Thursday, April 26, 2012

Algorithms Writing Articles

An old post mentioned how algorithms are being used to help with diagnoses, but they're also being used to write articles. Wired just published an article about Narrative Science, a company that creates programs which can generate articles. They mainly publish articles on finance and sports, since those are well-structured topics and very repetitive. You don't normally have too many things happening in a baseball game or stock chart, so I could see why a computer could write such articles. They also have begun generating articles with other data:
Once Narrative Science had mastered the art of telling sports and finance stories, the company realized that it could produce much more than journalism. Indeed, anyone who needed to translate and explain large sets of data could benefit from its services. Requests poured in from people who were buried in spreadsheets and charts. It turned out that those people would pay to convert all that confusing information into a couple of readable paragraphs that hit the key points.

This is obviously quite impressive, though I wonder if all that information is necessarily better in paragraph form. Why can't some of the data just be turned into some nice charts that people can view? Articles can sometimes "textualize" the content and make it take longer for the reader/viewer to get the necessary information. They can turn tables into paragraphs, but will they be able to soon write more general articles?

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