News & Opinion

Mindshare Huddle – The journey to post human

From where artificial intelligence sits in the world of journalism, to the irreplaceable human experience and influence in the field, the Newsworks' team outlines the key take outs from some of the engaging sessions at yesterday's Mindshare Huddle. 

The theme of this year's Huddle was 'The journey to post human', with the objective of exploring how technology is becoming more closely integrated with humanity and changing the way humans operate.

Newsworks on 'Man vs machine – the evolution of a newsroom' reviewed by Rupert Medler

As part of Mindshare Huddle 2017, Newsworks held a session concentrating on the ways that artificial intelligence (AI) affects the journalistic process. Newsworks' Niki West led the discussion, posing questions relating to the present and the future of journalism's relationship with this fascinating and constantly evolving field. Niki was joined by PwC's Euan Cameron, Mirror Online's Sophie Curtis and the Guardian's Alex Hern.

Cameron began with an overview of AI, dispelling rumours that we were going to spend 45 minutes talking about 'metal humans'. Rather, AI was described as a system that censors information on a large scale, makes a decision based on rules but critically then via a feedback loop, uses the consequences of the decision to inform future decisions.

The session explored AI in both its business and human context. The guests discussed the ways that technology is used to affect the human experience of various journalistic processes; to aid discovery through data interrogation, to predict outcomes of upcoming events, to optimise systems (for example filling hospital beds) and to interact with people.

Overall, the consensus from this fascinating session seemed to be that AI has a fundamental place in dealing with the extraordinary amount of data available in the modern media landscape. With various listening technologies allowing for the monitoring of information, there's space for AI to do jobs at the bottom of the journalistic 'pyramid'.

However, fortunately for any journalists reading this, an overarching theme of the session was that AI cannot replace journalism. It can and will undoubtedly augment the journalistic process in many ways, changing the day to day experience of working, but computers by and large lack emotional intelligence and creativity, unable to bring multiple cognitive disciplines together. This emotional intelligence was deemed essential to understanding both the appropriate editorial context as well as the reader.

In summary, there was agreement from the expert panellists that AI will revolutionise journalism, but these systems will 'supercharge' humans not supersede them.

Ahead of the session, Newsworks teamed up with Trinity Mirror for a bespoke cover wrap outlining some of the key themes of the session and of the journey to post human (see above).

Other sessions hosted by News UK, The Telegraph, ESI Media and the Guardian reviewed by the Newsworks team

In News UK's session on the future of automated journalism, columnist Hugo Rifkind suggested AI driven journalism only represents 10% of the pie. The remaining 90% is based on human relationships and persuading people to do what they would not normally do, for instance, tell their story. He added that while AI will be very helpful, it will never replace the essence of what journalists do every day.

In addition, Sky's Beth Rigby noted the five key 'Ws' you learn while training to be a journalist – who, what, when, where and why. She pointed out that a lot of the 'Ws' can be commoditised, however, you can’t commoditise the 'why' as she suggests this is all about the human relationships – you can't repurpose the 'why' in AI.

Drawing on the Words chosen well ad campaign, The Telegraph's session outlined that in a world of AI and creativity, the ability to communicate becomes more important and the words you choose become more powerful. Film critic Tim Robey suggested that twitter is a perfect example of a time to choose words well.

Robey explained that when tweeting about a new film he had seen and reviewed, he has to be very careful with words and terminology to make sure the right message is sent to the audience. Furthermore, when writing reviews, Robey has to be aware of the keywords that are used to drive traffic and beat the online algorithms that capture audiences.

ESI Media's session included an insightful film following investigative journalist Kim Sengupta in conflict zones. The message was that machines cannot understand the human experience and therefore cannot make decisions based on it. When it comes to journalism, AI can be useful for taking the mundane jobs and ultimately aid the journalistic process, however they cannot override where the job really matters – out in the field.

The Guardian Labs' Adam Foley led a session on whether AI is capable on killing off human relationships. As 2017 will see the first commercially available sex robot, Foley underlined the impact on the people who use them and how they will affect our interpersonal relationships. A stimulating panel debated the issues that could occur if and when sexbots are introduced into our daily lives.

There were also a wide selection of stimulating stalls at this year's Huddle, including The Sun's smoothie stall and its Fabulous pop up makeover shop; Mail Advertising joined space with Bounce Balls and featured a monochrome wall that delegates could colour in and the Guardian put on an AI cinema experience following the themes of its session.  

by Lydia O'Neill 10/11/17

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