Rise of the Bot Author

22:48 minutes

Would you read a news article penned by an algorithm? If you follow financial or sports news, maybe you already have. Slate senior technology writer Will Oremus joins us to talk about the rise of “bot journalists,” from the algorithms that report on companies’ quarterly earnings to the programs that pen reviews of your fantasy football team’s latest performance. Plus, we consider whether bots could ever break into fiction writing. A.I. researchers Mark Riedl and Tony Veale discuss their attempts to get computers to tell stories and think metaphorically.

Read a story composed by Mark Riedl’s Scheherazade program:

With sweaty palms and heart racing, John drove to Sally’s house for their first date. Sally, her pretty white dress flowing in the wind, carefully entered John’s car. John and Sally drove to the movie theatre. John and Sally parked the car in the parking lot. Wanting to feel prepared, John had already bought tickets to the movie in advance. A pale-faced usher stood before the door; John showed the tickets and the couple entered. Sally was thirsty so John hurried to buy drinks before the movie started. John and Sally found two good seats near the back. John sat down and raised the arm rest so that he and Sally could snuggle. John paid more attention to Sally while the movie rolled and nervously sipped his drink. Finally working up the courage to do so, John extended his arm to embrace Sally. He was relieved and ecstatic to feel her move closer to him in response. Sally stood up to use the restroom during the movie, smiling coyly at John before that exit. John and Sally also held hands throughout the movie, even though John’s hands were sweaty. John and Sally slowly got up from their seats. Still holding hands, John walked Sally back to his car through the maze of people all scurrying out of the theatre. The bright sunshine temporarily blinded John as he opened the doors and held them for Sally as they left the dark theatre and stepped back out onto the street. John let go of Sally’s hand and opened the passenger side door of his car for her but instead of entering the car, she stepped forward, embraced him, and gave him a large kiss. John drove Sally back to her home.


Tweets composed by Tony Veale’s Metaphor Magnet bot:

More @MetaphorMagnet.

Segment Guests

Mark Riedl

Mark Riedl is a computer science professor and director of the Entertainment Intelligence Lab at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tony Veale

Tony Veale is a senior lecturer in computer science and informatics at University College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland.

Meet the Producer

About Annie Minoff

Annie Minoff is a producer for The Journal from Gimlet Media and the Wall Street Journal, and a former co-host and producer of Undiscovered. She also plays the banjo.