Expert: AI bots will not usurp journalist roles

Many fear that artificial intelligence (AI) will one day replace huge swaths of the workforce. Last year The World Economic Forum predicted that AI and automation technologies will displace 5 million jobs by 2020, with healthcare, energy, and financial industries experiencing the greatest job losses.

Some pundits predict that AI will also replace journalists. The theory is that as machines gain a more nuanced understanding of language, they will be able to produce the type of content that human journalists currently produce. The Washington Post, for example, uses an AI bot called Heliograph to produce news stories. Heliograph has covered the Olympics in Rio as well as the 2016 election season. Is it merely a matter of time before machines replace human content creators?

Stephen Masiclat, director of the New Media Management program at The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, doesn’t think so. He envisions a future where artificial intelligence augments human intelligence, not replaces it. “Human intelligence can be amplified,” says Masiclat. “Machines can help journalists cut through the noise. That’s the promise of AI.”

Masiclat, who has spent decades studying the impact of AI on media, says that chess world champion Gary Kasparov hit on the promise of AI when he invented of a new form of chess that incorporates humans and machines. In 1997 Kasparov became the first world champion to lose a game of chess to a machine, losing to IBM’s Deep Blue Computer. A year after this experience Kasparov developed a new style of chess that he called Centaur Chess. In Centaur Chess, teams of people and AI compete to find the most inspired chess moves. Kasparov purposely called it “Centaur” and not “Cyborg” because computers don’t replace human chess players, but rather combine with human talents to create something entirely new (analogous to the half horse-half, half-human Centaur.)

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