Bot authors a most-read article at The Next Web

Photo of a toy robot carrying a pencil, by Matthew Hurst

The journalists at The Next Web scripted a bot -- Satoshi Nakaboto -- that crawls around the aether looking for Bitcoin news and tweets, then assembles into a daily news story. There's no cutting-edge AI at hand here -- it's just good-old "rule-based phrases and terms we wrote beforehand," as The Next Web folks note. You can see an archive of the bot's daily stories here.

Nonetheless, it wasn't long before the bot published a story that was the #1 most-read for the site that day, as the editor noted:

Már Másson Maack, a writer for the site, wrote a good essay pondering his own psychological reactions to being outperformed at his job by a few lines of code. As he notes, there's an obvious discomfort at realizing a bot can author a top-viewed story, because of course in a publishing operation, money comes from reader clicks; if a deathless, tireless, un-unionizable bot can deliver those clicks, that's unsettling for all the meatbag authors.

As Másson Maack points out, the traditional response of AI optimists is to argue that this will all be fine. Sure, bots can outperform humans at routine drudge work. But this frees the humans up to do the complex, thoughtful, high-EQ stuff that humans are at the moment uniquely capable of, right?

Fair enough, in theory. Except Másson Maack identifies the bigger problem: Our economy mostly has no idea how to value those supposedly superior "human" skills.

No, today's firms are mostly obsessed with measuring output, which is where bots excel:

The phrase du jour of technologists, ‘tech-minded’ CEOs, and other self-proclaimed thinkfluencers is that AI will actually make ‘work more human.’

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