Technology & Science

How soon will computers replace The Economist’s writers?

THE machines are coming. A much-cited study in 2013 concluded that half of American jobs were at risk in the coming decades. Writers are not immune. Another paper, which surveyed researchers into artificial intelligence (AI), concluded that computers would be writing school essays by the mid-2020s and churning out bestselling books by the 2040s.

In the spirit of going fast and breaking things, The Economist has therefore trained an AI program on articles from the Science and Technology section, and invited it to come up with a piece of its own. The results, presented unedited below, show both the power and the limitations of pattern-recognition machine learning, which is more or less what AI boils down to.

The computer has mimicked our style, and spotted topics we cover frequently. But although the sentences are grammatically correct, they lack meaning. To his relief, your correspondent should thus have a job to come back to after Christmas.

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