Saturday, March 26, 2011

I think spell check is making me stoopid

So I was in the process of typing an email the other day and I realized that I spelled the word "caffeine" incorrectly.  But what bothered me more than the fact I realized I couldn't spell "caffeine" is that I wasn't the one who found the computer's spell check did.  As I contemplated this mistake, I realized that, more often than not these days, I'm relying more and more on my computer to catch all of my spelling and punctuation errors than actually stopping to check over my own work myself or to take the time to actually look a word all on my own.  How lazy have I become by following this line of thinking?  I mean...does anyone remember back in the day when all we had was pen and paper to write letters or term papers with...maybe a typewriter if we were lucky...and if you came across something you couldn't spell,  you had to whip out the dictionary and look it up or risk the dreaded Red Pen of Doom??  These days we just cruise along in what we're doing and just let the computer do the thinking for us. 

Now don't get me wrong, this is all fine and dandy...but consider what relying on artificial intelligence has done for makes us look like even more of a jackass than we can be all by ourselves.  For example, just take the iPhone and it's oh-so-convenient auto correct function.  There are entire websites dedicated to making fun of all the mistakes your phone makes while trying to second guess and interpret the crap you're punching on into it (  And although some of these mistakes are downright have to wonder what someone really typed in for these odd word combinations to pop up.  And OK, some of these mistakes aren't intentionally made -- I mean, it's tough to text, drink coffee and apply mascara while driving.  Those types of errors are understandable.  But you have to know that some of these errors were also made by someone who truly thought that "dude I can't believe we're going to loose again" is correct.

Here's another thought that I find disturbing about our disintegrating ability to spell and self-spell-check;  have you noticed that there are more and more errors in commercialized print?  Books and magazine articles are starting to show more and more signs of spelling deterioration.  It used to be that you'd almost never find a spelling error in a book...I mean, publishing houses have these whole divisions of people called "editors" for a reason, right?  But time and time again, I'm finding more and more errors when I crack open a book.  Is it just a cost-saving measure that these publishers are using by expecting a computer to catch these errors?   Doesn't that make it worse that these companies are relying solely upon a computer to catch errors as opposed to having a set of real-life human eyes actually reading through an entire manuscript and catching these mistakes?

I realize that the tools that make our lives easier are also contributing to making us stupid (not like I need ANY help with that)...and that there's no way to go back in time to "auto correct" that flaw in the design.  But I've decided that I'm going to try and make a concentrated effort to not let my brain go to mush completely.  I'm going to go back to the "old school" method...I'm going to turn off the spell check function in my programs, put a dictionary next to my computer and see if I can remember how to think for myself.

Can't be all that changeling, right?

I meant challenging.