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I turned off auto-correction on my iPhone and learned a terrible lesson



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I knew I would.

Jason Cipriani / ZDNet

Of course, I blame Microsoft.

Recently, despite my risky credibility against Hotmail, Microsoft’s AI has been desperately trying to complete my sentences for me.

This has gone beyond trying to predict only words. It is my belief that whole phrases and sentences can be predicted and Microsoft can only help me with that. Or maybe in the opinion that Microsoft knows what to write, so why can’t I just get out of the way? Although too often AI is completely wrong.

Which made me think about how often I, and everyone else I know, texts “damned auto-correction” at least once a week. Actually, they don’t text “damned.” They text “ducking.”

Yes, it was my iPhone that started all this, because it was helplessly helpful.

The adventure begins.

I decided I had enough.

How many times have I written that I screamed and my iPhone insisted that I stream? Or was it the opposite? There are also sentences that my iPhone thinks are perfectly normal. Such as “I can get into where.” It is about as reliable when you finish your sentences or know what you want to say as a first date.

It’s not just my iPhone’s self-righteousness. It is the fact that when it chooses to make corrections it does so quickly that you do not notice that it has happened.

And that’s when you stop sending the auto-correction texts for ducking.

We will return to the basics in our desperate times. So I thought why not go back to the basics of spelling? Why not be personally responsible for the texts I send, rather than entrusting my spelling to a machine that thinks it knows what I mean – and often does not?

How beautiful would it be to write “sorry, my bad spelling” as opposed to “ducking autocorrect”?

This would be the essence of American freedom of expression. Was not it supposed to? This would embrace my real self, as opposed to my sad, robot-assisted attempt at (some sort of) perfection.

In any case, I can spell. More or less. The main problem is that the writing makes terrible mistakes. For example, I can never write “Craigslist” and get both s’s there.

Still, I went to Settings, then General, then Keyboard and was damned auto-correct. This will be a huge struggle against the robot culture. At least that’s what I was hoping for.

It’s easy to spell. Writing is difficult.

I texted my wife to tell her the good news: “I’m training to write to use auto-correction.”

I stared at what I had done. Am I so bad? Has the need for speed in writing transformed me into an emitter of semi-hieroglyphs?

I followed up with another text: “I’m determined to show that I don’t need it and it just makes you lazy.”

This would take concentration. I have to make a real effort to ensure the type of accuracy. Somehow it is much easier on a laptop. The keys are bigger. The screen is bigger. Errors are easier to detect.

On my iPhone, however, it is easy to type “ohone” when I mean “phone”. Here’s how I started a text with “Im not usving it” when I meant “I’m not having it.”

For maybe the first time ever, I actually had sympathy with software designers. They have actually thought of people. They know you write fast. They understand the need for your communication to be understandable. They understand that even if it is not, you can whip out a few emojis to make your points extra clear.

Still, I continued. With less success than I hoped.

Here was: “What do you want for dinner?” And: “This work is driving me crazy.” Yes, I wanted to correct all this, but it took longer than I thought.

I realized the designer’s shtick. They know the keyboard is too small. They had no real alternative to make it bigger. So they had to create something for you to see – and feel – something less of an idiot for buying a very smart iPhone.

I still wouldn’t let go. I would focus harder. So what if I wrote a little slower? How many seconds in my life would I lose? And how much joy would I get?

I began to see originality in “should” be spelled “shoukd.” I began to wonder if I created a new, somewhat Nordic form of English. I even sent: “Trujp just asked me to be his new advisor for the future.” I became closer to perfection.

My wife tried to encourage: “I understood everything and they are pretty funny.”

The disaster is in the apostle.

When you do an experiment like this, you learn things about yourself. It might not be good stuff.

I could live – at least for a short time – with the bizarre spelling mistakes. They were real person types (unplugged). It was gratifying that people started to find everything (a little) fun.

I got better by concentrating harder. And not once did I send: “I no longer give.”

Still, I still find it difficult to handle one aspect. I simply can’t stand the lack of apostrophes. And it’s too hard to go back and put them in all the time.

I know that living without them is perfectly normal and even preferable to many slightly younger people in the world, those who fear that the world will end, why care about something as trivial as a hanging come?

So why do I care and why am I likely to go back to auto-correction, just for the apostrophes?

For the same reason, I care to say “please” and “thank you.” Not a good reason at all, I’m sure.


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