My husband (and our publisher), Mike, has a favorite phrase he says when I jump to conclusions. He always says, “Let’s not time travel.” That phrase keeps coming to my mind when I read the multitude of articles recently in the media about artificial intelligence (AI).
Headlines from “Will AI Save Journalism — or Kill it?” to “The owner of Insider and Politico tells journalists: AI is coming for your jobs” can make anyone in our industry fearful for their jobs and jump to conclusions.
This month’s cover story, “AI has arrived,” answers many questions — and will possibly create a few — about AI in our industry. AI is already here and is a valuable tool for some publications, especially in areas like real estate and high school sports, where information can easily be automated. That’s the exciting part of these tools — not to replace journalists but instead to help news publications cover areas where it's been difficult to cover when staffing is an issue.
AI’s automation could be a real boon to an industry that has been struggling to provide news and information to "everyone everywhere all the time." We all use automation with basic spell-check or our “Hey, Google” queries. However, there are many possibilities outside of journalism — in advertising to create spec ads, for example. The opportunities are endless and almost as exciting as my robotic vacuum cleaner.
As exciting as the idea of AI tools can seem, they are not a panacea for work overload. Just like Alexa, AI can sometimes turn out a result that is less or different than we’d like.
“ChatGPT can ace logic tests now. But don’t ask it to be creative.” is one headline that points out the limits of current AI tools. As R&D in artificial intelligence progresses, and new options in generative AI tools emerge, I believe that we’ll still need people — not robots — making decisions about the outputs, ensuring they are correct, truthful and appropriate. In our cover story this month, Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, warns that the greater concern about AI tools is that they “have absolutely no commitment to truth.”
So I’m not jumping for joy, but I’m also not jumping to conclusions about the arrival of AI. My crystal ball says that five or 10 years from today, the panic over AI will be like looking back on the hysteria around Y2K. My take is — “Let's not time travel.”
Robin Blinder is E&P's editor-in-chief. She has been with E&P for three years. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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