AI journalism's inevitable rise
Future News 146
For those who pay attention to the ‘Media and Tech Questions I’m Thinking About’ section of this newsletter, you would have noticed my open query earlier this week about whether the AI industry "deserves its own beat in the national and international media”?
I asked this question in light of Bloomberg News’ own hiring drive in the space. Just a couple of days later, The Financial Times has now joined the party:
“The Financial Times has appointed Madhumita Murgia as AI editor. In this newly created role, Murgia will head up the FT’s coverage of artificial intelligence stories, writing about the business, companies, policy and science behind AI.
“Murgia will be the FT’s lead correspondent on the subject while also working with the technology news editor, Murad Ahmed, in the development of coverage, and provide expertise to other reporters as they increasingly encounter stories about how AI is upending industries around the world.”
The announcement comes as the so-called ‘AI war’ between Google and Microsoft kicks-off. The latter company is a long-time investor of OpenAI, the business behind the popular ChatGPT product.
The machine-learning driven chatbot has captured the imaginations of tens of millions of users after launching in November 2022. It’s also raised concerns amongst journalists.
These worries are nothing new to London School of Economics’ (LSE) AI Journalism programme led by Charlie Beckett. Future News covered the initiative way back in 2020:
“But for the industry at-large, Beckett thinks the news media sector needs to “get its act together” on AI and technological innovation, something other and rival industries happily embrace.”
And though Bloomberg and The FT are dedicating more resources towards the AI industry, the sector has had a healthy trade media for years.
Notable current reporters include The Drum’s Webb Wright, TechReview’s Melissa Heikkilä, ZDNet’s Tiernan Ray and Ars Technica’s Benj Edwards.
Elsewhere, Rob Malda, Slashdot co-founder and former editor-in-chief, raised his own warnings about the industry when he spoke to me for Tech, Power & Media.
“[In five years’ time] we are going to be hard-pressed to tell the difference between what was written by humans and what was written by robots,” he said.
An exploration of the ethics surrounding AI deserves its own treatment, but you may enjoy reading about John Searle’s Chinese Room thought-experiment.
This argument is used to counter claims that computers (like ChatGPT) can create consciousness or intentionality:
“The narrow conclusion of the argument is that programming a digital computer may make it appear to understand language but could not produce real understanding.”
You can read LSE’s JournalismAI report here. An overview:
“This report is not a manual for implementation, but rather an introduction to and discussion of journalism and AI. We hope it will help newsrooms make decisions around strategy, and think proactively about the ethical and editorial challenges, as well as the potential implications of adopting these new technologies.”
🗽 The Times They Are A-Changing
The New York Times has now surpassed 9.6m paying subscribers, with a target of 15m by the end of 2027. The Gray Lady said it had added 240,000 net digital-only subscribers in its Q4 2022, totalling 8.8m. But print subscribers had fallen to 730,000, down from 795,000 a year earlier.
📺 Media and Tech Questions I’m Thinking About
What are the known ‘unknowables’ in media and tech?
The BBC has unveiled a big presenter shake-up, so where will all the former presenters end up?
As Bloomberg looks for an AI reporter, does the industry deserve its own beat in the national and international media?
Can ‘watch parties’ significantly boost the fortunes of on-demand TV?
How popular will ‘de-influencing’ become?
Can The Express and The Mirror make it in America?
How will media outlets cover The Superbowl this weekend?
Operation Southside: Inside the UK media’s plan to reconcile with Labour
How disinformation is forcing a paradigm shift in media theory
🎙️ Podcasts I’m Listening To
The Internet History Podcast (a real hidden gem)
Lex Fridman interviews the Everyday Astronaut, Tim Dodd
How I Built This on Miles Copeland and I.R.S Records
For high-praise, tips or gripes, please contact the editor at email@example.com or via @ianjsilvera. Follow on LinkedIn here.
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FN 141 can be found here
It's becoming clear that with all the brain and consciousness theories out there, the proof will be in the pudding. By this I mean, can any particular theory be used to create a human adult level conscious machine. My bet is on the late Gerald Edelman's Extended Theory of Neuronal Group Selection. The lead group in robotics based on this theory is the Neurorobotics Lab at UC at Irvine. Dr. Edelman distinguished between primary consciousness, which came first in evolution, and that humans share with other conscious animals, and higher order consciousness, which came to only humans with the acquisition of language. A machine with primary consciousness will probably have to come first.
What I find special about the TNGS is the Darwin series of automata created at the Neurosciences Institute by Dr. Edelman and his colleagues in the 1990's and 2000's. These machines perform in the real world, not in a restricted simulated world, and display convincing physical behavior indicative of higher psychological functions necessary for consciousness, such as perceptual categorization, memory, and learning. They are based on realistic models of the parts of the biological brain that the theory claims subserve these functions. The extended TNGS allows for the emergence of consciousness based only on further evolutionary development of the brain areas responsible for these functions, in a parsimonious way. No other research I've encountered is anywhere near as convincing.
I post because on almost every video and article about the brain and consciousness that I encounter, the attitude seems to be that we still know next to nothing about how the brain and consciousness work; that there's lots of data but no unifying theory. I believe the extended TNGS is that theory. My motivation is to keep that theory in front of the public. And obviously, I consider it the route to a truly conscious machine, primary and higher-order.
My advice to people who want to create a conscious machine is to seriously ground themselves in the extended TNGS and the Darwin automata first, and proceed from there, by applying to Jeff Krichmar's lab at UC Irvine, possibly. Dr. Edelman's roadmap to a conscious machine is at https://arxiv.org/abs/2105.10461