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Dennis Baron's go-to site for language and technology in the news

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  • The most human computer?


Comments May 1, 2011 8:07 am

If the computer in the microwave at work were intelligent, it would write on its display "please remove the cover and stir your food, then place it back in the oven." Instead, it says "your food is ready." This is a pet peeve of mine, and being a computer programmer I think I have a right to it: The computer is a tool, and that is all. My hammer doesn't hit nails; instead, I hit nails with my hammer. If the teller machine says "what do you want me to do today?" I want to tell it "I don't want you to do anything, but I want to use you to withdraw some cash." It wouldn't understand, of course. Perhaps the worst offender is Verizon's support center where, when given your telephone number, the voice replies "okay, um, let me look that up for you." Perhaps government regulation of computer status messages and results is in order. It should be unlawful for computers to display or speak messages that refer to the computer using personal pronouns. (Just kidding -- sort of.)Errors in this correspondence may be the result of my "intelligent" iPad exchanging words where it suspected that I had made a mistake. It attempted to substitute "it's" for "its" in the first paragraph, but I'm smarter than it is.

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