Monday, April 18, 2011

Lawyers, doctors, journalists, oh my.

What can't robots do?

Automation of higher-level jobs is accelerating because of progress in computer science and linguistics. Only recently have researchers been able to test and refine algorithms on vast data samples, including a huge trove of e-mail from the Enron Corporation.

“The economic impact will be huge,” said Tom Mitchell, chairman of the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “We’re at the beginning of a 10-year period where we’re going to transition from computers that can’t understand language to a point where computers can understand quite a bit about language.”

Nowhere are these advances clearer than in the legal world.

A typical physician spends most of the day playing twenty questions.
Where does it hurt? Do you have a cough? How high is the patient’s blood pressure? But an expert system can play twenty questions better than most people. An expert system can use the best knowledge in the field, it can stay current with the journals, and it never forgets.

Consider how many people die because physicians forget the basics. Gina Kolata reports on a Medicare program to rate hospitals on the quality of care provided in the treatment of heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia – these three areas chosen because there are standard, clinically proven, treatments that everyone agrees are highly beneficial.

Deadspin conceded. They published a follow up, saying that — in this case — the machine did write the better story.

"The image of the robots typing wins me over for sure," says Carmichael. "And on top of that, in some cases, as we've seen with Narrative Science's story, they actually can produce the stronger story."

This robot journalist can explore its surroundings, take pictures, interview people, perform internet searches, and publish online. Ok, I'm about to lose my job.

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