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"TLDR This!" Can Automatically Summarize an Article or Blog Post

Bots capable of scanning and summarizing a written work are still a relatively inaccessible field of AI research. At least, I don’t know of any free user-friendly tool that can pull it off, and the one tool I just found just isn’t very good.

A reader just pointed me to a new tool called TLDR This! (Thanks, Tim!). This free tool will scan an article and attempt to automatically pull out the main points. It was a fun thing to play with on a Sunday afternoon, but does not work very well.

I tried this tool with a couple of the articles I gathered for tomorrow’s Morning Coffee post. The first was an article on why AI should not be allowed to write for us. The key points were summed up as:

  • Machines are getting better at writing.
  • The mainstreaming of AI business writing began with Google Smart Reply four years ago.
  • Last year Google added Smart Compose, which finishes the sentences you start.
  • They’re dull because Google makes sure the replies are generic and designed to not annoy or offend anyone (for example, Google’s AI never uses gendered pronouns like “he” or “she”), and also because millions of other Gmail users are using the exact same wording for their replies.
  • Lightkey makes a Windows application that works like Google’s Smart Compose.

I then fed it an article about a reading app that deletes what you write of you leave it sitting for more than 5 minutes. The summary didn’t even come close:

  • And if you’ve reached the point in your process where you need to resort to threats to do it, well, there’s an app for that.
  • Based on the first three I tried (“She’d got him wrong, but that was her loss,” “He had an hour to get home, or else,” and “He waited until her husband was out of the room, then…”) it seems like the app is prompting you to write sexy, sexy, noir—nice.

The inefficacy should not come as a surprise; this tool tries to do in under a second what would take a human a half an hour or more.

I would expect that a bot which could actually summarize an article – and do a good job – would take at least several minutes and require enough processing power such that the developer may not want to foot the bill for a free public tool.

Or at least, that’s where the tech is today; ten years from now you will have a similar bot running locally on your smartphone.

But that’s for tomorrow; have you tried TLDR This!? What did you think?

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[…] today I published a post on a bot that could summarize any article you gave it. That bot did not do a good job, but it did remind me of a similar writing […]

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