Modern technology is a wonder, but it isn’t perfect. For every two steps forward, it takes us one step back. Sure, it seems great to be able to share your every thought on Twitter, until you realize in retrospect your thoughts were pretty dumb and you should’ve kept them to yourself.
As if we need help sounding stupid, someone invented AutoCorrect. Sure, it prevents us from looking uneducated by misspelling commonly used words (“accommodate,” “liaison,” “covfefe”) but it sometimes makes us look like morons by inserting substitute words that completely change a sentence’s meaning. This is a problem if you’re an ESPN reporter with 125,000 Twitter followers like Pedro Gomez.
Last week Gomez sought to report that a baseball game in Phoenix had been delayed by a dust storm folks in those parts call a haboob. But AutoCorrect thought it knew better, and what went out on Twitter — which lacks a function for editing posts — stirred up a tsunami:
“@Rangers and @Dbacks delayed in downtown Phoenix,” Gomez tweeted, “because a baboon went through town and overloaded the grid, knocking some lights out.”
Always eager to pick low-hanging fruit, Twitter predictably went ape with jokes at Gomez’ expense. The Diamondbacks “should sign the baboon,” one wiseguy responded. “Looked like he had a power arm.”
Borrowing a concept from the Los Angeles Angels and their Rally Monkey, another one of Gomez’ followers suggested the Diamondbacks adopt a Rally Baboon mascot. The Phoenix Zoo got into the act, posting that it could “confirm our baboons are safe and accounted for. #haboob”
AutoCorrect should be like the other half of an old married couple, always finishing our sentences perfectly. But I’m convinced it doesn’t know me at all. If it did, it wouldn’t keep replacing the four-letter word I’m trying to type with “duck,” because that’s a word I rarely ducking use.
This software should be a blessing to the spelling-challenged, but it’s a curse to anyone who hits the Send button without checking the screen first. “I just took a bite of granola” becomes “I just took a bite of grandpa.”
AutoCorrect makes unintentionally hilarious gaffes so easy, there’s an entire website dedicated to them. Thanks to damnyouautocorrect.com, we know that in an instant a “herniation” can become a “horny Asian.” Your father may tell you he and your mother decided to “separate,” when what he meant was that they decided to “stay up late.” And somehow “Harry Potter” becomes “hardy pornstar.”
Given the technology’s ability to pick up on frequently used words, I suspect the designers of AutoCorrect insert humorous glitches just to mess with us. Imagine their glee when I mean to tell my father “Hello, it’s your dear son,” but what’s sent instead is “Hello, it’s your dead son.” Cue the theme from “The Sixth Sense.”
Or maybe software engineers are merely reinforcing lessons we were taught in school. Haste makes waste. Check your work. Reread and revise. Otherwise, you may end up communicating that your birthday-boy husband is “getting executed” when he is in fact “getting excited.” If your smartphone truly knew you, it would know that your husband isn’t on death row. Forget finishing our sentences: Our smartphones are finishing our loved ones’ life sentences.
To his credit, Gomez of ESPN took the haboob firestorm in good spirits. He responded good-naturedly to followers’ comments and even visited the Phoenix zoo’s baboon exhibit. When storms again threatened the southwest later in the week, he tweeted, “Stay safe Phoenix. Another baboon coming through.”
As I said, technology and social media take us one step back for every two steps forward. It’s an evolutionary process. Just ask that baboon terrorizing Phoenix.