Rise of the robowriters: How AI could crush the spreadsheet


While a novel can be a page-turner or a film can keep you on the edge of your seat, a spreadsheet rarely captures attention in the same way.

It takes a human to pluck interesting insights from the columns of figures and to turn raw data into an enlightening appraisal of how to boost a business’ bottom line – or at least it used to.

Hoping to apply artificial intelligence to the difficult job of writing analyst reports is Narrative Science, a US firm spun out of research at Northwestern University in Illinois.

Narrative Science made headlines in 2012 for automating journalism. Employed by media outlets such as Forbes, Narrative Science used its software to generate simple newspaper reports on sports and stock market movements – with the firm’s chief scientist making the slightly alarming prediction that “90 percent” of news would be written by computers within 15 years.

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