Dutch media are writing about artificial intelligence with an increasingly realistic view, according to research by Utrecht-based media lab SETUP and Jessy de Cooker. In the study ‘The Robot and the Journalist,‘ De Cooker analyzed articles written by five newspapers about AI.

‘Metal losers

One conclusion was that the metaphors used in the last century regarding AI were often utopian or dystopian. In 1971, Shaky, one of the first robots, was described as “a metal loser.” In contrast, in the 1980s, AI was correctly described as “incredible tool” and “digital dictator.” In this century, stilted metaphors like these were less common.

Demystifying AI

The report published last year by the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) on the state of AI in the Netherlands prompted the research. WRR stated that media and journalism are important for the way people look at AI. Advice from the report was therefore to “demystify” the technology, to tone down extreme images that have been created around artificial intelligence.

“Metaphors are effective in popularizing complex topics such as science and technology,” De Cooker and SETUP said in their research. “On the other hand, the use of metaphors also comes with drawbacks: they are limiting in focus and offer only one perspective on a topic at a time.”

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