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This AI-generated content is almost entirely intelligible

An AI bot wrote this - sadly, not the cute smiling robot shown here

We asked a robot to write a story for us. A few stories, actually. We’ve shared the results, unedited, below. It went exactly as you’d think it would go.

Why? Fair question. 

Every month, we have an editorial theme for the content we create. The monthly theme acts as a sort of kernel that helps us to come up with new content ideas and pushes us to try new things.

The idea isn’t that people should see the theme specifically present in all the content we create in a given month. Rather, the hope is that people reading the Ting blog (thank you!) or following us on social media (good call: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) should see that we’re always experimenting, doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t. 

This is all inside baseball.

The theme for August is robots and AI. We decided to have a robot text generator write a story for us, if for no other reason than to see if we have anything to worry about. 

The back story

There’s a category of content on TikTok that I’ll call pseudo-insight. I happened upon one such piece of content that purported to be about content marketing and that basically said, “this service will write your blog posts for you!” Apparently, all you need to do is give the bot a sentence or two to start with and boom, content. 

We tried a few options. Interestingly, several of the first that came up in search were aimed at college students and seem equal parts plagiarism and poor attempts at rewording things enough to pass a plagiarism screen. Think Google Translate speaking to Google Translate.

We used the InferKit app. Due to the spike of interest that its predecessor Talk to Transformer generated, and the resulting hole it burned in creator Adam King’s pocket, InferKit is not free. Or more accurately, it’s only free to a point and a payment method is required for sign-up.

I will point out here that we just took the simplest and most basic approach for the three efforts that follow. There are a bunch of settings and inputs serious users can change and adapt to get better output. We didn’t do any of that. 

With apologies, here are three stories the AI wrote for us in all their unedited glory.

The surreal short story

Writing prompt: 

“There’s no way a robot could do what I do,” he said. “The subtle turns of phrase. The witty parenthetical asides. The art of communication. It’s a human endeavor. No machine could ever make a readable article…” Yet he sounded less and less sure with each word.

Resulting content:

Tony passed out again in the parking lot of the Morill Hotel, and was picked up by his boss with only a couple of red eyes. Gwen poured him a cold drink as he lay in her lap and laughed.

“You don’t think anything will happen, do you?”

“Yeah.”

“Then you’re wrong. And stop making fun of me.”

He barely resisted the urge to retort. “My boss can make fun of me as much as he wants, and now you have to take his joke?”

She kicked him, and he barely managed to avoid falling. When he opened his eyes again, his world had gone out again. His coworkers sat at tables in groups across from one another. He blinked. He was in the lecture hall of the University of Edmonton. The bright lights of a computerized green screen blinked against the murmur of an empty hall. He frowned. Why was this lecture like this? The lights were too bright. They must be dealing with too many people. 

“Would you like to enter the exhibit space? You are not required to do so.”

“I don’t know. I think it’s…too much.”

Gwen snickered. “It’s easy to get lost in the rush of the big city. You’ll feel better if you can calm down a little. There’s lots of room, and lots of privacy.”

He nodded and began to slide his wallet out of his back pocket. He was nearly free of his wallet. He was about to take the last steps into the dark hall when he heard a woman’s voice.

“Lunch in the back. Don’t waste the loonies.”

The man turned and saw a black-haired hairless female figure standing in the far corner of the room, hunched over. The figure remained perfectly still for a few seconds before hopping to her feet. The man fell to his knees. His feet were smashed against the pavement. The man scrambled to his feet. The person wore black, animal ears and a thick glove covering her exposed hand. It didn’t seem that the “hologram” was trying to be humorous. It seemed very serious. She walked up to the man and took out a worn green notebook.

“I always carry this here. People can always see my words, and it takes a lot of my attention away.”

The man took out his wallet. The woman studied his face.

“Where are you from?” she said.

The man laughed. He took out his wallet, offered a shake of her hand. “I’m from India, and I come from another planet.”

The woman paused for a moment. 

“How did you get here?”

The man stared into the middle distance.


While the bot wasn’t done, we decided to cut it there, with our interplanetary protagonist from India staring off into the middle distance. Probably reaching for his wallet yet again.

Intriguing but a little muddled as short stories go.

So, let’s try something a little more in line with content marketing. 

The narrative phone-related piece

Writing prompt:

Do you need the latest flagship phone? At $1,000+, the latest and greatest smartphone is a significant investment. Is it worth it? We asked a robot who we’re pretty sure has some insight into these matters. 

Robot? What say you? 

Resulting content:

In 2015, we expect to see huge growth in artificial intelligence research and development. From unsupervised learning, to natural language processing, to machine translation. From your smart phone and computer, to your living room and parking garage. For companies in high demand, AI is one of the most important components in their product development. Yet, I’m sure you’ve probably never even heard of AI in a product other than your latest smartphone.

Now, AI is more than just speech and text generation. It is potentially so much more, due to AI’s ability to understand how humans use language. From the way we like to eat and organize our projects to how we process information and create meaning.

This is where artificial intelligence comes in. AI isn’t just defined as software which learns to understand things by reading text and displaying objects, however. The end goal is a product which uses AI to create meaning, make predictions, create a better product, be more cost effective, and help reduce environmental impact. AI has the potential to revolutionize not just our productivity in our homes, schools and businesses, but also our way of life and we can’t wait to see what the next phase of AI will bring.


The AI thought that was a good place to end the text. We agree.

Maybe we’re saying too much and leading our robot friend. Let’s try something a little simpler and see what kind of story our AI blogger can come up with.

The almost recognizable content marketing effort

Writing prompt: 

How to save money on your cell phone bill.

The result: 

Go to the website of a mobile service provider and get a free year of service from it. Then cancel your service, give the phone to a friend or family member, and have them use it. I actually used my cell phone carrier to research this, and ended up paying about $160 to cut my bill in half.

This is actually a common tactic in the United States. Even while looking for a new job, most people will get rid of a phone they don’t really need for one they could trade in for a new one.

If you can’t find any lucky breaks, file a complaint with the FCC.

I found one way that might have been possible and it’s terrible: If you can’t find any luck with your mobile provider, you can take your phone to the FCC for assistance. Of course, that means looking for a phone that runs Android 5.0 or later.

Go to http://www.fcc.gov/Consumer/Report_Fraud.jsp and follow the instructions. Just like every other wireless phone plan, you’ll need to check on your plan pricing and choose from the four “options” that deal with contract cancellation, discounts, and other options. Don’t make the mistake of jumping around; you’ll have to give up a lot to get to a plan that would better suit your needs.

Here are the last few pictures of the rebate form so you can see what it looks like. I went back to my previous carrier for one more number.

This was my final complaint, and they now have some company to reply to, so I went through the next few steps. One of the last steps is finding a phone that meets the minimum specifications. This phone, for example, costs $130, but it meets all of the FCC’s requirements. Now I need to wait for someone to tell me they can’t do what I want.

So I took a cue from Google’s own pages, but got my needs different. Here’s what I did:

I went to http://www.android.com/download/ My search returned a lot of crap that gave me all kinds of irrelevant results. I checked Google, and they even have a number of apps for their own stuff. So instead of paying through the nose for a bunch of worthless apps, I opened their website, and downloaded everything I could from that page. Sure it’s full of junk, but that’s good, right? Eventually they do come up with something, and I download that app.

This is much better, right? Finally, the app is on my phone, but now I can say I’ve done the official process of getting my application approved. I can finally get on with my life, even if it’s on Android.

Yep. That’s what it’s all about.

7) They’re always there for you when you need them the most

As much as Android is loved and hated in the United States, it’s really known as a Chinese phone. On the “more home” tab in the Settings menu, the Google Play Store and Play Store are up there, all made for users in the Asia-Pacific region. When I use my phone in the U.S., I have to go through the process of porting my application to Chinese, and then re-packaging it into a non-Google Android app. If I choose to use my phone in Japan or Korea, I can’t do that.


It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in places, but you can certainly see a recognizable tech blogger style creeping through.

There’s a logic to that; InferKit takes its writing lessons from the Internet at large and apparently grabs words and phrases from across millions of pages and sort of bolts them all together in a way that (sometimes) makes sense. 

If you’ve read far enough to get to this point, thanks… and sorry? You deserve a conclusion.

Conclusion

AI has made great strides. The thing to consider is that content is an important thing that helps people to understand. It’s vital to share and to seek new and innovative approaches to creation. With content on blogs, on social media and elsewhere on networks, we have amazing amounts of information available. From the ways we organize information to the ways we share it, many things have changed and will continue to change as they pertain to content.

That was a human writing as an AI bot. It only seemed fair.