Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here to stay. That’s all. I know many journalists who will glue their earlobes and sew their eyelids shut, just so they won’t hear and see this statement. To them, it is terrifying that anyone with access to the internet can give a complex voice command to a machine, while it churns out word after word of a mostly perfectly written report. Their fear is this technological miracle is here to steal their jobs. “Soon we will be replaced by these robots,” you’ll hear them say.
I first heard about ChatGPT from my 13-year-old son. He described it as this utterly intelligent robot that could write about everything in the world accurately. He cheerfully ended with “and it is so simple to use.” There was a twinkle in his eyes as he told me this and I immediately knew he thinks he has found a lasting solution to his ever-growing pile of homework. There are adults that think so too.
But many experts say it is unlikely, at least now, for generative AI, such as ChatGPT, to take up a significant role in journalism or any field for that matter. The information this tool generates already exists on the internet. This means it does not have the capacity to generate new ideas or information when given a prompt. Therefore, it lacks vital skills such as broad analysis on all subjects that a human would do. Its answers are mostly basic and lack the humanness and depth of a piece written by an actual human being.
Zhouhan Chen, data science consultant and tech start-up founder of says “In the field of artificial intelligence, there is a term called “uncanny valley”, which describes a situation where an AI generates very realistic content, but when people examine the content in detail, they feel a sense of strangeness or creepiness. I think we are seeing more and more of those uncanny valley situations and journalists are actually more important than ever to stop this trend or reverse this trend.”
But with journalism business models evolving rapidly today, other forms of AI may complement the work that journalists do and even take some workload off their desks. Tools such as Information Tracer that can help investigative journalists in finding online disinformation campaigns and filtering out the spread of such campaigns are important especially in the fight against misinformation.
According to Chen, AI can help journalists improve their productivity.
“A tool I am developing called Information Tracer helps journalists to collect, contextualize and visualize how information spreads over different social media platforms. Journalists can use the intelligence that this AI tool provides to make more informed decisions,” he said.
Many large newsrooms are introducing AI as part of their work to save time and energy as AI is intended to do the simple, less creative aspects of a journalist’s work. Professor of Computer Science at Northwestern University and Director of The Center for Advancing Safety of Machine Intelligence (CASMI), Kristian Hammond predicts that by 2030, 90% of news will be written by artificial intelligence.