A week or so ago our editorial projects division Writers Inc. tweeted a fascinating article about Reuters’ development of Lynx Insight, a new artificial intelligence (AI) tool capable of pitching story ideas and writing sentences, the aim being to save human journalists time and boost productivity.
Taken at face value, most professional writers, from journalists to copywriters like myself, would probably have sat up at this story and uttered the word: eh? (Optional extras: a shudder of horror or/and projectile tea across the room.) However, it’s important to take a step back and realise that Lynx Insight is not about replacing real reporters, but more about harnessing technology to analyse data and present the most useful results.
Is AI the future of journalism or copywriting? In a word – no. Instead, it’s a very credible research tool to be handled and its results interpreted, with care. By humans.
Reuters is a pioneer in using AI and robotics to improve its processes and is proud of its focus on bringing machines and humans together – a vision it calls the ‘cybernetic newsroom’ – to each do what they do best to achieve a common goal. The idea behind Lynx Insight is that its AI software can sift through a massive amount of data to identify news trends and produce concise snippets human editors can then finesse or develop as needed, with clear time-saving benefits. On a practical level, humans simply could not analyse reams of data as speedily.
In the Reuters case, when it comes to the written sentences produced by Lynx Insight, these would always be reviewed by a human prior to publication. Cue a sigh of relief. While there are innate differences between the role of news journalist and the role of copywriter, surely the ability to write effectively still runs through everything we do. How many writers of any sort would genuinely feel comfortable handing this task over entirely to an algorithm?
Human personality is so important to the written word. At Acceleris and Limelight, we hold brainstorms to generate creative ideas – the good ones often end up flowing through the copy we produce. Understanding and capturing a client’s tone of voice can often be as important to brand and reputation as communicating key messages. When the right words aren’t coming, human writers know when to pause for reflection and that a great idea can come from simply taking a walk, getting some fresh air, or a chat with a colleague.
AI may not be able to replace a real human writer, but it has a valuable role to play in so many other fields. For corporate law firm Addleshaw Goddard (AG), one of our professional services clients, AI forms part of its Intelligent Delivery offer, which brings together the best people, processes and technology to optimise legal services for clients. AG uses Kira, a powerful AI system, to quickly interrogate and manage large volumes of information to save significant amounts of time.
On a personal level, I own an Amazon Echo and use it at home daily to stream music, listen to the radio and ask the time when wrestling my toddler into his coat and gloves while ushering the dog out of the way means I’m anything but hands-free. As impressed I am by the concept of driverless cars and open to the idea that they will become part of everyday life in my generation, I wouldn’t let one chauffeur me in my lifetime. Meanwhile, AI has a highly valuable potential role in improving outcomes in healthcare, such as in one study where AI has been used to analyse data to predict how many patients could end up in intensive care, and this must be explored. Amazing.
I, as will most professional writers, will watch the rise of the use of AI in research with great interest and if the opportunity presents itself, give it a go. I can’t speak for other writers, but in terms of letting AI write on my behalf, I’ll do that when I replace my car with one that can drive itself.
At Writers Inc., we can’t offer AI, but we can offer humans. To give our ‘algorithm’ a go, please get in touch.