We already knew that computers, equipped with proper algorithms, could write stories pretty much indistinguishable from the work of professional journalists working under deadline pressure. And had I been paying attention, I’d know that the company behind this, a “spinout” from Northwestern University, is also moving into other “turn data into a story” tasks, which from the examples here seem to mainly focus on financial reporting, tho it also appears that buyers of used cars can be exposed to “automated and individualized vehicle stories” (pdf) about their cars, which presumably helps sales. And it’s no secret that In Q Tel, an affiliate of your Central Intelligence Agency, is one of several investors behind the company.
So, it’s technology, it’s government, it’s marketing– why am I surprised that it’s protected by a bunch of patents on different variations on “automatic generation of a story?” Here I am, using a computer with many automatic functions to generate a sort of story about this company, and I really haven’t time to read and try to understand all their patents. I guess I better stop before I get in more trouble.
Anyone reading this blog might get bored with the number of times I say that Henry George was right, and is even more right today than in his own time. But that’s what I do, and part of the reason for this blog is to provide a place where I can record show up.
Location is [still] everything, says the new book by Prof David R. Bell. When I saw the title, I thought it was about land value and real estate, but no, it’s actually about marketing on the Internet and evidence that location matters, a lot, to marketers working in that [virtual] space. For example, the best initial customers for your Internet business might be those who are relatively isolated and haven’t any local sources for your product. Subsequent customers might be those nearby to these customers, who learn of you thru conversation or by observing distinctive shipping boxes. And, for some reason which Bell does not try to explain, even for virtual goods people are most likely to turn to the geographically closest sources.
It’s a nice book for anyone who studied economic geography and marketing in the dark ages, bringing a few things up to date, but quite accessible to every interested reader.
Then there’s the matter of monopoly over text, part of what’s sometimes called “intellectual property” by those who seek to profit by restricting it. This comes from a fascinating interview with writer Poe Ballantine, well worth a listen in its entirely. Ballantine has found it difficult making a living as a writer, drifting geographically and among relatively menial jobs, mainly in food service it seems. He says that after four books he was still known mainly as “the cook.” But now he has reached the point where he can actually earn a living as a writer.
[starting about 45:35 into the audio]
Q: So your writing is sustaining you financially?
A: The writing is not quite enough, but the appearances, the invitations from colleges and universities are what cover my expenses right now. They pay very well. That’s where the money is; the money is not in selling books, the money is in the universities where people go to get their writing degrees.
So maybe the fighting over copyrights doesn’t benefit the writer? But, at least, sometimes the education monopoly brings about something useful.
Apparently the time has come for CNN to decide that Occupy Wall Street really doesn’t have broad support. So, based on the claim that 47% of Americans don’t pay federal income tax (tho most do pay payroll tax, state and local taxes), CNN found four people who (claim to) pay federal income tax and do not support the Occupants.
I’m sure there are more than four, probably more than four hundred thousand, who oppose the Occupants, but speaking as a guy who does pay federal income tax, lots of it, plus more to the folks who help me prepare the forms, I thank the Occupants for representing me. I would be with them if I didn’t have other obligations.
I suspect that most of the Occupants would be happy to take decent jobs if any were on offer. In fact, what will probably happen– you read it here first– is that the Overlords will find a way to use our tax money to offer a few thousand jobs, Occupants will take them, and the movement will fade.