When we think about writing books, especially the technical kind, we think about a person or small group of people hunched over their keyboards typing away. There’s a good reason for that mental image: that’s how the majority of books are written. That’s not the way it has to be, though. Philip M. Parker, a marketing professor at INSEAD, has a patented system for algorithmically compiling data into book form. Thanks to Parker’s system, Amazon now has over 800,000 books for sale from his company. Other organizations pay for this service to compile data for their reports, so the system clearly has flexibility.
In a fascinating piece covering the news the sheer power of this system was revealed. Countless topics can be listed on sites like Amazon — everything you’d ever want to know. The funny part is that the books don’t even have to be written yet. Thanks to digital distribution and print-on-demand solutions, a whole new book can be generated on an incredibly obscure topic as soon as someone buys it. The system will be able to compile an entire book on the subject in the range of ten minutes to a few hours. It’s that simple.
This video below features Parker himself explaining how the process works, and why it’s useful. Because of his specialty in marketing, it’s easy to assume that these books are designed for spam-like purposes, but it does also have benefits to traditional writing outside of the amazing speed. Specifically, he points out that in the case of very rare diseases, it’s unlikely that any books would be written in the first place. Especially when you’re looking at statistics and data, having a computer compile and find potentially significant data is very useful. While the books won’t be particularly creative, they absolutely do have a place.
The technology isn’t just for books. Videos and games can be generated as well. When you’re focusing on areas like developing and distributing content all over the world in dozens of languages, traditional manpower isn’t exactly efficient. Humans just don’t have the ability to translate content to that many languages in a time and cost effective manner. Computers can knock that out during a long lunch. Using this system, it is possible to spread information to places that used to be impossible to reach. Computers won’t be replacing humans for writing the great American novel or entertaining the masses on TV, but it is obvious that computers will be an increasing fixture in the analysis and translation of content. This is a perfect complement to human creativity — not something for creatives, researchers, or consumers to fear.
[Image credit: Willi Heidelbach]