IT IS the stuff of a journalist’s nightmare. This week Oxford University academics told us that we had only an eight per cent risk of losing our jobs to robots, but it has emerged that a Chinese company has started publishing work actually written by a machine.

The social media and gaming giant Tencent released the 900-word article about China’s August consumer price index on its portal – a popular and influential messaging service in China.

It was written in Chinese in 60 seconds by a robot hack called Dreamwriter which, apparently, has few problems covering basic financial news.

The South China Morning Post said it was the first robot-written news article in the Chinese language, and quoted a reporter in the manufacturing town of Shenzhen, Li Wei, who praised it. He said: “The piece is very readable. I can’t even tell it wasn’t written by a person.”

Dreamwriter used algorithms to search online sources and dates before writing the article, which also quoted principals involved in the story and highlighted the economic trends that coloured the figures.

Sceptics say that because China’s media is state-controlled – and reporters go with the information they are given instead of questioning it – their job may as well be done by a robot. Dr Mathini Sellathurai, who leads the electrical, electronic and computing engineering department at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, told The National she felt that journalists would be safe, for now.

“Work with robotics is very important for the future and we have in the UK degrees and postgraduate work in the subject,” she said. “The technology is already there and is being used, but I think that it should only be used if there are good reasons for doing so, like some benefit to society.

“If it can help disabled people, for instance, by giving them the use of a lost limb; that’s good. If robots can go into difficult or dangerous areas in mining or offshore – areas that are too tricky or risky for humans – that too is good.

“But I don’t see any benefit at all in robots replacing journalists.”

She added: “Technology has given journalists and others access to all sorts of information, research and reports that they have never before had access to, and that has enhanced their knowledge and understanding of particular subjects and improved their writing on them.

“The internet is controlled in China, as well as the media, so I can understand how a robot was able to write this article.”

Her view was not disputed by the Chinese journalist, who said:“Many reporters working for government-run newspapers across the country usually copy and paste the statements and news press.” 

The robot story translated ...

NATIONAL Bureau of Statistics Department of Urban Senior Statistician Yu Qiumei that from the chain perspective, August pork, fresh vegetables and eggs and other food prices rise, the CPI rose mainly due to higher specific ring. August pork prices continue to rise in the first four months of recovery, the chain rose 7.7 per cent affecting the CPI rose 0.25 per cent. High temperatures in some areas, heavy rain turn, affect the production and transport of fresh vegetables, fresh vegetable prices rose 6.8 per cent, affecting the CPI rose 0.21 per cent.

Egg prices rose 10.2 per cent, affecting the CPI rose 0.08 per cent, but prices are still lower than in August last year. Pork, fresh vegetables and eggs together the CPI rose 0.54 per cent, more than August CPI MoM total gains.