Business English Practice

Do you think it is possible to write a book in 20 minutes or less? In the following article, technological writer David J. Hill says that Philip M. Parker, a marketing professor, has written a library of books in the amount of time it takes you to walk to the corner store and back. After the video, scroll below the transcript to attempt our comprehension questions.

“[Parker has] created a computer system that can write books about specific subjects in about 20 minutes. The patented algorithm has so far generated hundreds of thousands of books. In fact, Amazon lists over 100,000 books attributed to Parker, and over 700,000 works listed for his company, ICON Group International, Inc. This doesn’t include the private works, such as internal reports, created for companies or licensing of the system itself through a separate entity called EdgeMaven Media.

Parker is not so much an author as a compiler, but the end result is the same: boatloads of written works.

Now these books aren’t your typical reading material. Common categories include specialized technical and business reports, language dictionaries bearing the “Webster’s” moniker (which is in the public domain), rare disease overviews, and even crossword puzzle books for learning foreign languages, but they all have the same thing in common: they are automatically generated by software. . .

The success (and brilliance) of this system is that Parker designed the algorithms to mimic the thought process that an expert would necessarily go through in writing about a topic. It merely involves deconstructing content within a genre. He has some experience in this, as he has written at least three books the old fashioned way. It’s the recognition of how algorithmic content creation is (for the most part) that allows it to be coded as artificial intelligence.

A sampling of the list of books attributed to Parker is instructive:
– Webster’s Slovak – English Thesaurus Dictionary for $28.95
– The 2007-2012 World Outlook for Wood Toilet Seats for $795
– The World Market for Rubber Sheath Contraceptives (Condoms): A 2007 Global Trade Perspective for $325 . . .

Considering that a single book costs somewhere between $0.20 to $0.50 to produce (the cost of electricity and hardware), the prices shown are considerably profit [sic] , even if very few of them are sold.”

Check your understanding

A. What do these words mean? Match the work with its definition.

1. algorithm
2. attribute
3. license
4. moniker
5. generate
6. brilliance
7. instructive
8. hardware

a. name
b. excellence
c. informative
d. formula
e. authorization
f.  physical equipment
g. credit
h. produce

B. Which of the following statements are true according to the article?
1. Parker is an expert in many areas including foreign language and business writing.
2. Parker has written numerous books using his own technological formula.
3. Although Parker has compiled a huge number of books, he has not made that many sales.
4. All of Parker’s books sell at very high prices.

1. d, 2. g, 3. e., 4. a., 5. h, 6. b., 7. c, 8. f.
True: 2, 3

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