Ed Driscoll

Top Secret New York Times Copywriting Software Finally Revealed

Meet the NYTBEWU-3000, the New York Times Boilerplate Editorial-Writing Unit 3000. Finally, someone has cracked the code of how the New York Times generates its copy — or at least satirically invented the best explanation yet:

The Comics Curmudgeon occasionally refers to the Archie strip as being written by the “Archie Joke-Generating Laugh Unit 3000” (aka the AJGLU-3000). The point being that only a machine completely divorced from human experience could generate a comic strip so devoid of actual humorous content.

Somewhat less well known is the box invented by the same folks, the NYTBEWU-3000: the New York Times Boilerplate Editorial-Writing Unit 3000. And what better time to deploy it than on Christmas weekend, when all the hu-mans have better things to do than to try to come up with a Fresh Take on a Pressing Problem.

And so we have “The Looming Crisis in the States“, which is pretty clear about rattling off the problem:

Starved for revenue and accustomed to decades of overspending, many states have been overwhelmed. They are facing shortfalls of $140 billion next year. Even before the downturn, states jeopardized their futures by accumulating trillions in debt that they swept into some far-off future.

Just as Isaac Asimov’s fictional robots had their immutable Three Laws of Robotics, so does the NYTBEWU-3000 have its own overriding directives. And one is: “The NYTBEWU-3000 shall never simply advocate spending restraint by government.” This rule applies even if the Unit has just described serious problems due to irresponsible overspending. This is one of the ways you can detect the artificiality of the intelligence involved. Any human would recognize the disconnect here, and at least attempt to cover it up, but the NYTBEWU-3000 just barrels along:

But if states act quickly to deal with their revenue losses and address their debt — and receive sufficient aid from Washington — there is still time to avoid a crisis.

Note how the NYTBEWU-3000 is programmed to (clumsily) turn an overspending problem into a “revenue loss” problem.

Perhaps Paul Krugman is using an earlier iteration of the NYTBEWU-3000 to submit his columns via pneumatic tube — maybe going as far back as the 1.0 version of the NYTBEWU-3000 that ran on the ENIAC. That might explain the endless boilerplate references to restarting Depression-era programs (ranging from the WPA all the way to a little number we like to call World War II) that Krugman has been proffering over the last two years.

(H/T: TAS)