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Hein Marais Considers the Impact of Computer-generated News on Journalism

South Africa Pushed to the LimitHein Marais, author of South Africa Pushed to the Limit, has written about the impact that technology is having on journalism in an article for the Daily Maverick. Marais worries that the cheap production of stories created using algorithms is replacing in-depth journalism.

Imagine discovering that a computer algorithm writes the news you read. Not “selects” — that’s already happening — but actually writes it. Let’s skip the “imagine” part and go straight to Forbes magazine for a taste. The byline credits the story to Narrative Science, and at the tail of the report, there’s this notice: “Narrative Science, through its proprietary artificial intelligence platform, transforms data into stories and insights.”

In this case, the “proprietary artificial intelligence” part is another way of saying algorithm.

Narrative Science is a US start-up that has designed software capable of generating news reports on various topics. Using algorithms, it collates masses of data on the desired topic, selects pertinent information, and narrates it into a simple article or report.

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