Thursday, January 19, 2017

"How a computer sees history after "reading" 35 million news stories"

So far, humans have relied on the written word to record what we know as history. When artificial intelligence researchers ran billions of those words from decades of news coverage through an automated analysis, however, even more patterns and insights were revealed.

A team from the University of Bristol ran 35 million articles from 100 local British newspapers spanning 150 years through both a simple content analysis and more sophisticated machine learning processes. By having machines "read" the nearly 30 billion words, the simple analysis allowed researchers to easily and accurately identify big events like wars and epidemics.

Similar systems have allowed computers to learn visually about art and even argue a topic.

Perhaps most interesting, the techniques also allowed the researchers to see the rise and fall of different trends during the study range from the years 1800 - 1950. For example, they could track the decline of steam and corresponding rise of electricity – the opposing trajectories crossed each other in 1898. Similarly, they saw when trains overtook horses in popularity in 1902.

By linking famous people to the news from their chosen profession, the team discovered that politicians and writers had the best chance of becoming well-known during their lifetimes. Scientists and mathematicians are less likely to achieve such fame, but those that do will likely see their notoriety last longer.

Not surprisingly, men are more present in the news of the day than women, but a slow increase in mentions of females can be seen after 1900. It would seem that progress continued to be slow even after the study period, as the researchers note that levels of gender bias in the news today aren't much different.

While the large dataset analysis can provide interesting additional insights into history, the researchers have no designs on artificial intelligence replacing historians anytime soon.

"What cannot be automated is the understanding of the implications of these findings for people," said Dr. Tom Lansdall-Welfare, who led the computational part of the study. "That will always be the realm of the humanities and social sciences, and never that of machines."

Via Reddit: Link


MamaM said...

I would like to see history made tomorrow and don't know where to watch it happen. Went to Fox tonight to find O'Rielley going on and on about what he wanted to say instead of attending to the real live event of Trump's arrival at union station. I ended up going to CNN who was playing Trump's enterance before FOX switched over. I would like to watch an event unfold rather than have bits and pieces handed to me after the fact with a panel of opinion makers.

Where's a good place to watch tomorrow's events happen???

Lem said...


chickelit said...

@MamaM: Live on YouTube

Starts in 8 hours

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Much of the history they made me read in school, apart from so-and-so did such-and-such on that date, baffles me.

Seems more like a form of incipient mythology; the personification of entire nations, civilizations and even ideologies the stuff of poetry.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

"The ring wants to be found" on stilts, using far too many words.

Some people actually enjoy reading books continually, is the thing.

ampersand said...

I wonder if the computer can detect a change in how the news shifted tone.
I remember the first Earth day in 1970 noticing the change in how progress was reported
Everything suddenly was gloom and doom. Pollution was everywhere, Industry bad, The SST cancelled.
Up through the sixties, despite those turbulent years, the country was pretty forward thinking, I was sometimes surprised how my elders enthusiastically embraced new technologies.
Now I can't blame boomers for how news reporting changed, they were still too young to affect anything. Was the shift in tone meant to cater to youths pessimistic attitudes or to guide them to a dimmer view of their country?