When will the Robot Instructional Designer Arrive

Or has it already arrived?

I was reading an article about how Quill (a natural language program) is writing reports for large financial companies, intelligence agencies and even reporting on baseball games.  Stuart Frankel is the CEO of Narrative Science which is the company that owns Quill.

Here’s an excerpt from the article where Frankel discusses renting out Quill to large financial companies.

Narrative Science is now renting out Quill’s writing skills to financial customers such as T. Rowe Price, Credit Suisse, and USAA to write up more in-depth, lengthy reports on the performance of mutual funds that are then distributed to investors or regulators.

“It goes from the job of a small army of people over weeks to just a few seconds,” says Frankel. “We do 10- to 15-page documents for some financial clients.”

This isn’t something new.  Smart machines have been writing for a while.

A smart machine wrote an LA Times article breaking the news of an earthquake.  The article was ready 3 minutes after the earthquake occurred.  Ken Schwencke is the programmer/journalist who created the algorithm that generated the story.  Here’s what he says about the use of the algorithim:

“The way we use it, it’s supplemental,” he said. “It saves people a lot of time, and for certain types of stories, it gets the information out there in usually about as good a way as anybody else would. The way I see it is, it doesn’t eliminate anybody’s job as much as it makes everybody’s job more interesting.”

I think that’s how we’ll see the use of this type of software in instructional design – supplemental.  It might be used for compliance, technical writing or product training where you have one or more people monitoring and editing the work.

Kevin Roose writes about how robots are great for journalism and thinks that “humans still have the talent edge”.  He says that:

“The stories that today’s robots can write are, frankly, the kinds of stories that humans hate writing anyway.”

Couldn’t this be the same for instructional design or technical writing?

The role of the instructional designer is changing (like almost every other job) and this could be one of the ways designers begin working with machines moving towards freestyle work.

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