A Bot Doesn’t See Me in Its Future
by George Simpson, Featured Contributor, February 9, 2017
An interesting story in The Guardian outlined how close we are coming to having automation kick human beings to the curb. Hedge fund Bridgewater Associates is working on machines to replace middle managers within five years. AI bots are already writing business and sports stories for Forbes and The Associated Press, as if journalism wasn’t in enough trouble.
On the bright side, there is also progress eliminating lawyers and therapists.
In many ways we would be better off if the entire new administration was replaced by robots, since they could be programmed to tell the truth, not rant on Twitter or start World War III. In the meantime, we hold our collective national breath.
I suspect before long I will get an email from Joe Mandese (MediaPost editor in chief) telling me that he has bought an off-the-shelf bot from Radio Shack that he will program to write Over The Line in the future. “We have machine read your past 600 or so columns and found them pretty formulaic and predictable,” Joe will write. “Moreover, we think Radio Shack is a lot funnier than you are. Uh, what’s your Zip code?”
I am the first to admit that PR is highly susceptible to automation. Pick a subject, say an acquisition; machine read a thousand or so press releases written on the same subject, then match them up with actual media coverage and social media mentions, and off you go. But then the client has to trust the machine and not try to edit back in those hyperbolic adjectives they think will impress reporters (especially if they put Important Words in caps or boldface).
So, armed with the release-most-likely-to-succeed (which costs them pennies to “write”) they can eliminate PR firms and program the announcement to arrive in the inboxes of those most likely to cover their acquisition. Kinda sounds like BusinessWire or PR Newswire, right?
Except for the journalists who 1) are too busy covering other news to bother with this “story,” 2) put it aside never to return for a second look, 3) decide this isn’t news they need to cover, 4) are on vacation and don’t plan to look back at the 500 emails a day that piled up in the past week, 5) remember the time you gave a story to another pub before theirs and are still pissed about it, 6) are involved in a messy divorce and are in NO mood, 7) are tired of getting bot-written releases and think that if you REALLY wanted coverage you would have secretly tweeted it to them 8) don’t owe you an explanation, so stop bothering them.
On the other hand, if your bot is as good as their bot, their bot might just ingest your release, re-stack a few paragraphs and post it in the news section.
And if you don’t see this coming, you are deluded.
It might be argued that with algorithms, programmatic and the beginnings of AI continuing to grow, the ad business is not long for this world. And given the quality of most of the Super Bowl ads this year, the whole argument about the need for human creative is pretty much out the window at this point.
Besides, your bot-created and -delivered ad will be washed away by my bot, that records every media transmission, quickly eliminates ads and replays the programming in nearly real time. And you will be none the wiser.