Technology and the decline of copy editing

On The Media had a good interview this weekend with John McIntyre, a former newspaper copy editor, and one of many who have lost their jobs recently due to budget cuts. He talks about the increase in errors and reader complaints at newspapers as a result of the layoffs.

One reason they're are among the first to go is that their work is less visible than that of, say, reporters. Another reason is that, on the Internet, readers just "don't expect things to be accurate or very well done and therefore they are used to tolerating a much higher level of shoddy work and a much greater volume of errors, and therefore you can sacrifice quality on the web and it doesn't mean that much." McIntyre points out that the work of copy editors is much more than just fixing typos, though, and has caught cases of plagiarism, falsification, and libel.

Link: Newspaper Leighoffs (On The Media)

A related article by the ombudsman at the Washington Post: Declining Editing Staff Leads to Rise in Errors.

John McIntyre's new blog: You Don't Say.

Another from James Richardson

"That gentle, harmless drug that would make me permanently happier? I would refuse it. After all, I can't tell myself from my limits. It would be like dying for a great cause: nothing of me would be left to know what I'd done. And I am no hero."

– from Vectors: Aphorisms & Ten-Second Essays.

I highly recommend Richardson for anyone who likes aphorisms and prose poems. The subject matter varies widely — it just happened that a couple seemed relevant to this blog.

Scientists debate dangers of AI

From the New York Times:

Impressed and alarmed by advances in artificial intelligence, a group of computer scientists is debating whether there should be limits on research that might lead to loss of human control over computer-based systems that carry a growing share of society’s workload, from waging war to chatting with customers on the phone.

Their concern is that further advances could create profound social disruptions and even have dangerous consequences.

As
examples, the scientists pointed to a number of technologies as diverse
as experimental medical systems that interact with patients to simulate
empathy, and computer worms and viruses that defy extermination and
could thus be said to have reached a “cockroach” stage of machine
intelligence.

While the computer scientists agreed that we are a
long way from Hal, the computer that took over the spaceship in “2001:
A Space Odyssey,” they said there was legitimate concern that
technological progress would transform the work force by destroying a
widening range of jobs, as well as force humans to learn to live with
machines that increasingly copy human behaviors.

The researchers
— leading computer scientists, artificial intelligence researchers and
roboticists who met at the Asilomar Conference Grounds on Monterey Bay
in California — generally discounted the possibility of highly
centralized superintelligences and the idea that intelligence might
spring spontaneously from the Internet. But they agreed that robots
that can kill autonomously are either already here or will be soon.

[…]

A report from the conference, which took place in private on Feb. 25, is to be issued later this year. Some attendees discussed the meeting for the first time with other scientists this month and in interviews.

Link: Scientists Worry Machines May Outsmart Man

Despite Warnings, Drivers Talk and Text (NYT)

The New York Times has an excellent article today about driving while talking or texting on a cell phone and how difficult it has been to legislate against it, even with overwhelming evidence of the dangers: Drivers Dismiss Risks of Multitasking on the Road.

They also have a little video game that lets you test your ability to control a car while texting. Good call by the NYT to make a game, given how few people will read a 5000-word newspaper article these days.