This Article Was Written By A Computer

Robots are coming for your job.

by Todd Lombardo

If you find yourself with writer’s block, then write about that.”

This is good advice for those who swear they have nothing left, or nothing in the first place, or even worse, nothing worth saying at all, which of course isn’t true unless you believe it.

So it comes to what to write about today. At Mistress, we’ve been obsessed with Modern Media Culture for a year, covering the Stranger Things phenomenon and self-driving Ubers, Facebook Watch and chatbots to yes, even cat videos. And more.

We have a lot on our minds.

This week in Modern Media Culture: Black Friday and Cyber Monday — the holidays are here.

Via eMarketer. Here, Amazon rules.

But what I also wanted to write about is Artificial Intelligence. Voice platforms (just one example of AI) are already used by more than 35 million Americans at least once a month, according to eMarketer.

Ideally, what if I could write about both? Even better, what if I could could get AI to write my holiday shopping article for me?

Articles written by software are not new. Here is Wired talking about it in 2015. Automated Insights and Narrative Science are two companies who claim to write simple articles based on data inputs.

That’s not what I wanted. What I wanted was a computer to write me an article about an assigned topic. I found Articoolo.

Articoolo will create an article up to 500 words based on a topic you give it. Cost is $20 for 10 articles. I entered “holiday shopping,” and 30 seconds later, I had a computer-generated article:

For some odd reason, you may still find many people there who ignore discounts or voucher codes and just make their purchase without utilizing them. If you had been shopping in the grocery and a coupon was sitting right there in your shopping cart for a dollar from the item that you’ve already placed in your cart, are you going to ignore that voucher whenever you go to the checkout line? Obviously you are not — you’re going to hand over that coupon and smile just thinking of the money that you’ve saved. Now, whenever you pass up a coupon code, you’re essentially passing up free money. Why in the world would anyone want to do that? It’s probably because many individuals are still learning that the discount or voucher code is the new coupon. While this might not seem to be first, whenever you realize precisely how important these codes are, you may feel differently. The thing is though, many people are now hooked on shopping online, which makes using paper coupons pretty much impossible. Due to this, manufacturers and on-line firms have decided to make kind of virtual coupon — the on-line discount code, or voucher code. This is something you just need to recall and enter it on the order form. The amount which has been offered to be deducted will be automatically reduced from the total amount which you owe and you’re all set. Just think of all of the money you could possibly be missing out on saving. If you shop a lot on-line or over the telephone, you could very well be missing out on hundreds of dollars in savings. You might begin your holiday shopping a little early this year or ultimately begin to save up for that holiday that you’ve always wanted to take.

Is it good? Not really. It’s also not really on topic, since the software chose to write about coupons. But it is passable, and would do for a content farm, or if a writing student’s dog ate his homework.

I learned that software is good at writing fact-based articles such as quarterly earnings, because it works well with a formula of inputs. It is not so good at nuance, analysis, espousing a point of view, or touching hearts.

Artificial intelligence isn’t Shakespeare or Pulitzers — yet. Even if AI is taking a shot at writing novels.

But progress is made with a million small steps.

Think mobile devices: Motorola StarTACs and Palm Pilots paved the way for Blackberries and Apple Newtons. But nothing changed our collective lives until the first iPhone in 2007.

Or portable music: transistor radios gave way to Walkmans and Discmans, before the iPod came along. And then the iPod itself was disrupted by smartphones and streaming services like Spotify.

Or e-commerce: Amazon started with books (easy to store, easy to ship). Now Amazon has made Jeff Bezos the richest man on earth, and it’s last big purchase for itself was an entire grocery company.

Giant leaps are best saved for moon landings. But AI is on its way, and it’s the things you can’t yet imagine that are the most interesting.

As Rachel Maddow espouses, watch this space.

Todd Lombardo is a Digital Strategist and Editor at Mistress.