Friday, December 20, 2002

Me vs. Technology: The Road To Victory
So I finally triumphed over the irritating problem which was plaguing IE (apparently, the application installed DLLs which were too new for my old, antiquated version of Win98SE, so I had to install new ones), which prompts me to go on this tangential rant.

These days, computers often think that they're smarter than me. This is often true; for instance, when installing software, I trust that they've done their job right (although apparently, someone hadn't in this case), and let things proceed and hope that nothing goes wrong. A lot of the time, though, it's not. When it comes to, say, Word's spelling and grammar checker, I'm way smarter than Word, and so I'm perpetually annoyed by its claiming that it knows the English language better than I. Of course, I turned off such features on my own computer long ago, but they're still an irritation whenever I have to use a computer where I can't freely change the settings. And, increasingly, there are such helpful features which can't be turned off -- one of the things which drives me craziest about IE is the fact that whenever you select a word, it helpfully selects the space after the word, so that if you paste it somewhere it'll be fine. All very good -- except this feature causes me 100 times more aggravation when I don't want it than in the occasional case when I do.

What we really need, rather than trying to make computers smarter, is to make them realize when they're not smart enough. Or, in the words of Chuang Tzu: "He who knows he is a fool is not the biggest fool; he who knows he is confused is not in the worst confusion." If more people were working on Artificial Humility, I wouldn't have to deal with my computer constantly trying to correct me when it, not I, is the one that's wrong.

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