Saturday, 7 December 2019

Mechanical Monstrosity

Updated: October 17, 2015 8:45 am

COLUMNIST Satiricus was in a blue funk. He hoped the editor was too busy to have read that nasty piece of news which Satiricus read the other day. It is that automatic journalism is on the way. For the Chinese have made a robot reporter that wrote a thousand-word article on consumer prices in just one minute. “The piece is very readable. I can’t even tell it wasn’t written by a person,” said a human journalist. What he should have added is that this is an inhuman impending calamity for our illiterate profession. Already there are robots working as waiters, cooks, even receptionists. But a robot in journalism? With his pen in panic, Satiricus wondered—if there can be a robot who can write a financial column, how long before there is a robot who can write a satirical column? And if and when there is one who can, and if and when the editor hires him, where can Satiricus find the precious peanuts on which he manages to survive? However, on second and saner thoughts, Satiricus has come to realise that this mechanical monstrosity, this automatic abomination, this robotic rot-writer may not be that much cause for concern for Satiricus. In fact he can think of some reassuring reasons why no robotic columnist can replace him, China’s dastardly designs notwithstanding. First, because this robot may write good Chinese, but will it be able to write the poor English required in Indian journalism? Secondly, as a robot functions on artificial intelligence, can it compete with Satiricus in natural stupidity? And thirdly, because if there is a journalist robot, why would he bother with replacing a mere columnist when he could replace the editor himself?

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