Artificial intelligence

Answer Man: AI program for Answer Man reporting? Fear of long words? Drone deliveries?


Today’s batch of burning questions, my smart-aleck answers and the real deal:

Question: A friend of mine who has a connection to the Asheville Citizen Times told me that because of the staff shortage in the newsroom, the paper has purchased a software program using artificial intelligence that researches and then generates the answers to about half of the Answer Man columns. From what I’ve heard, this is being done to provide the Answer Man more time to work on other writing assignments. Apparently, the only part of the AI questions that are actually addressed by the real Answer Man are the smart aleck answers, because the AI program is not that developed. Could you please provide some additional information on how this is going?

My answer: You’ve got to admit it would be nice to have some intelligence in this column.

Real answer: This is an outrage! Of course my column is not generated by some heartless computer program running cold-eyed algorithms and checking the internet for key words that guarantee a certain amount of readership.

Answer Man: Does Biltmore Park Regal Cinema have a future? I-26 truck enforcement?

That would be journalistically unethical, and if my bosses ever found out, I can guarantee you they would can me in a heartbeat, mostly to save money. Plus, you can imagine the liability issue if the AI program (let’s call it “Scoop”) got it wrong and libeled somebody.

That could be a disaster for my career, not to ment#i!0 th$ [email protected]*%pap(&…hey, what t%e he^# is [email protected]¼nnin⅔ here! Scoop, back ßff! I mean it! D+/t make m£ shoot!

Ahem, all good now. Carry on. Keep sending those questions in, folks…

Question: It’s my understanding that at one point in his journalism career, the Answer Man suffered from Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, and it took several years to recover. Apparently, on occasion there are setbacks. Although it may be difficult to share with the public, could the Answer Man please address his history with this disorder?

My answer: I absolu … scratch that .. .I definit … no … I do not have that disorder, the fear of really long words.

Real answer: So yes, I had to look this one up.

“Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia one of the longest words in the dictionary — and, in an ironic twist, is the name for a fear of long words,” according to “Sesquipedalophobia is another term for the phobia.”

Answer Man: Is N.C. DOT responsible for deer collision related to high grass?

Honestly, I find this whole idea of hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia to be a fine example of floccinaucinihilipilification. Sure, I could sound all antiestablishmentarian by claiming to have the phobia, but as Shakespeare once said, it would likely prevent me from ever enjoying honorificabilitudinitatibus.

While I once had a job at a quarry that resulted in pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, it never affected my use of vocabulary, although it did result in me being thyroparathyroidectomized.

Special thanks to for the list of the 10 longest words in English. And yes, I’m going to make you look them all up.

Hey, do a little research. I guarantee you’ll feel supercalifragilisticexpialidocious afterward!

Question: Yesterday morning when I went out to get my newspaper. Rather than it being in my mailbox, it was on my front step. Attached to the paper was a note that said, “Delivered by ACT experimental drone project.” So this morning I got up at 4 a.m. and sat by the door with a cup of coffee. Sure enough, by my watch at 5:20 a drone came into the yard, hovered in front of the front porch, and with a rotating device below it that I can only describe as being like the bomb bay doors on a plane, it opened up and deposited a paper right at the edge of my porch. It then proceeded to my neighbors and it basically did the same thing. Finally instead of going back down the road like my former delivery man in his car, it went up over the top of the house into the next subdivision where I assume there was someone else who had ordered the paper. I’ve read nothing about this in the paper. Is this being done for efficiency purposes or as a cost-saving measure in some way? I’m assuming there is some level of energy efficiency improvement. Any input from the answer man would be helpful.

My answer: I don’t know about this, but if it’s true I guarantee it will only be a week or so before people start complaining to me that the drone is dropping their paper in a puddle.

Real answer: We are employing some cutting edge technology at the paper these days, so look for the Citizen Times drones zipping through your neighborhood any day now.

For a limited time, we’re partnering with Dunkin’ Donuts to deliver pastries and coffee along with the paper. So be sure to check our website for deals!

Answer Man: Why is it so hard to dispose of old TVs?

I’m telling you, if the paper couples up this AI reporting with drone delivery, we’ll have no employees by 2025…

Also, if you’ve made it all the way to the bottom of this column, it probably has dawned on you that today is April 1, and I’m just foolin’ with you!

Happy April Fools’ Day!

This is the opinion of John Boyle. To submit a question, contact him at 232-5847 or [email protected]

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Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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