In the past, an elevator operator pressed elevator buttons for guests. It was an indispensable job. However, this job went extinct and did not leave any vacuum behind. Automated answering machines in companies and ministries competed with central telephone companies’ employees and led to more lay-offs. And now, with the development of smart robots, many jobs are threatened with extinction.
University students who work at McDonald’s or Starbucks will lose their jobs soon amid the unfair competition with programmed robots that do not get sick and do not earn wages and which can wrap hundreds of hamburgers and make dozens of coffee cups within minutes. They can basically perform tasks that are beyond human potential.
In the agriculture field, technology ended jobs related to plowing and irrigation as there are now machines that do that in a much efficient manner. In Japan, robots are used to gather strawberries at a fast pace on a daily basis.
All this is no longer a secret, and it’s nothing strange. However, some assert that robots will soon invade the world of journalism and send journalists home after seizing their offices and assuming their jobs of editing news, calling reporters and writing headlines.
Can this happen?
It’s very unlikely. All predictions pertaining to a journalist’s job are exaggerations or false expectations by people who do not understand the complicated nature of the job.
Journalists use their mind to work and not their body. There are prominent journalists who suffer from physical disabilities but that does not prevent them from writing the most important news stories and performing significant interviews. Unlike other jobs which can be programmed step by step, a journalist’s job cannot be predicted at all as you never know what the next step will be.
How can a programmed robot deal with the news of a suicide operation or the collapse of the stock exchange market? How would it validate news before publishing it and not make mistakes such as replacing the criminals’ photos with the victims’? If a robot repeats its mistakes, how can you deduct money from its salary when it does not receive any and when there’s no work contract?
Extraordinary creative thinking
Robot journalists are noble and non-indulgent beings but they are stupid. Desk journalists are the engineers of journalistic material which we read and watch. They receive dozens of news every day from agencies, reporters and social media networks. How can a robot do this exhausting work which requires extraordinary creative thinking?
Journalists use their mind to work and not their body. There are prominent journalists who suffer from physical disabilities but that does not prevent them from writing the most important news stories and performing significant interviews. Unlike other jobs which can be programmed step by step, a journalist’s job cannot be predicted at all as you never know what the next step will be.Mamdouh AlMuhaini
Robots can replace ice cream vendors or receptionists or political commentators or satellite program preachers which do not require any creativity but they cannot replace journalists.
Journalists who perform interviews ask questions based on the guest’s answer. It’s impossible for a robot to do this even if it was trained hundreds of times. A news segment producer stands on the ledge when covering live developments that change by the minute. The idea that an intellectual and trained robot replacing him is quite funny!
Even if we assume that robots can replace journalists, this will not be possible in our region where there are many cautions that continuously change overnight.
You will spend an entire month just attempting to explain the three taboos (politics, sex and religion) to a beginner robot journalist.
Journalism is also a complicated mental job, unlike other jobs that require physical strength, attractive odors and charming words. In order to write a journalistic story, you must come up with a creative idea which is impossible for a robot to think of. You must also have a journalistic sense in order to know how to address it. How can you plant this creative sense in the mechanical soul of a robot which lacks conscience?
Emotions play huge role
When a journalist performs an interview, he reads about the guest to have enough background about him and then prepares the list of questions. During the interview, emotions play a huge role. The guest’s frown or comfort helps the journalist carry out the interview. The journalist may bring up the guest’s wounds to get him to talk and reveal secrets or may ask surprising questions to get more details. We’ve seen many creative journalists who have the skills of a detective, a chess player, a wrestler and a lickspittle. The aim is to get answers from the guest or prey, and it is okay if he bleeds to death afterwards.
Beginners in the field of journalism receive requests from their hosts to delete an embarrassing scene or an incriminating answer. However, the journalists’ goal is to embarrass their guests and expose them after disarming them and not to give them a pat on the back and spare them embarrassment.
Journalism is perhaps the only job which cares about the customer’s anger and not about his satisfaction. Banks, for instance, receive customers with fake smiles and sit with rich clients in special air-conditioned rooms. Happy journalistic interviews, however, are like stale meals.
The robotics industry is developing quickly and inventors are trying to make robots resemble humans more by covering them with material that looks like human skin and providing sensors that make them turn around when tapped on the back. However, this is not enough to create a distinguished opinion columnist.
How can you convince a robot journalist that his article is bad and cannot be published?
And finally, journalists and writers are accused of treason, collaboration and infidelity the most, and many have been assassinated. Therefore, robots themselves will prefer other peaceful jobs that do not cause them trouble.
Journalism is the only job which an individual masters while he knows that the path he’s walking is full of troubles. There will not be robots that have this sort of complicated love in their hearts.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain.