[OSM-talk] Facebook mapping highways using AI in collaboration with OpenStreetMap

stevea steveaOSM at softworkers.com
Wed Jul 24 21:29:42 UTC 2019

An article such as that proposed by John would almost be a master's thesis if done correctly and would likely put the typical BBC reader to sleep.  Such an article would suffer from the constraints of concision typical in mainstream Western media, which means simply the topics would not receive the depth they deserve.  Such an article would need to address the history of OSM, the history of AI in OSM and its failures and successes (some of both, plenty of the former) and any attempt to "take the temperature" of "we in OSM" who feel one way or another about AI as a process for data entry would be almost horrifically complex in its vast spectrum of opinions.  This is not something, I suspect, editors at the BBC would find makes for interesting reading.  Unfortunately, what appears to be a sensationalistic, poorly researched, short, punchy story that sounds like "Facebook to the rescue of mapping in developing countries with AI!" is something an editor will (and did, apparently) green light.

I do agree that the article seems quite glib in its treatment of the topic:  though to me it makes it sound like Facebook has magic bullets that can and will solve the challenges of the hard work of mapping, when we (humans in OSM) who do map know better (while AI is powerful and can help solve certain problems, it most certainly isn't a magic bullet).  I'd call the article an unfortunate example in the typical concision found in major news outlets which sensationalizes what is a relatively minor improvement by a company (Facebook) whose mere mention in an article is almost guaranteed to generate readership / eyeballs.  It is sad to see this obvious seduction and that many fall for it, but fortunately, a wise person once reminded us "you can't fool all of the people all of the time."


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