Saturday, January 26, 2008

The news computer

The news is getting so predictable nowadays that soon, reporters will be forced to manufacture news that wasn't created. Certain celebrities always create the same kind of news, don't they? Prakash Karat is always saying something bad about the UPA government. Angelina Jolie is always in the news for adopting a child. Bill Gates is always issuing friendly warnings about the open source community. Dr. Kalam is always saying 'Vision 2020.' Manmohan Singh is always saying something that cannot be heard.

So I'm hypothesising that it should be possible to create a computer that predicts, based on past samples of the kind of news created by famous newsmakers, what they will be in the news for next. And I'm guessing it will be right 90% of the time. We rarely, if ever, hear of Sachin Tendulkar in the news for anything other than scoring a masterful century or being woefully out of form. So the headline the computer will predict will be something like "Sachin strikes again!", which can either be right or deeply sarcastic. And based on the odds, it will be right most of the time. Even when it is wrong, the news doesn't hurt us any more than most of the 'right' news reporting does now.

Where the computer can fail is as it gets to less high-profile celebrities. For example, we never know what Dr. Timmappa Hegde, chief neurosurgeon at NIMHANS, will do next. The computer will guess that most people would not want to actually read about him and skip his story, while he may probably be doing the most important thing in the human universe:- second guessing the human brain. The computer will breakdown completely as it gets closer and closer to absolute non-entities like us(atleast me). It can never guess that I will invest all money in mutual funds tomorrow, lose it and be wiped out by the day after. It can also not predict that I will end up with the most fabulous woman in the world(hey, I could. You never know.). At long last, I will have beaten a computer.

Exercise:- think of test cases for this computer.

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