the time being.

For now, your job is safe from artificial intelligence. But we’re making no promises on Chimpanzees. 

Laura England

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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