Fears were expressed today for the employment prospects of the nation’s newspaper columnists, following the revelation that software has been developed that can do their jobs for them.
Originally dubbed the Toynbot, as it was intended to cover for Polly Toynbee at the Guardian during her summer sojourns in Tuscany, it was later discovered that by tweaking a few variables, the software could mimic other columnists just as accurately, producing displays of ignorance, prejudice and single-issue fixation that even their sub-editors couldn’t distinguish from the real thing.
Linked to live feeds from Reuters and Associated Press, the software kicks in when it detects an issue the columnist in question is interested in, instantly producing 500 words saying that whatever has happened is yet more proof of the Islamicisation of Britain, the privatisation of the NHS, political correctness gone mad, the misogyny of modern society, BBC bias (either way), rampant public sector waste, the super-rich getting away with murder, unwarranted interference from Brussels, or whichever party the columnist dislikes giving itself an unfair advantage at the polls. A special “Daily Mail” setting adds a comment about whether it may be a cure for cancer and/or how house prices are likely be affected.
Industry insiders hailed the remarkable achievement of the programmers, with many openly wondering how they had overcome computers’ usual tendency to be logical and consistent.
However, newspaper columnists were so appalled by the threat to their future employment that they co-signed a letter to the Times protesting about the software. Unfortunately, due to a clerical error the letter was itself fed into the software, and the system produced a series of articles in which each simulated columnist attacked their real-life equivalent as an “outmoded dinosaur too self-absorbed to notice the approaching comet” before ordering an intern to fetch it a cappuccino.