I’m not a thumber. I use one finger only, and hit one key at a time on my LG keyboard, much to the chargrin of my son and daughter. I suppose that makes me officialy old now. My thumbs are not surgical in nature. But then again, neither is my forefinger. It’s amazing I can ever make it on an elevator.
Then I heard of gesture typing. I looked it up on the Google. I can say it like that now because I’m old. You basically take a more drunken, lackadaisical approach by sliding your finger carelessly around the keyboard. At first, it caused me not a small bit of anxiety, brought on by my own lack of knowledge. I knew there was an algorithm behind this nonchalant madness, but my finger raced across the keyboard from one letter to the next, a panicked drag racer when I couldn’t think of the next letter. I was afraid of slowing for a second and the algorithm stopping suddenly, punishing my insolence with a randomly selected, brute-force guess, extrapolated from my weak, anxiety-ridden forefinger. Turns out, there was no reason to panic. You can go as slow as you like, even my kind of slow. Zootopia DMV slow.
So I started using this method. But something was still bothering me. It was the algorithm itself. You see, it’s an enabler. It’s not running to the store at 2 am to get you a six pack for your nightcap, but it is allowing you to not try as hard, to not be as exact, in short, not to think as much. It’s not a huge difference in mind-power, think-joules, thought-newtons, however you express that. But it probably does cause a few less neurons to fire. And humanity does seem to be heading in that aloof direction. Long-form articles are disappearing behind headlines with summaries for all the TL;DRs. And that’s what worries me, is that every action we carry out becomes algorithm assisted, allowing us to only have a vague conception of what we wanted to accomplish, as the Al(gorithm) steps in and articulates or manifests our hazy intentions.
What if we applied Al to everything in the near future? It would allow drunken doctors to operate without worry. That would be good. And no one wants to go on Netflix and sit in front of 1500, randomly selected movies to choose from. Those recommender engines let Al help you find what you want without trouble. That’s good.
But what if we transfer the half-hearted attempt at language from written to verbal. Maybe you don’t have to articulate at all. Goyngasto means I’m going to the store. In ten years, we’re deep into some pidgin half-language think-speak where we utter lost syllables incoherently at each other until Al figures out our unique form of garbled chatter. No one will type; just a lot of half-swipes at random boards of letters. I can see someone stabbed in an alley, their last clue to their killer not a name, but some irregular geometry patterns in blood. Another person asking, “Hey, what’s that smell?” “Oh, that’s my ass. I swiped at it. You get the gist.” People will remember when Al broke down for some reason and no one could communicate, just a bunch of people swiping at the air and speaking garble. Another hundred years in the future and they’ll look back and not be able to decipher anything from the 2020’s.
To be clear, I’m not typing the words I want, I’m only getting marginally close to those letters, and Al is doing the rest of the work for me. Enabling me to be unclear, inexact. My thoughts become approximations. I’m not getting at the core of anything, only rummaging around it on novacaine legs. A hazy interest with a lack of complete attention. A bored interest.
And maybe that sums it all up. Nowadays, we cast our mental nets out there and pull in Kardashian sea trash, plastic beads of fourth grade reading level speeches, and toxic alternative facts. Our minds don’t challenge these things, instead nibbling at the outer layers of fact, unable to bring our lazy thoughts to grab a shovel and dig a little.
I’m going to continue to use Al to trace out my grocery list. To tell me what I might want to watch next. To let me know when there’s a traffic jam. But I’m going to always keep an eye on Al.
Al doesn’t seem to have his head wrapped around truth yet.