Robot speechwriters?

There was a fascinating story today about robots being able to write political speeches based on an algorithm developed by researchers at the University of Massachusetts that I happened across today. It was an interesting look at artificial intelligence and according to my mum put a question mark over the job I do.

Given that statement I felt compelled to look a bit further at what the research actually said and what it may mean. The research looked at 3,800 speeches and then using the algorithm was asked to predict the sixth word after being given five words of a statement. The outcome was said to be a bit ‘hit-or-miss’ but while it could not write a full address it could provide some placeholder text that could be developed later.

As a professional communicator, I don’t see this as a huge threat to the work I do. My role is to provide specialist advice about all forms of communication from dealing with the media to developing engagement through social media. It has many facets from proactive communication to reactive and dealing with crisis communication. This is the variety that keeps the job interesting and the one thing it isn’t is predictable.

I am sure there are some basic elements that could be developed using an algorithm but they are very few and very basic. The whole point of the communication function is to gather all the information, analysis, use expertise to then provide a way forward. It is at its heart all about problem-solving. And as with many analytics tools that struggle to understand sarcasm etc. when they are considering sentiment, robots cannot, as yet, understand the subtle nuances.

Technology has been a welcome boost to communication, providing new channels and opportunities. However, at the very heart of really effective communication has to be people. Face-to-face communication and personal connections is the key. I have a hatred of scheduled posts on social media because they take away the personal connection.

I do welcome the possibility that some basic tasks may be automated in some way by using the technological developments. But I can reassure my mum that I don’t fear being replaced by a robot because communication has to be about people.

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Crisis comms, FCIPR. FPRCA, PRCA trainer, Chartered Assessor. Former PRCA Council chair. Women in PR ambassador.

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