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A Simple Miscommunication

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

When reading You Are Not A Gadget by Jaron Lanier, a passage that really caught my attention was Lanier’s discussion of Microsoft Word’s auto-correction feature. Though meant for helpfulness and efficiency, it can often work against it’s intended purpose. This auto-correction that computer’s often commit actually fuels one of my greatest internet distractions – damnyouautocorrect.com. This website displays often hilarious situations and texts created by the iPhone’s auto-correct feature. It’s a site, for once, created not for the purpose of mocking other human beings or other’s mistakes and adventures, but rather to mock the mistakes that a computer made. The site points out the social features and true prediction that a computer such as the iPhone lacks. Each post, while often funny, makes a larger statement that if the computer had only thought like we humans thought, it wouldn’t have made such a blatent error. It often gives us pride in the fact that we are smarter than this technology, that we wouldn’t put the obscene and competely wrong words that the computer chose.

While I was researching for this blog post I came across a very interesting news story (http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-20031874-71.html?tag=topTechContentWrap;mostRead). The news story describes a murder that took place in the U.K. over a text message. What was suprising about the text message was that it had been auto-corrected to a very insulting word causing the man to show up at his “friend”‘s house with a kitchen knife. The real interesting aspect of this story is that a murder was practically caused by an application, a software made to improve our lives. A mistake that software that we often rely on purely for efficiency or enjoyment, such as with damnyouautocorrect.com, made affected two people’s lives, one irrevocably ending in his death. It begs the idea that if had been another form of communication, such as verbal, the mistake wouldn’t have happened. To me, this story greatly demonstrates technology’s often unrealized affect of the real world, of “meat space”, in incredible ways, how technology created for one purpose can have drastic implications in other realms. A technology as simple as auto-correct  can create pride in our human intelligence, but also have drastic influence on our lives through simple miscommunications.

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