AI is still in its infancy, but the dialogue surrounding it is already a mainstay in public discourse. Between the idealists who believe machine learning will usher in a worldwide utopia and the doomsayers who insist on the advent of singularity, the discussion of AI often lacks subtlety.
The truth is that our AI obsession is not as new as we think. The discovery and adoption of technology is fundamental to humanity. Take your pick of any innovation throughout recorded history: the wheel, the printing press, beer (yes, even beer). All of these technologies brought good and bad outcomes into the world. It was not the inherent qualities of the wheel, for instance, that made chariot-riding warriors use it to decimate their foes and the cities they inhabited. Just as humanity has the capacity to invent things, it also has the capacity to use those things for positive or negative purposes.
Such is the case with artificial intelligence. Its rapid adoption scares people. The most frequently cited negative outcome of AI’s growth is its use in news media. Namely, AI is often associated with a predicted uptick in misinformation in media through visual and audio deepfakes or bots flooding social media to propel a false narrative.
While these criticisms of AI are certainly warranted, to pretend that AI’s pitfalls are the whole picture is itself misinformed. AI is the wheel. The wheel can be used to pillage, and the wheel can be used to bring prosperity. The question is not how do we stop AI from spreading. It’s how we temper AI’s negative implications in media with AI tools that bring clarity to an already murky media landscape.
The current era of mainstream media is like a game of “telephone” gone awry. In this game, information is passed from one individual to the next, until the last person is told and then repeats what has been relayed to them. The object of “telephone” is for the final relay of information to be identical to its source, or at least mostly the same.
Anyone consuming mainstream media today can conclude that if a game of “telephone” is being played, no one is winning– least of all the viewers. When multiple “trusted” news sources publish completely opposing facts on the same issue, who is to be believed? Add to this muddled picture AI, which streamlines the capability of fabricating and distributing any number of falsehoods, and the future of news media could look incredibly grim.
So if AI can be used to make media less trustworthy, how can it be used to make it more trustworthy? Narrative intelligence may be one answer. More specifically, narrative intelligence incorporates AI to distill large amounts of online content, analyze and identify trends, and uncover where they came from.
Narrative Intelligence refers to the ability to listen, understand, and analyze narratives or stories effectively.
What do all of these components have in common? They are well-suited tasks for artificial intelligence. The act of listening to media, for one person or even a team, is strenuous, time-consuming work. But building an AI tool to consume thousands of articles in seconds makes that task both easier and often completed more thoroughly. The same could be said regarding understanding and analyzing said content.
So, while AI can be used to create further discord in news media narratives, AI that is properly used can combat bad actors by using narrative intelligence to weed them out. Even more, this AI can provide more clarity and honesty to the narratives that emerge in a divided media industry.
At EdgeTheory, we’re invested in the concept of incorporating AI and narrative intelligence. We believe that narrative intelligence can give businesses and organizations more tools to understand and participate in the conversations that impact them and their greater industry. Our products, like Narrative Briefs, exhibit how AI and narrative intelligence can combine to give real-time insights into the trends that rise and fall each day in public discourse.
It’s clear that AI will change news media and how we consume content. Whether AI brings transparency or continues to muddy the waters is up to how we build the technology that is, for better or worse, becoming increasingly prevalent in our lives.