Natural Language Processing (NLP) is the technology that is going to have a truly fundamental impact on all our lives in 2023 – and well beyond. This is the AI technology that enables systems to predictively produce credible answers for the next word in a sequence, based on training in huge datasets, as big as all the English-language material on the internet. This means that in a sentence, they can guess what is most likely to come next, and over hundreds of words can then form credible arguments, and even appear (even if they are actually not) to actually be ‘sentient’, like a human being.
NLP systems can therefore write text at scale, and in any style on which they are trained. This is leading to the creation of so-called ’synthetic content’ at such a level that analytical firms are now dividing the world’s content into two bodies of material; content created before 2020 by humans, and content created since then, which may be machine-derived. That is a profound watershed in human history.
The implementations of NLP are so numerous that it’s almost impossible to list them. But since here at the National Film and Television School we are focused on entertainment and the media, let me identify some of the key ones in that field:
- In journalism, systems will create articles at scale based on any hard statistical information – from stock market numbers for financial readers to individualised match reports for players of sports video games. Both of those are already happening.
- In content marketing, NLP is being used by Broadway theatres to write articles on every conceivable subject that people might search for around a trip to New York, so that whatever you type into Google, up comes an article winning natural search which directly answers the question. Because NLP can create text at scale, there are thousands of such articles.
- In content creation, NLP can be a valuable tool in improvising new writing, even from dead authors – like in an experimentI ran where we ‘created’ excerpts from Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde plays about AI-driven content creation, which of course they never wrote, but which had distinctive elements of their style.
- In public relations, NLP is deployed by companies like Signal.AI to read the world’s content in real time – everything from thousands of news sources to the whole of the social media firehouse – to extract sentiment and analyse it, and even predict the future course of the discussion. (The same approach is being used in intelligence by companies like Primer.Ai to analyse vast amounts of battlefield data, translate it, and extra useable learnings in the Ukraine war, as reported by WIRED.)
- In everyday life, NLP runs Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant, and through ever more sophisticated and powerful systems, these smart assistants are becoming more versatile and mastering everyday vernacular. Soon they will probably take over search, so that the results you get are not just links but actual smart summaries of all the available material.
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NLP is just one of the AI technologies which will come to dominate the 2020s – and one of the most visible.
By Alex Connock
Alex Connock leads the National Film and Television School’s Creative Business MA.
Applications for January 2023 are open now. For more info: nfts.co.uk/creative-business
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