A recurring theme around here is the inevitable automation of every last financial industry job, until that inevitable point when Wall Street consists only of a server custodians, a handful of high-level programmers and a C-suite. Until that point, we're on the lookout for those jobs that seem least conducive to be taken over by robots anytime soon. A story this week about JPMorgan Chase's online ad strategy offered up a promising candidate: communications intern.
JPMorgan started looking into preapproving sites, a strategy known as whitelisting, this month after The New York Times showed it an ad for Chase’s private client services on a site called Hillary 4 Prison. It was under a headline claiming that the actor Elijah Wood had revealed “the horrifying truth about the Satanic liberal perverts who run Hollywood.”
That's kind of a bad look, so JPMorgan went about scanning the 12,000 sites where its algorithmically placed ads made any impression. As it turns out, that was the work of a single hardy intern:
It became an unnamed intern’s job to sift through 12,000 websites where JPMorgan’s ads were showing some activity. In a 30-day period, the intern had to click on each of those 12,000 websites to make sure the ads weren’t appearing on controversial sites that could lead to bad press: sites of so-called “fake news,” which were formerly known as propaganda sites. In total, the intern flagged about 7,000 ads.
There's an inevitable question when it comes to repetitive tasks accomplished on the web: why not have a bot do it? But fake news – used here to mean stories that are entirely fabricated to fool low-information partisans – is notoriously hard for robots to detect. See Facebook's abortive attempts at automating its “trending news” section, only to promote bullshit like “iPhone 8 will have Siri physically coming out of the phone and doing all the household chores: Tim Cook.”
So JPMorgan's PR team did what anyone does with a task too complex for an algorithm but too degrading for a full-time employee: they handed it to an intern. And she did what a robot could not.
There are still many simple, repetitive tasks we make humans do because we haven’t figured out how to automate them. This intern’s work was an example: Algorithms were set to distribute Chase’s advertisements across a variety of websites— but those algorithms are unable to discern real news websites from fakes news or propaganda sites. This is where humans are necessary: to make those judgments on quality that algorithms can’t.
So despair not, stock-pickers, securities lawyers, Ray Dalio, and anyone else about to be automated out of a job. The JPMorgan Chase & Co. Marketing & Communications internship still has some highly stimulating work for the enterprising and industrious souls.