Can Robots Write Great Content?

Meet Darwin. A learning robot created by experts at Virginia Tech. He is not the newest to the technology scene, but is by far, the cutest.  Designed to learn simple tasks progressively, Darwin’s neural network of algorithms maps that of the human brain. It allows him to gather and analyze information through the experience of trial and error, and learn how to do simple tasks such as to stand-up, balance and then walk. He is only one of many bots that use similar learning algorithms to master more complex and in some cases strategic, tasks.


Google’s AlphaGo, for example, is currently challenging the world’s second best player in the centuries-old Chinese strategy game called Go with $1,000,000 at stake. In the first ever series of humans vs. robot Go matches, AlphaGo had already won the match 3:0, when the human Go master, Lee Sedol, decided not give up, Instead, he set a new goal for himself: attempt to win at least one game. Mr. Sedol studied his opponent’s previous 3 games, adapted to a less predictable gameplay, and beat AlphaGo in game four making it 3:1 – a small but important moral victory for mankind. While it took longer to develop a robot that could defeat the best human players in Go, this AI achievement comes as no surprise to the consensus of experts who believe mastery of all strategy games by pre-written algorithms is just a matter of time. (Final Score Update: AlphaGo 4, Lee Sedol 1)


Books written by science fiction author, Issac Asimov, such as ExMachina and iRobot, have been around since the 1950’s. That is twenty-seven years before the first Apple computer was invented! Characters like C3PO and the Terminator seem apt at capturing not only our imaginations but also our concerns. World domination fears aside, robots are finding their place in our industrial world and raising concerns amongst digital marketers relating to creative content development.

In 2015, the NY Times launched an interactive, online quiz that asked individuals to test their ability to recognize the difference between content written by a robot and content written by a human. The quiz provided a series of eight quotes, written in prose and poetry. The reader simply had to select ‘robot’ or ‘human’ based on who or what they thought had created the content. Now you are probably thinking exactly, what I did. “That’s easy. Of course, I know the difference between a robot and a real person.” However, you might find yourself shocked to discover that robots too, can write beautiful prose.

In 2008 Alexander Prokopovich created the algorithm which wrote the novel True Love. On closer examination of the story with its Kafka-esque style prose, it is not hard to see that although it is beautiful in its crafting, its clearly not ‘literature.’ Metaphors such as, “Her nerves were strained as two tight strings,” are passive in tone, and don’t quite have the right visual impact. However, for something a little less colorful, and perhaps more factual, robots who write may very well have their place.

An online, interactive map, also created by NY Times, alludes to this. It uses basic, factual information to populate content specific to the reader’s location. The article, read approximately 816,000 times and shared more than 1,400 times, uses big data to compare potential places to grow up by providing detail about demographic, mean income along with other relevant statistics and several paragraphs that talked about the areas historically. It is an interesting approach to tailored content, which could give traditional news journalists a serious run for their money. But what about content marketing?

At the heart of content marketing is emotion. Emotional connections created between brands and their readers through authentic ‘human’ experiences. Yes, Big Data means that we can better understand consumer behaviors and tailor our approaches based on new learnings. Yes, computers will and do have the capacity to recognize and utilize the trends and structures evident in that data to understand what structures and storylines we find most appealing. However, the ability to infuse content with experience and authentic emotion is a capacity that, to date, neither robots nor machines have the ability to imitate. Ask this furry, little guy, he understands:


Despite current advancements in artificial intelligence and robotics, I am not convinced that a robot would ever truly be able to produce the type of content that actually resonates. It is possible that I am in complete denial, being a craft-conscious content marketer myself, but when I see robots like Atlas who are devoid of emotion it only serves to convince me further. If someone tried shoving me like that, you had better believe he or she would not be doing it again. Sure, if you are looking for a ‘fact’ machine, then perhaps a robot may be the answer, but if you are looking to build relationships and connect with people on a deeper level, then there’s nothing as good as another human being. Except maybe for a cat or a dog.

So who or what do you think wrote this article? Don’t assume there is an organic human intellect behind the words you just read. Make your choice in the comments and include anything that might have tipped you off. We will provide the results in a follow-up post.

Was this article written by a….

A. Robot?

B. Human?