We hear more about this all the time: the writing robots are on the march. We are assured that sizable portions of our newspapers are written by machines rather than people. How to know?

The New York Times has a quiz enabling you to tell just how well you can distinguish machine-written from hand-written stuff. (I did badly.) Of course you might legitimately argue that if you were given more than a snippet, your performance would improve. This quiz was brought to our attention by Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies in a post about automated curation. If we are unable to identify work written by computers, why should we be leery of having a computer make our selection from our reading subscription service of what’s worth looking at and what we can safely ignore? We’d give it our own preferences to guide the search, and of course the patient bot isn’t going to harm you if you ignore its advice. The mass of stuff available on-line written by mere humans is already so many thousand times greater than that which any one of us can hope to read in a life time, that some way of judging it (other than just ignoring what you’ve not heard of) is necessary.

However, as The Digital Reader points out Joe’s worries about being overwhelmed with content apply more to magazine and news services than to book subscription services. Still, once we get on a roll with machine-generated books, and I’ve no doubt we will sooner rather than later, Mr Hoffelder’s attitude may change. Even deciding not to read something takes time.

 

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