I read with interest recently as it was reported that Microsoft has decided to replace human journalists with Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered software. Apparently the software will now write and curate the articles that will henceforth appear on the MSN homepage.

Microsoft’s approach is unfortunately how most people view AI, i.e. as technology that is going to replace humans and eventually take away their jobs. Unfortunately, most things point to this not necessarily being true.

In 1950 Alan Turing (an English computer scientist, cryptanalyst, mathematician, and theoretical biologist) pioneered what is known as the Turing Test. It is a method of inquiry in Artificial intelligence for determining whether or not a computer is capable of thinking like a human being. πŸ“· The Pilot ACE (Automatic Computing Engine) was one of the first computers built in the United Kingdom at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in the early 1950s. The design is one of the earliest general computers designed by Alan Turing.

I have to blame Hollywood for giving most people the perception that AI is so powerful it can mimic humans. I guess naming it Artificial β€œIntelligence also has something to do with this.

Going back to the Microsoft example, I unfortunately think this is a bad decision they will likely reverse in a few months. For starters, AI is typically fed a set of rules or guidelines. After that, machine learning is used to help it learn based on the guidelines, a big part of the learning takes the form of feeding the software a lot of data and information to learn from.

Alarm bells at this stage because whatever bias is present in the selection of the data to be fed into the machine learning algorithms will later reflect in how the AI performs. Based on all this information and learning, it is assumed the AI now has "intelligence.”

Here is the catch though: AI, especially from a journalism perspective, lacks the contextual awareness and the awareness of nuance and the zeitgeist to be able to present news stories in a manner that can help humans understand what is happening in their world. I have no doubt that if AI had to write news stories about what is happening in the USA, one of the headlines would likely be β€œAll Lives Matter”, simply because logic and the data would suggest that.

History of Artificial Intelligence

Having said that, I think AI can still play an important role in our lives. The first one is relieving us of repetitive tasks and jobs. Imagine being able to offload a lot of the informational call center calls to a chatbot that uses Natural Langage Processing to understand customer questions and answer them in a manner that is as close to how a human would answer as possible. Then , for those more complex questions, you have real humans available to deal with them.

This is where I think AI plays an important role - augmenting our ability as humans, not replacing us.

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