Do you know this situation? You are reading an article about the game last night in your newspaper or on the internet and it feels totally boring, just like a million articles you’ve read before. The report is nothing special – no new idea, no interesting story surrounding it – just the game facts linked by some words in between.
Robbie Allen is one of the people that deliver these game facts. He’s the founder and developer of StatSheet.com – a web site that collects, manages and presents statistics and facts from the world of sports.
In one of his most recent blog posts, Robbie stated that he is currently working on the next step: A complete automation of the creation of sports stories. He says that he would have already “identified 21 different types of sports stories that can be automated” – “not (…) just (..) game recaps”.
In the first version he will try to create content that 90% of the readers would believe has been written by a human and then try to improve his algorithms to drive this figure up with every new release. He believes it won’t take long until human and machine generated stories can’t be differentiated by the readers anymore.
When I read about Robbie’s vision I was instantly reminded on a great book I (and also probably a lot of you) read some time ago: In Daniel H. Pink’s “A Whole New Mind“, the author states that most of the jobs that were important over the last few years will lose importance as they can be taken over by either a computer or by someone in a rising low-wage economy. Dan mentions in particular those jobs that are built on logical and linear thinking capabilities, like lawyers or number-crunching MBAs. Add sports journalists to that list. We are now entering what he calls the “Conceptual Age”, in which inventive, empathic and big-picture capabilities will be at the core of the society – capabilities that build on the left side of the brain.
Dan Pink comes up with six senses that will help to develop the “whole new mind” required in this conceptual age. It’s a great book and there’s no excuse for not reading it (some of it may remind you of the concept of “Linchpins” by Seth Godin I reflected on earlier). If you still need another reason to think about this topic check version 3 of the classic “Shift Happens” presentation from 2008 by Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod again here (on Youtube) and keep in mind that the figures mentioned in it have probably gone up significantly since it was published.
When Robbie Allen automates sports journalism he’s not doing anything wrong. On the contrary, he understood that stuff that looks like automated often can actually be automated.
Who needs so many sports journalists when people can’t tell the difference between an automatically generated article and a human generated one.
But wait a second – if this can be done to sports journalism…:
Who needs so many controllers?
Who needs so many marketing analysts?
Who needs so many CSRs?
Who will need you? Next year? In five years from now? In 15 years?
That is, unless we start to design and create instead of to just function. Unless we start to come up with compelling stories instead of just information and data. Unless we start to bring pieces together and create a big picture, a symphony instead of just specializing on one part. Unless we start to be human and empathic instead of just logic. Unless we start to play and have fun instead of just being serious. Unless we start to create meaning and purpose instead of just accumulating.
These are the six senses I was referring to earlier on. Makes “sense” to me.