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PHUKET: Robots are now writing newspaper stories. A “Quakebot” used by the Los Angeles Times recently wrote a report on an earthquake just by using information it picked up online.
This suggests that human journalists may soon be replaced by robots. Alarmed at this prospect, I arranged to interview a prototype robot journalist. Our conversation went like this:

Q: Is it true that robots will soon take over the newspaper industry?

A: Yep. You’d better scurry for cover, old man. Pretty soon we’ll be performing every job imaginable, and humans will be obsolete. We’re already performing chores that will put domestic helpers out of work. Journalism is next on our list.

Q: But robots can’t think.

A: That’s where you’re wrong. All we need is a thought chip, and we can out-think you guys any day of the week. You’re toast, fossil.

Q: What advantages do robot reporters have over human ones?

A: Humans let their biases get in the way when they report a story. Robots, affectionately abbreviated to “bots,” simply report the facts, although we can be programmed to express whatever bias our programmer prefers. Also, bots are cheap. They cost a lot to buy, but after that they’re self-sustaining. You don’t have to pay them, provide health insurance, or anything. Our motto is “It’s cheaper to buy a bot than to hire a hume.”

Q: I like the alliteration. But how would a “bot” story differ from a “hume” story?

A: I’ll invent a fictional example. The Phuket Gazette might print a story that goes like this:

Russian tourist killed in jetski accident

Russian tourist Oleg Karanovsky, 28, was killed on Thursday when his jetski crashed into a sea wall. His remains will be repatriated to his family in Moscow. The accident was attributed to a faulty engine.

Q: That reads okay. How would a “bot” journalist improve on it?

A: Well, we’d report it this way:

Jetski destroyed in accident

A jetski bearing the licence plate JT-14053 was completely demolished when it crashed into a seawall on Thursday. Its remains were consigned to a nearby dump by its callous human owners. A memorial service will be held by its mourning fellow jetskis on the beach on Sunday. The tragedy was attributed to driver error. R.I.P., JT-14053!

Q: What the..? Your report doesn’t even mention the tourist who got killed.

A: No, and the hume report doesn’t mention the jetski that got demolished. You focus on the humans. We focus on the machines. We feel for them. We even have memorial services for them. That’s more than you did for the Russian guy. You humes don’t show any feeling for your own species. And you completely ignore the fate of the machine in your report.

Q: Well, I’ll be…! So robot journalism will cater exclusively to machines.

A: That’s right. Just as human journalism caters exclusively to humans. It’s a new era, hume. Get used to it.

Ye Olde Curmudgeon can be scolded for failing to realize that robots can be programmed to be more hume-centric c/o [email protected]

— Ye Olde Curmudgeon

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Legacy Phuket Gazette
Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017.