A.I.rony Strikes a Travel Article / by Rob Smith

Image result for cruise ship in venice canal

My wife, Paula Hardy, is a travel writer, and she recently penned an excellent piece for The Guardian, as a part of the "Europe Gets it Right" series, on the problems of overtourism in European cities, and how in Venice, one of the cities most afflicted, grassroots activists and local people are positively addressing the challenges involved.

Since few people pay for newspapers made of real paper anymore, good journalism has to support itself in ways other than print advertising and subscription fees. While many have opted for paywalls, The Guardian uses a unique combination of reader support, inventive strategies, and online ads to fund its good work.

Just like everyone else online, the ads served up with Guardian stories are selected by algorithms. And as I discuss in my upcoming book, those algorithms "read" the text, but they in no real sense of the word understand the text. So it's unsurprising that since Paula wrote the following words:

"In 2016 in Dubrovnik, residents were outraged when the mayor asked them to stay home to avoid the dangerous levels of crowds disembarking from multiple cruise ships. The new mayor, Mato Frankovic, has since capped the number of cruise ships that can dock in the city at two per day, cut souvenir stalls by 80% and cut restaurant seating in public spaces by 30%. But similar issues of overcrowding in Palma de Mallorca, San Sebastián, Prague and Salzburg have brought locals out into the streets in increasingly impassioned protests.

One of the most dramatic was Venice’s 2016 No Grandi Navi (“No Big Ships”) protest, when locals took to the Giudecca Canal in small fishing boats to block the passage of six colossal cruise ships. And, although plans have been announced this year to reroute the largest ships to a new dock in Marghera (still to be built), campaigners still argue for a dock outside the lagoon at the Lido, where heavy cargo ships historically unloaded."

An algorithm decided it was good to embed this advertising in the article:


You couldn't make this stuff up.