Ok, you’ve read the question in the headline. And you’ve seen the name in the byline.
Presuming you are a normal, red-blooded American and not some malicious, automated bot of questionable origin, you will probably answer NO. A robot did not write this column.
But can you be SURE? I mean, how do you know that I – a real-life human being, or so I claim – personally thought of and composed the specific words you are now reading? Have you ever seen me? If so, have you ever seen me write? If so, that is kind of creepy. I do this from home.
Come to think of it, what about Don Corrigan and Dwight Bitikofer? Are they really this paper’s editor and publisher? What proof do we have that they are not simply pen names for some artificial intelligence-enabled text-generating system in Toledo?
I take that back. I’ve met Don and Dwight. Don writes nature books. Dwight signs my checks. They are definitely real.
But, as for me, who knows? That picture up there sure doesn’t look like me, presuming I exist. It could be one of those computer-generated composite images. You know, like the Kardashians use.
For all you know, I could have been phased out years ago! What you see here could be a front for a tech startup that uses complex algorithms and machine learning to write community newspaper columns. Its computers scan the internet for ideas and pump out words nonstop, 24/7.
These kinds of services are definitely real. The Washington Post started using artificial intelligence to write sports stories two years ago. Just this past week, the Cleveland Plain Dealer laid off another third of its staff, leaving behind just 10 percent of the 340 human reporters it had a decade ago. The headcount at the Post-Dispatch is too sad to mention. Something must be filling the gap.
I just read about one such AI writing service – it officially opens this summer – that lets you write a headline, such as “How to determine the quality of wine,” and the writing system takes over, crafting thoughtful prose like, “Too much jam and wine may be too ripe and too much alcohol.”
And this: “Your wine tasting tip no. 2 is, tasting wine at the right temperature and tasting wine with a decent glass of wine.”
Ok, so the artificial intelligence isn’t perfect. But it does sound like something I might write. Which may explain my most recent column on Millennials! Not to mention many others under my byline of questionable message value.
See, they are simply glitches in the system! A decade or two from now, when AI is perfected, everything published here will be Pulitzer-worthy. I promise.
Until then, I sometimes just need a little more machine learning, and a lot more algorithm.