Written out of the story: the robots capable of making the news

Wordsmith, an artificial writer, can write human-sounding articles and is being used by several news platforms

In January 2016, Fan Hui, three-time champion of the east Asian board game Go, lost to a computer program developed by Google’s subsidiary DeepMind. The game is far more difficult to master than chess, so it was a historic victory for artificial intelligence (AI) which has seen huge advances in recent years. But could AI one day perform more creative tasks? A small tech firm in the US is proving that even journalists aren’t safe from the robot revolution with a product that automates the writing process.

Wordsmith – an artificial writer developed by the North Carolina-based company Automated Insights – cherrypicks elements from a dataset and uses them to structure a “human sounding” article. As well as being able to use more emotive language, it varies diction and syntax to make its work more readable.

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Are chatbots liberating workers?

Small businesses say they have more time to focus on ideas and problem solving thanks to new forms of artificial intelligence that handle the drudgery

If you need to do a job more than once then automate it – or so the wisdom goes. And now the growing availability of intelligent, automated software – or bots – is making automation a reality for businesses of all sizes.

Bots are now undertaking much of the drudgery of business life – filling in forms, answering customer queries, compiling data and handling social media tasks. Proponents say this liberates staff to work on more creative and engaging work; bots are a new, cheap resource to be exploited. But is there a human cost and just how much should we expect from these new minion workers?

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Twitter acquires AI startup Magic Pony for a reported $150m

The social network says the London startup’s technology would be used to enhance live and video offerings

Twitter has bought London-based AI startup Magic Pony Technology for a reported $150m (£102m) as the company moves to strengthen its position in image-sharing, video and live video.

Founded in 2014, Magic Pony uses machine learning to build improved systems for visual processing. The company said it was excited to be joining forces with Twitter “to improve the visual experiences that are delivered across their apps”.

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The innovators: can computers be taught to lip-read?

Technology being developed at University of East Anglia could help those who have recently lost their hearing – and prove who said what on the football pitch

When Zinedine Zidane, the then French captain, headbutted Italy’s Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final, the clash quickly became one of the most infamous incidents in football history. What was not clear was what sparked the Frenchman’s ire – Zidane said his mother had been insulted, a charge that Materazzi vigorously denied.

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Self-driving cars to hospital robots: automation will change life and work

The fourth industrial revolution is underway as ‘thinking machines’ transform the workplace. Jobs losses may follow but many sectors will thrive, experts say

Britain is on the brink of a robotics revolution. Advances in technology are unleashing a new age where computers handle many tasks previously carried out by humans. From automated manufacturing to software that does complex legal work, business is adapting to the robot economy.

Some worry that this will lead to a jobs apocalypse as “thinking machines” replace workers. Others are optimistic that robots will free workers from mundane tasks and allow them to concentrate on higher-level creative and strategic work.

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Can machines come up with more creative solutions to our problems than we can?

Design engineer David Thomassen can see a future where robots make feature films, build cities autonomously and let humans get on with helping each other

If there’s any comfort offered during the current debate around robots, automation and the future of work, it’s that robots can’t do creativity. Machines are great for automated, precise, repetitive work; not so great for creative, expressive work.

Beating beneath the discussion is a steady pulse of fear that once the technology leaps from apprentice to creative independent agent, robots could cause mass unemployment, bring about a dystopian society and steal our very reason for being.

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Automation may mean a post-work society but we shouldn’t be afraid

To benefit from the automation revolution we need a universal basic income, the slashing of working hours and a redefinition of ourselves without work

When researchers Frey and Osborne predicted in 2013 that 47% of US jobs were susceptible to automation by 2050, they set off a wave of dystopian concern. But the key word is “susceptible”.

The automation revolution is possible, but without a radical change in the social conventions surrounding work it will not happen. The real dystopia is that, fearing the mass unemployment and psychological aimlessness it might bring, we stall the third industrial revolution. Instead we end up creating millions of low skilled jobs that do not need to exist.

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Fourth industrial revolution set to benefit richest, UBS report says

Greatest disruption could be experienced by workers who have so far felt immune to robotic competition, Swiss bank adds

The richest stand to gain more from the introduction of new technology than those in poorer sections of society, according to a report which warns that policymakers may be required to intervene to tackle the widening inequality.

The so-called fourth industrial revolution, following on from the introduction of steam power, electricity and electronics, will have less of an impact on developed economies, such as Switzerland, Singapore and the UK. Emerging markets – notably in parts of Latin America and India – will suffer when artificial intelligence and robots become widely used, reducing the competitive advantage of their cheap labour.

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Robots rub up with Davos delegates

The annual bunfight in the Alps will focus on artificial intelligence this year

Thomas Mann called it The Magic Mountain, but this week it will be more like the Magic Robot. The World Economic Forum at the Swiss resort of Davos sees the great and the good and the not so good gather to discuss the burning issues of the day, and this year’s theme is the fourth industrial revolution. Which means the impact of robots and artificial intelligence.

Of course, the global market meltdown, the collapse in the oil price and concerns about Chinese growth will also be on the agenda. The chairman of BP, various bankers including Jiang Jianqing from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and economists such as Nouriel Roubini will be in attendance.

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