By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV
“A.I.” The buzziest buzzword around these days, short for artificial intelligence.
Two letters haven’t captivated the American imagination more since “E.T.”— the Steven Spielberg movie about a loveable alien who crashes on earth and threatens our very existence.
Some people feel the same way about A.I. They see it as a threat which could first replace human jobs and perhaps eventually replace us altogether. This group includes titans of technology who helped invent it in the first place.
The Center for A.I. Safety released a report this summer which put that sort of informed skepticism bluntly: “Mitigating the risk of extinction from A.I. should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks, such as pandemics and nuclear war.”
You read that right. “Risk of extinction,” say the people who helped shape the technology that is currently advancing more rapidly than we can imagine.
I watched a tutorial video on A.I. from 2020. The leading edge of the technology available to the public then was “predictive text.” So when you begin typing a sentence into Google, A.I. seeks to finish your sentence in a predictive manner. And that’s old hat now which we use regularly.
Today, A.I. is generating videos and pictures from words (which appear to be very real when in fact they are not; imagine the possibilities for propaganda), driving cars, sending you targeted ads on your digital devices, executing most every phase of banking, and…writing the news.
You read that right. A.I. is writing much of the news you read in newspapers, hear on the radio, and watch on television. You may be shocked to find out how prevalent use of A.I. in media organizations is, locally and nationally.
Why do they do it? Because it’s fast and cheap. They can have A.I. write an article in a matter of seconds. So they don’t have to pay a reporter and don’t have to wait on that reporter to engage in the process of journalism such as visiting places and talking with people.
Trust in media is already tanking across the state and nation. The last thing news organizations ought to be doing is obliterating reporting standards by letting a computer write the news.
Plenty of our colleagues across the state work diligently to write real stories for real people everyday. We celebrate them and rely on their reporting. But too many other outlets are relying on A.I. to write the news as of late.
We pledge to you, our readers, that all of our stories are written by real people for real people. 100% real content. You’ll see that pledge on our website after every story.
We challenge media outlets around the state and nation to make the same pledge. If they do not, then we as citizens have no choice but to presume that they are continuing to use A.I. to write stories.
Getting the real story requires humanity. Visiting festivals. Covering meetings. Featuring neighbors. Asking questions. Connecting dots.
Only real people can tell real stories. That requires reporters showing up in person, getting to know the people and situations around them, and telling others about it in a fair and humane way.
In other words, it’s local. Local, local, local. A.I. lacks the presence to be local.
There are plenty of productive uses for A.I. in our society which we ought to employ for good purposes in our professional and personal lives. But the news isn’t one of those.
The news must be written by real people for real people. We pledge to do that, and we call on all local and national media organizations to join us.