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None of Us is as Dumb as All of Us: Goodbye Auto-Correct

I’m giving up on the macOS autocorrect feature. It makes too many inappropriate substitutions, and I don’t always notice they’ve happened. (I’m keeping it turned on my iOS devices, where assistance with thumb-typing is crucial for maintaining my sanity.)

Autocorrect used to be great, and much more accurate. It started going downhill when Apple incorporated crowdsourced machine intelligence into the algorithm. With this highly questionable change, if enough of my fellow monkeys bang out a word and leave it uncorrected, it becomes an acceptable substitution to make on everyone else’s computer. Sadly, as the Trump era has shown us, the world (even Mac users) consists of many ignorant people.

In addition to the problem of “garbage in – garbage out,” there are inevitable software bugs. Several years ago, the vulnerability of a machine-based intelligence became evident when iOS started substituting “⍰” for a lower-case “i.” Apple had to retrain the AI to stop making the mistake. (See this report from New Yorker, and this one from TechCrunch.)

Here are a couple of examples of the maddening behavior that finally drove me to disable the feature:

gordon meyer screenshot of off

I assure you that “off” is not misspelled. And neither is “here,” below.

gordon meyer here mispelled

In addition to the spelling AI, the grammar checker feature must also use mistrained machine intelligence, as I’ve often gotten numerous ridiculous suggestions similar to this one:

gordon meyer

And, ironically, a suggestion about replacing this correctly spelled word with a misspelling, while I was writing the paragraph above.

gordon meyer

Fortunately for me, aside from email, these days most of my Mac-based writing is done in Ulysses, which offers suggestions that are more reliable than those proffered by macOS. Although, I still wonder about the backend privacy of what the Ulysses app is doing to analyze my writing. (I take some comfort that, as a German company, they are likely adhering to stricter EU laws in this regard.)

I’ve been humbled by how much turning autocorrect off has slowed my typing. I’ve clearly grown dependent upon the computer interpreting my fast, sloppy keypresses. Now that I have to deliberately enter words, I’m slower, but I’d like to believe that I’m a little more thoughtful, too.

Comments

Njpomeroy

I cannot believe any human being thought crowdsourcing spelling and grammar was a good idea.

It’s “autoCORRECT” not “autoEVERYONEGETSTHISWRONGANYWAY”

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