I hope Amazon hasn’t picked up any bad ideas from this little initiative. As widely reported, Associated Press is rolling out a service delivered by a company called Automated Insights that automates delivery of corporate quarterly reporting and other business news stories.
“Automated Insights’ patented Wordsmith platform writes insightful, personalized reports from your data,” declares the company blurb. “It’s like an expert talking with each user in plain English.” The five-part Wordsmith production process involves acquisition of data, analysis through “advanced metrics,” identification and contextualization of trends, formulation of “a narrative that tells the story around the most important insights,” and publication.
Some might be scared by the prospect of pattern recognition and storytelling being outsourced to machines. For me, though, this is as much about the regimentation of corporate reporting. Financial legislation has produced conditions so restrictive that much financial journalism might as well be done by machine anyway. Furthermore, you wonder how insightful the trend-spotting delivered by Automated Insights’ bots is actually likely to be, given the competitive pressure in business and finance to identify and act on any business edge.
And it’s telling that Automated Insights has already carved out a niche in sports reporting – another area of human endeavor that’s been crunched to death by big money. Does that remind you of anyone though? Genre fiction could be due for a makeover. The V.C. Andrews saga is just one which indicates that fans of some fiction categories can be fed with any liquidizer mash of genre cliches, whether via ghostwriter or machine. James Patterson, Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.