A book curated and written by an algorithm – the future of academic publishing?

Springer Nature have recently revealed a book created entirely by a computer. The book, created by an algorithm called Beta Writer, is a cross-corpus auto-summarisation of publications from Springer Nature’s content platform, SpringerLink, and contains automatically created introductions, table of contents and succinct summaries of the articles, with hyperlinks leading to the original research papers.

The book, entitled Lithium-Ion Batteries: A Machine-Generated Summary of Current Research and bearing the author name Beta Writer, summarises more than 150 articles of the latest research in the area and runs to 278 pages. A short introduction by Henning Schoenenberger, Director of Product Data & Metadata Management at Springer Nature, notes the less-successful predecessors of this book, notably the automatically generated works of fiction – ‘with quite diverse and fascinating results’ – and explains both what the book is and how it came about.

Now that a successful result has been achieved, the potential for the academic and research communities of such a tool is obvious, from top-tier researchers all the way down to the level of undergraduate students: a computer doing all the research from a specified database of entirely relevant content, compiling it for you and providing direct links to the original material. It’s like a very sophisticated, peer reviewed and, above all, corroborated Wikipedia.

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