Monday 10th December 2018

Alibaba claims its new copywriting tool can produce 20,000 words per second

Alibaba claims the new tool has "learned" from quality content published across its network of properties. The tool allows copywriters to select from a list of automatically generated content options and to adjust the "tone" of the output.
Jason Smith
by on 4th July 2018

The digital marketing arm of Alibaba, Alimama, claims it has developed a copywriting tool that can produce 20,000 words of content per second.

According to an announcement posted on Alizila, the tool leverages natural language processing to learn from millions of content examples published across Alibaba’s network of web properties.

The group also claims the tool has passed the Turing test, which tests for a machine’s ability to behave in a manner indistinguishable from that of a human being.

Rather than replacing copywriters, the group claims the new tool has been developed to supplement their activities and simplify some of the more monotonous tasks inherent in producing online content at scale.

Learning from a huge base of copy published across Tmall and Taobao, Alibaba claims the tool allows copywriters to insert a link to a product page, click a “produce smart copy” button and then select from multiple copy ideas.

It also states copywriters can select options that will modify the tone of the output e.g. they can determine whether they’re looking for “promotional, functional, fun, poetic or heartwarming” content.

Alibaba hasn’t provided any further information on how the Turing test was conducted. Moreover, it’s unclear the extent to which human intervention is required to edit the produced copy.

In its announcement the group has also confirmed a number of e-commerce retailers, including Esprit and Dickies, are currently utilizing the tool.

As is common in tech circles in the modern day, the group also relies heavily on the term “artificial intelligence” to describe the tool’s functionality.

However, it’s unclear why the tool has been assigned said label when it’s seemingly incapable of operating in contexts other than those a human programmer has specified it should operate in.

Contrary to the claims and marketing of large tech platforms, Dr. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist, recently characterized modern “artificial intelligence” to be as smart as a “lobotomized, mentally challenged cockroach.”

Alibaba also claims the tool is currently used more than one million times per day by both merchants and marketers from across its network of web properties.

Commenting on the tool, Alimama stated:

“For merchants, from today onwards, AI can take care of a portion of their copywriting needs. And it significantly changes the way [copywriters] work: They will shift from thinking up copy—one line at a time—to choosing the best out of many machine-generated options, largely improving efficiency.”

Christina Lu, general manager of Alimama marketing, also stated, “human creativity is the cornerstone for the machine, which isn’t able to replace the creativity of people.”

Automated content creation isn’t a new concept, however the fact other brands are finding uses for the technology bodes well for its future adoption.

However, like many technological solutions developed in recent years, the potential ramifications from automating the production of legible content are unclear.

While spammers have relied for years on producing content via what’s referred to as “article spinning” software, the ham-fisted results are typically discernible to a human reader, if not a computer.

The concerns about the automated production of communications are likely to mirror those posited by many about automated virtual assistants like Google Duplex, which was recently demonstrated at Google’s I/O conference engaging in a human quality conversation with a customer service operative.