Algorithms have long been able to produce basic news stories from press releases or sets of financial data; that’s not much of a threat to most humans in the news business. Now, however, artificial intelligence (AI) has taken a step further. It’s learned to perform a tougher task — to produce convincing-looking fake news. Stringing together a few formulaic passages from a set of numbers is a mechanical job. Inventing a fake news story on a random subject requires imagination; not every human is up to it. The San Francisco-based non-profit OpenAI, founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Y Combinator president Sam Altman, has produced a so-called language model that can do it. The quality of the output is somewhat uneven, but the best examples resemble human writing to a frightening degree. On the surface, GPT-2, as the model is called, works somewhat like a popular game one can play with the less advanced version of AI on any smartphone, accepting its word suggestions one after another to...

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