There are some significant changes on the horizon for association communication specialists in light of new advancements in artificial intelligence.
AI generated news stories have been around for a number of years. In fact, you have read news articles you thought were written by a human that weren’t. However, they are becoming more well known and are beginning to make news themselves.
According to TechCrunch, during the recent 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, the Washington Post deployed an artificial intelligence named “Heliograf” to support their reporters. The software was developed in-house and was designed to serve in a support capacity. While the robot was reporting on raw data and statistics the human reporters had more time to concentrate on the human interest side of the Olympics. Not to be outdone, China deployed an AI known as Xiaomingbot which produced over 450 news items over the course of the Olympics which focused on sports events of particular interest. Although criticized for having a bit of a “robotic” editorial flair, the fact is these AI systems learn through iteration. More “human” writing is just around the corner.
This is just the tip of iceberg. Although up until now AI reporters have been most effective when dealing with finance or sports because of the heavy reliance on simple data, the world is now their oyster. Far from being a horrible development for journalists, these AI reporters may very well become a boon to the profession as they handle the more “routine” stories and journalists have the time to dig deeper into the human element or intrigue.
What this means for association communications is this – the time to be more human is now. Practice developing that muscle. Eventually someone will develop an AI solution that can help you not just aggregate news stories about your industries and professions off of a Google News API, but begin to generate your own stories. Your communications goals should begin to include not only the kinds of information your members would find most helpful, and what delivery mechanisms are the most appropriate but what kind of more robust content generation strategies might be within your reach with some assistance from AI resources.
And before you think AI story generation is limited to just “facts and figures” let’s remember there is a lot more experimentation happening around the edges. On June 1, 2016 (just a few weeks ago) Google quietly announced “Project Magenta” which aims to help AIs learn how to create music and art. Later on in the same month we got to watch the first “AI” created movie “Sunspring.” This effort was not connected with Google’s Project Magenta which just goes to show how much innovation is actually underway. (Fun fact – the AI that wrote “Sunspring” is a recurrent neural network known as “LSTM.” Or at least it was. Until it decided to name itself Benjamin. (One more time for the people in the back – IT NAMED ITSELF!!!) The movie is obviously not what a human might sit down and write, but quite frankly it is an oddly compelling look at how an AI interprets movie scripts and then generates its own story. (Watch it, it’s cool).
Then TODAY, I saw the movie trailer for Morgan. This movie trailer was created by IBM’s AI known as Watson. (Watson for those of you who don’t remember is the AI that beat the worlds best human champions at Jeopardy a few years ago.) Not only is Watson being deployed to offer diagnotic assistance in medical settings, (and showing some of our best doctors up) it’s dabbling in the arts. The ultimate irony is the AI created the trailer to promote a movie about an AI that was created by scientists and then – well…. develops capability beyond human control. It’s so meta its making my head hurt.
The bottom line is this – association communication specialists will have new capabilities in the not so distant future to not only aggregate news about their industries and professions, but create it. Our focus on continuing to generate stories that celebrate the “human” side of the people we serve will be of more value than ever.
Humans being human may be the last competitive advantage we have.