It’s time to challenge autocompleted journalism

“Autocomplete is on its way toward standardizing our knowledge production and minimizing the effort required to think.”

Artificial intelligence processes and augmented content have intervened in each part of the news generation processes, in increasingly surprising ways. I’m writing these paragraphs in Google Docs, where a natural language processing algorithm offers me a series of options for what I should next be writing (writing — the machine just suggested that work). Augmented journalism is making leaps in speed and quality. We’re not very far from having machines that can predict what we’re going to write, do it for ourselves (I added the word ourselves), publish it for ourselves (the machine, this time), and let our readers know about it.

If this improves the quality of information that audiences receive and empowers them to make better decisions (decisions was the machine’s choice, I was going to write choices), it could be something positive, even if to the detriment of business models that are headed for extinction (autocomplete suggested expansion).

This world of autocomplete is incredibly efficient, statistically relevant, remarkably innovative, and potentially dangerous. We’ve already seen what can happen when algorithms predict the information we most want to click on, no matter the impact on our democracies globally. They promoted divisions, social tension, and fake news.

Here’s the thing: Human beings are social animals of habit. The media works to generate patterns of behavior in search of audience fidelity; in recent years, those of us who work in the media have sought ways to get our readers comfortable staying with us in a universe of infinite alternatives. With so much dispersion of attention online, each time we find that something that seems to work, we respond by doing more of it.

Autocomplete is on its way toward standardizing our knowledge production and minimizing the effort required to think. At Página/12, where I work, we launched a membership program that today is the organization’s main source of private income. We don’t use social media comment systems, we got on the Coral Project’s Talk very early, and gave access only to our partners. We generate new consumption patterns; many readers arrive every day to read not just our news, but also the contributions of our members, which aren’t autocompleted.

I don’t think we have to worry about traditional media business models as much as about how societies are informed. And we can’t automate (the machine, I was going to write autocomplete) how societies think. In the end, I no longer know who or what is writing or thinking this text. I hope I’m a good statistical version of myself.

Es tiempo de desafiar el periodismo autocompletado

Los procesos de inteligencia artificial y contenido aumentado han intervenido en cada uno de los procesos de generación de noticias de forma cada vez más sorprendente, hasta el punto de que mientras escribo estos párrafos en Google Docs hay un proceso de análisis de procesamiento de lenguaje natural que toma una serie de opciones estadísticas y me devuelve una serie de opciones de formas de completar lo que estoy escribiendo (escribiendo, me lo puso la máquina) “sabiendo” lo que voy a escribir. El periodismo aumentado está dando un salto en velocidad y en calidad. No estamos muy lejos de lograr que las máquinas tengan la posibilidad de predecir el futuro de lo que vamos a escribir, lo hagan por nosotros mismos (me agregó la palabra mismos), lo publiquen por nosotros mismos (otra vez me agregó la palabra) y le avisen a nuestros lectores. Si esto mejora la calidad de la información que reciben las audiencias, y fortalece nuestras posibilidades de tomar mejores decisiones (decisiones lo puso la máquina, yo iba a poner elecciones) podría ser algo positivo aún en detrimento de los modelos de negocios que están en extinción (el autocompletar me puso expansión).

El mundo del autocompletar es increíblemente eficiente, estadísticamente relevante, notablemente innovador, y potencialmente peligroso. Ya vimos lo que pasó con las burbujas de los filtros y el impacto que tuvo en nuestras democracias a nivel global. Potenciaron divisiones, la crispación y las noticias falsas. El asunto es que los seres humanos somos animales de costumbres y también somos animales sociales. Los medios están aprendiendo a generar patrones de comportamiento en busca de fidelidad, y en los últimos años quienes trabajamos en medios de comunicación hemos buscado la forma de habituar a los lectores a que se queden con nosotros. Con tanta dispersión, y ofertas de atención, cada vez que encontramos que algo funciona y puede ser repetitivo intentamos fortalecerlo haciendo más de eso que funciona. El autocompletar va camino a convertir se en una forma de estandarizar nuestra producción de conocimiento y a minimizar nuestros esfuerzos por pensar. En Página/12, el medio periodístico en el cual llevo a cabo la reconversión digital, lanzamos un programa de membresías que hoy representa la principal fuente de ingresos privada de la organización. No usamos sistemas de comentarios de las redes sociales, nos subimos muy temprano a Talk, y le dimos acceso sólo a nuestros socios. Generamos patrones de consumo nuevos: muchos lectores y lectoras ingresan cada día para leer las noticias pero también las contribuciones de nuestros socios, que no son autocompletadas. No creo que tengamos que preocuparnos por los modelos de negocios de los medios tradicionales, sino por cómo se informan las sociedades. Y no podemos automatizar (yo iba a poner autocompletar) cómo piensan las sociedades. Al final, ya no sé quién está escribiendo o pensando este texto. Espero ser una buena versión estadística de mí mismo

Mariano Blejman is chief digital officer of Argentina’s Grupo Octubre and co-founder of Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires.

Artificial intelligence processes and augmented content have intervened in each part of the news generation processes, in increasingly surprising ways. I’m writing these paragraphs in Google Docs, where a natural language processing algorithm offers me a series of options for what I should next be writing (writing — the machine just suggested that work). Augmented journalism is making leaps in speed and quality. We’re not very far from having machines that can predict what we’re going to write, do it for ourselves (I added the word ourselves), publish it for ourselves (the machine, this time), and let our readers know about it.

If this improves the quality of information that audiences receive and empowers them to make better decisions (decisions was the machine’s choice, I was going to write choices), it could be something positive, even if to the detriment of business models that are headed for extinction (autocomplete suggested expansion).

This world of autocomplete is incredibly efficient, statistically relevant, remarkably innovative, and potentially dangerous. We’ve already seen what can happen when algorithms predict the information we most want to click on, no matter the impact on our democracies globally. They promoted divisions, social tension, and fake news.

Here’s the thing: Human beings are social animals of habit. The media works to generate patterns of behavior in search of audience fidelity; in recent years, those of us who work in the media have sought ways to get our readers comfortable staying with us in a universe of infinite alternatives. With so much dispersion of attention online, each time we find that something that seems to work, we respond by doing more of it.

Autocomplete is on its way toward standardizing our knowledge production and minimizing the effort required to think. At Página/12, where I work, we launched a membership program that today is the organization’s main source of private income. We don’t use social media comment systems, we got on the Coral Project’s Talk very early, and gave access only to our partners. We generate new consumption patterns; many readers arrive every day to read not just our news, but also the contributions of our members, which aren’t autocompleted.

I don’t think we have to worry about traditional media business models as much as about how societies are informed. And we can’t automate (the machine, I was going to write autocomplete) how societies think. In the end, I no longer know who or what is writing or thinking this text. I hope I’m a good statistical version of myself.

Es tiempo de desafiar el periodismo autocompletado

Los procesos de inteligencia artificial y contenido aumentado han intervenido en cada uno de los procesos de generación de noticias de forma cada vez más sorprendente, hasta el punto de que mientras escribo estos párrafos en Google Docs hay un proceso de análisis de procesamiento de lenguaje natural que toma una serie de opciones estadísticas y me devuelve una serie de opciones de formas de completar lo que estoy escribiendo (escribiendo, me lo puso la máquina) “sabiendo” lo que voy a escribir. El periodismo aumentado está dando un salto en velocidad y en calidad. No estamos muy lejos de lograr que las máquinas tengan la posibilidad de predecir el futuro de lo que vamos a escribir, lo hagan por nosotros mismos (me agregó la palabra mismos), lo publiquen por nosotros mismos (otra vez me agregó la palabra) y le avisen a nuestros lectores. Si esto mejora la calidad de la información que reciben las audiencias, y fortalece nuestras posibilidades de tomar mejores decisiones (decisiones lo puso la máquina, yo iba a poner elecciones) podría ser algo positivo aún en detrimento de los modelos de negocios que están en extinción (el autocompletar me puso expansión).

El mundo del autocompletar es increíblemente eficiente, estadísticamente relevante, notablemente innovador, y potencialmente peligroso. Ya vimos lo que pasó con las burbujas de los filtros y el impacto que tuvo en nuestras democracias a nivel global. Potenciaron divisiones, la crispación y las noticias falsas. El asunto es que los seres humanos somos animales de costumbres y también somos animales sociales. Los medios están aprendiendo a generar patrones de comportamiento en busca de fidelidad, y en los últimos años quienes trabajamos en medios de comunicación hemos buscado la forma de habituar a los lectores a que se queden con nosotros. Con tanta dispersión, y ofertas de atención, cada vez que encontramos que algo funciona y puede ser repetitivo intentamos fortalecerlo haciendo más de eso que funciona. El autocompletar va camino a convertir se en una forma de estandarizar nuestra producción de conocimiento y a minimizar nuestros esfuerzos por pensar. En Página/12, el medio periodístico en el cual llevo a cabo la reconversión digital, lanzamos un programa de membresías que hoy representa la principal fuente de ingresos privada de la organización. No usamos sistemas de comentarios de las redes sociales, nos subimos muy temprano a Talk, y le dimos acceso sólo a nuestros socios. Generamos patrones de consumo nuevos: muchos lectores y lectoras ingresan cada día para leer las noticias pero también las contribuciones de nuestros socios, que no son autocompletadas. No creo que tengamos que preocuparnos por los modelos de negocios de los medios tradicionales, sino por cómo se informan las sociedades. Y no podemos automatizar (yo iba a poner autocompletar) cómo piensan las sociedades. Al final, ya no sé quién está escribiendo o pensando este texto. Espero ser una buena versión estadística de mí mismo

Mariano Blejman is chief digital officer of Argentina’s Grupo Octubre and co-founder of Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires.

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