I Tried to get a Robot to Write for Motley. It was Terrible. 

For many years now – we have been hounded by reports that no job is safe and that even, yes even, the creative arts do not provide a refuge from the inevitable rise of mass automation. Motley’s Niamh Browne investigates to see if Motley can source its writers from elsewhere. 

 

My first port of call was aiwriter.com. An online platform which generates content based on a headline you feed them. The first line I gave them was ‘Motley Magazine Will Win lots of Smedia Awards’ (I mean if you don’t believe in yourself who will?). Headline submitted I only had to wait a mere three minutes for a completed article. Great turnaround it must be said. 

 

The article appeared and I was impressed, not impressed good nor impressed bad. It was a complete, whole article and they had done their research. The AI knew we were students based in Ireland but they seemed a bit confused as to what we do (much like my parents); The best-animated film created by Irish students in Ireland on 2 March 2017 will be awarded in the Animation of the Year category, produced in collaboration with the Irish Academy of Film and Television Arts (IAFTA) and the National Film Institute of Ireland (NFI).” I realised as well there was no point in prescribing an AI to write a journalistic article in the future tense. How many articles have you read in the last year with firm convictions of what will happen? So that had to go. As well as that, there was further bewilderment on behalf of the AI, since it seemed to flit between North America and Ireland, and honestly, as a writer lacked the ‘oomph’ we look for in our Motley contributors. I thought I would give it another chance. 

Photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash

This time I fed it a typical clickbait-style article, easy to write, formulaic (Buzzfeed I am looking at YOU). ‘How to Have the Best College Experience UCC Can Offer’, this article was slightly more promising. It opened with “In the fall of 2013 I fell in love with all things Irish and studied at St. Patrick’s College in Dublin, Ireland”. Ok, not so great. The AI continues “University College Cork was founded in 1845 and is home to some of the world’s most prestigious universities, including the University of Cork, Cork University and the Cork Institute of Technology.”  A bit confused there bud. There is no better place in the world than college in Cork”. However, most unfortunately, the AI then later seems to think we’re in Dublin “All these options make UCC Dublin a great choice for students from all backgrounds and backgrounds” and this gem Don’t forget to learn so much about yourself and how to work with other people”. It wrecked my head as an editor. It made no sense and it had no punch. It’s a no from me I’m afraid. 

 

I tried a few other AI content generators, and perhaps because I was using free ones – got absolutely dismal results. I tried another website articlegenerator.org. This time I assigned an op-ed, “Snorting Lines and Shagging Nines – Behind the Scenes of Motley Magazine”. This task was challenging as we on the Motley team keep our line snorting and orgy operations very much covert but the article which was generated was as follows: “Whether you are looking to admire the neighbor’s decor, watch some scary movies, join a virtual film festival or create your own candy chute, we have got you covered with things to do this Halloween.” They even spelt neighbour wrong. 



Perhaps what I should be fretting over is not the quality of the articles but the mere fact that these can be written, even poorly. From here on out it’s probably just a game of catch up. If we give an infinite amount of AIs an infinite amount of typewriters and an infinite amount of time, they will probably write Ulysses. For now, though, I miss my human contributors. Send an email to features@motley.ie