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MIT’s latest artificial intelligence can rewrite outdated Wikipedia pages

Writers, editors, and researchers: Hold on to your red pens. Because MIT-powered A.I. may be coming for your jobs. 

A new “text-generating system” created by the brains behind Massachusetts Institute of Technology may be the beginning of the end for all human editing jobs. The system, announced in a press release Wednesday, is able to rummage through the millions of Wikipedia pages, sniff around for outdated data, and replace it with the most recent information available on the internet in a “human-like” style — thus making the need for real, hot-blooded editors basically obsolete. 

If this scares you, reader, imagine how much it scares us. 

But have no fear, because the system will always require some human assistance, according to the study’s co-author and MIT Ph.D. student Darsh Shah.  

“We are trying to make tasks that are somewhat straightforward to be done by machines, we don’t want to replace humans,” Shah told Digital Trends. “It is not replacing, just aiding.”

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Current bots that troll encyclopedia-esque sites like Wikipedia typically try to prevent vandalism and identify whether the source of edits is accurate, but that’s different than the kind of structured, contextual, and coherent edits Shah and his team aim for. 

The interface MIT designed allows users to type in very bare-bones pieces of information, for example, the latest news on the Iowa caucuses or Sprint/T-Mobile merger, and then the system can easily rewrite any relevant article to reflect that information. There’s also no need to enter complete sentences on the human’s behalf, either: The system analyzes for style and grammar, then makes sure all rewrites match. 

There is also a fact-checking and neutrality component, co-author Tal Schuster said. The system reads for “polarizing” words that conflict with the most current information and even has a deletion feature.

“It can offer and suggest edits, but at the end of the day, a human user can make the final call,” Schuster said. 

Schuster and Shah see the system operating primarily in the medical field, where new studies, prescription drugs, and technology are constantly being published and updated. 

Bots like theirs could be one of the first pioneers to combat fake news. But the task of fighting disinformation is so large that platforms where it proliferates still don’t know what to do about it.

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Meira Gebel
Meira Gebel is a freelance reporter based in Portland. She writes about tech, social media, and internet culture for Digital…
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