Thursday, July 26, 2012

An Open Letter to the Editors

Dear Editors of [your favorite writers’ magazine],

I would submit to you that there is a place in your writers’ magazine for a technology column. Moore’s law, after consuming so many other industries, is finally asserting itself in writing. From simple spell-checkers to A.I. influenced narrative generators, this trend will only accelerate in the next decade. Therefore, a technology column would serve your readership well.

For instance, this column could review the current product offerings. Already we are being pitched software like Final Draft 8 and Master Writer. These are many others have been advertising in your pages for months, if not years. Why not provide an unbiased commentary?

          This column could also monitor the current state of writing technology. For instance, there is Narrative Science, a company that generates prose from its computers, providing millions of words of sports news and financial reports from nothing more than data and algorithms. Its C.T.O. has stated that his machines will win a Pulitzer Prize within five years. An in-depth analysis of his claim would make for a compelling story.

          Already, there are automated essay-scoring engines being pushed by commercial vendors. By all accounts, these machine algorithms are more than adequate to the task. How do they work? What do they contribute to standardized testing? Most importantly, since tomorrow’s writers are today’s students, what will be their impact on the fiction of the future? These are not pie-in-the-sky questions. These are real, and they are immediate.

I once wrote software reviews for Futures Magazine. At that time, it was obvious how technology and software was to be applied to the financial markets, particularly to the individual trader. Ten years later, we’re seeing the same transformation with the individual writer. I submit that this is fallow ground for journalism. We should see more of it.

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