„First correct them, then control them“: from smartphone to the Matrix and how to fight back
Beep-beep goes my mobile phone. A cryptic message from my sister flashes up on the display: “Nonwoven, Donal, I know the weed”. Non what? Weed? A few seconds later, the mystery is solved: “Sorry, autocorrect. I meant ‘No problem, I know the way’.”
No problem? Oh, it’s a problem all right. Ever since “Matrix” we know that the day is fast approaching when the machines will take control of us. And autocorrect is the first step towards total domination of humankind: first correct them, then control them.
Now, I don’t mind a little help from time to time. We all make mistakes and I can even tolerate the red squiggly “tsk, tsk” of Word’s spellchecker. But autocorrect, as practised by smartphones and Internet browsers, is taking it too far. I can’t even get to the end of a sentence on my iPhone without autocorrect changing almost every word to something else, like it doesn’t believe that’s what I wanted to write!
And then there’s Google. Not only is it so impatient that it can’t even wait till I’ve typed the full search term before it starts giving me results, but it has the cheek to ask me if I was sure about what I wanted. “Did you mean…?”, it asks. “Yes, I bloody well did mean that”, I shout at my PC. It even thinks I don’t know my own name (“Did you mean Donald?”).
Many people believe Google, Apple and co. have too much information about what we do online, who we talk to and even where we are. But it’s worse than that. With its search engine and auto-correct, Google’s message is clear: we know better than you do what you want. And our phones are not just smartphones, they are smarter-than-you-phones.
It’s time to fight back. And here’s how. What you do is you change the autocorrect language to another language (e.g., Portuguese) and start typing away in your language. Then you let autocorrect work its “magic” on your text. Soon, out of “I will be home at 7” becomes “Ovo willy estar casa em 7”. Then press send. No-one will understand what you are trying to say, but then – more importantly – neither will Google or Apple.
Got a text message yesterday from my sister, checking if it was okay to visit on a particular date. “Nonwoven, Claire”, I replied. “Good”, she writes back, “I know the weed”.