I have met my replacement and it is a robot. A robot obsessed with sports. AI journalism pioneer StatSheet gained a name for itself by transforming raw sports data into compelling narratives that people would want to read. To date their automated writing programs have created 100,000+ articles, 350+ free mobile apps, and 1 million unique pages using 2 billion+ pieces of statistical data. Now they are about to do much, much more. Raising $4 million in venture capital, StatSheet is changing its name to Automated Insights and expanding its visions beyond sports. Why restrict your AI writer to one field? Automated Insights will bring their data driven narratives to healthcare, finance, real estate, and many other applications. If something is too expensive, too repetitive, or too boring for a human to write, chances are that Automated Insights can have their AI do it instead. My fellow biology-based writers, our newest member is going to take the jobs we don’t want…and then maybe the rest of the jobs, too.
While StatSheet has been around since 2007, their expansive network of automatically generated sports sites really took off last fall when the company produced a unique page for every single NCAA Division I college basketball team. Since then, they’ve been busy. This spring they created a program that would use basketball statistics to help you talk trash during March Madness. This month they’ve extended their automated coverage to include all the Major League Baseball teams (bringing the total up to 375). In the next couple of weeks they’ll expand into all 32 NFL teams, and the 244 NCAA Division I college football teams as well. At their current pace they are generating 15,000 to 20,000 new articles every month. All this with just a dozen or so employees. StatSheet manages the AI, the AI creates the content.
Content which is limited, but not at all obviously created by a computer. Their automated game previews and play by play coverage are decent. Not mind-blowing editorial commentary on the sports world, just readable articles about the numbers and outcomes that so many fans find enthralling. When I reviewed StatSheet earlier I actually got confused between human and AI generated content, and CEO Robbie Allen had to straighten me out. At this level of analysis they both seem about the same. Still, there’s little real worry that such AI writing could replace the indepth human analysis that most journalists pride themselves on.
Of course it doesn’t have to. Part of the large appeal of StatSheet is that they can create content for niche fans. Who cares if your team is last in the league – the AI journalist can still provide you with the regular updates and analysis that you crave. Their database (2 billion+ data points and counting) is exhaustive enough to give you the sort of historical perspectives and long term narratives that human journalism doesn’t even attempt unless it knows it will sell well. When journalism is automated, no topic is too small, no perspective too unpopular to get attention. If there is enough data, the AI will write the story. Simple as that.
In their new guise as Automated Insights, the North Carolina based company is going to bring the same niche analysis to all new fields. Do you have piles of data about real estate prices? Automated Insights could transform that into compelling articles for business or public consumption. Mounds of actuarial data? Why hire dozens of human workers to sort through it when an AI can do the same quicker and more consistently. Here’s a list of potential fields that Automated Insights is looking to pursue: life sciences, healthcare, business intelligence, sales productivity, monitoring solutions, sports, finance, weather, real estate, and local interest. Each is an application space with mountains of data and many small markets which would be interested in transforming stats into narratives that are targeted to their niche concerns. We’re talking about millions of potential websites, mobile apps, etc – each specifically but automatically constructed so that a human can read a few short articles instead of pouring through tons of raw data. Automated Insights is poised to take the most boring writing known to humanity and foist it off onto a computer.
Not to mention completely necessary. As we continue to build vast networks of data mining operations, and create immense archives of digital information we’re going to need some means of understanding everything we’ve collected. AI writing is a good solution. A machine pours over millions of statistics and translates a the relevant information into a concise narrative that you can comprehend. Such a system could help professionals everywhere stay on top of the exact amount of news that pertains to their jobs. Quick, efficient, and fairly cheap because it’s all made with AI labor.
For now, writers need not fear Automated Insights. They aren’t actually taking jobs we don’t want, they’re creating jobs that didn’t exist before. The first markets for AI writing are the markets that were too unprofitable for human labor to explore. As artificial intelligence improves however, they’ll produce content that will make them competitive with humans in a variety of fields. Journalism, sales figures, stock analysis, etc. We’ve already seen this transition start to happen with lawyers.
Looking forward, I’m intimidated by this company’s growth. Today, Automated Insight’s writing is formulaic, easily digestible, and not terribly awe-inspiring. $4 million in venture funding, however, is going to help Automated Insights not only expand its applications, but improve its algorithms. How long until it can be humorous? How long until it can cater to preferences at the individual level? How long until it’s as good as a human reporter at more complex story-telling? Sooner than we imagine, I think. And Automated Insights is far from the only group pursuing this kind of AI writing. It’s just a matter of time until we read as much automated content as we do human content.
Well, if you can’t beat the robot revolution, why not join it? Automated Insights is hiring. I’ll leave you with a quick look at the company’s appeal for applications. It’s good to know that the people who are shortening the lifespan of my career are having such a good time. (Just kidding, guys. Kudos on your funding and your work, and I look forward to seeing what you produce next.)
[image credits: Statsheet (modified), Automated Insights]
[source: Automated Insights]