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Is the future of blogging automated?

06.03.2013
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infinite-monkey5The infinite monkey theorum suggests that if you sat monkeys at a typewriter for long enough, they would eventually write something comparable to Shakespeare.  Phil Parker aims to do slightly better with his mechanical monkeys.

He's an economist from Wharton business school, and he's developed an algorithm that can write books for him via his company ICON group international.  The company have apparently written around 1 million books, mostly in non-fiction, but they also claim to have written some poetry as well.

Parker doesn't intend to stop there however.  He's using his same approach to auto-writing to begin publish periodicals on medicine and forensics.  Parker believes his approach is possible because a great deal of what is published relies upon formulaic writing.

"What I have done is I’ve collected information," he says, saving researchers valuable time they would have spent in the lab.  The work of then surveying and estimating this data can be automated.

He says that most researchers spend up to 50% of their time sifting through other people's work.  If his system can automate that process for them, it clearly frees up a lot of time to focus on the discovery process.

"I’m excited," Parker says. "[It could help] some diseases in the world of agriculture and plant diseases, especially ... If I can find the formulated methodology behind the science, ultimately, a computer might write that."

He plans to make the outcome of his algorithms work available to the public at totoagriculture.org, a sort of Github for agricultural information.  He is largely positive about initial results.

"We’re posting the facts that might be an engine for a formula," he says. "I want to be very careful with the academics. We have already done it for chromosome counts; predict the chromosome counts within plant species. The results were pretty encouraging."

It's certainly an interesting approach, but Parker is frank enough to admit that his efforts are unlikely to replace complex writing that involves emotions or investigation, merely the kind that relies on easily replicable formulas.  Hopefully that means your blog is safe from his work.  What impact he will have on the scientific world however remains to be seen, but it will certainly be an interesting project to follow.