Robo-journalists will not protect human rights and free speech, says media expert
AI is great at making connections and finding patterns but is weak when it comes to the high-level creativity humans are capable of, says researcher and author Noam Lemelshtrich Latar
Maayan Manela | 09:33 05.06.2020
Tech giant Microsoft is laying off dozens of journalists and editorial workers at its Microsoft News, Edge browser and MSN organizations and replacing them with artificial intelligence as part of a wider process of increasing its reliance on technology to curate the content that appears on MSN. This is not the first time that new technology threatens the journalism profession or the media as we know it and it raises the question of whether with existing technology, human journalists are becoming irrelevant and are doomed to be replaced by robots? The layoffs at Microsoft were of journalists who deal with gathering and categorizing information, technical tasks that robots are better suited to than humans, but the threat to journalism is far greater because there are companies that have developed robot journalists capable of gathering information and writing the story narrative without human interface, warns Noam Lemelshtrich Latar, dean of the Sammy Ofer School of Communications at IDC Herzliya and the author of Robot Journalism: Can Human Journalism Survive? a virtual gallery in New York , together with the artist and curator by wearing virtual reality goggles and using the AltspaceVR platform. “For the purpose of the visit, I had to adopt an avatar that I controlled using an Oculus hand controller. I visited the exhibit of virtual artist Darcy Gerbarg together with curator Cynthia Goodman. We interacted continuously while touring the gallery and hearing the artist’s explanations,” he recalled. Another aspect to keep in mind is the importance of freedom of the press, said Lemelshtrich Latar. “Human journalism is critical for a democratic society. Robots won’t protect human rights.” Unlike other professions, journalism is not expected to go extinct, Instead, it will change. In order to remain relevant, journalists need to identify their advantages over technology and learn to use technological tools to improve their work and products. “The human journalists who learn to use the analytical tools that artificial intelligence and other technologies provide to build an immersive news story have nothing to fear from robots since the latter are incapable of producing such an immersive narrative experience,” Lemelshtrich Latar said. The journalists who were fired by Microsoft were playing on the robots’ home turf, he concluded.