November 04, 2006

Voters Beware---A True Fable

Because of a repetitive strain injury, I use a voice activated word processing program. Sometimes it misunderstands me, especially when I don't speak clearly or have a cold. At other times the program actually inserts words unbidden on the screen while I am sitting at the computer with the microphone on, silently thinking. Its preferred words to sneak in are “he,” “she,” and “and.”

The word “and” seems to be a wildcard; maybe it's the sound of ringing in my computers ears. I suspect that “he,” comes from heavier than usual breathing on my part, while “she” comes from inadvertent sniffling or sighing. Yet this cannot be the whole story, since sometimes five “he”-s or “she”-s in a row mysteriously appear on the screen. On occasion I have even found a whole line of “he he he he” or “she she she.” Perhaps it is my word processor trying to parse the sound of the wind ---heeeee or sheeee.

A couple of weeks ago out of the blue my friend and word processor, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, inserted the word “Bush” extraneously in mid-sentence. Unfortunately I didn't catch it until after I sent the file to a group of people. Intriguingly Dragon inserted “Bush” just before it wrote---at my request---“radical re-contextualization.”

When I finally did catch the mistake, I kept looking at it---because it seemed somehow to fit. Certainly Bush has radically re-contextualized the political landscape. To my thinking this has not for the better.

The truth is that even though I study intuition, I'm not ready to have my voice activated word processor read my (unconscious) mind---especially when the addition is off-topic. Of course, I do have to admit I am obsessed about this midterm election. In any case I am greatly relieved to report that the word “Bush” did not make sense in the larger context of the sentence or the paragraph, at least as far as I can tell.

Just a few minutes ago--- Dragon did it again! But this time instead of the word “Bush” it inserted the word “Reagan”-- it was in fact the possessive form, “Reagan's.” But Reagan's what?

I don't know because I erased it in horror. I wish I hadn’t, because it too might have had contained some little nugget of suggestive voice-activated word processor, self-activated wisdom. But horrified I was because Reagan started this radical re-contextualization of the political landscape, and because this is beginning to look like a trend.

Being a sensible person, I looked for another reason. I had no success; intead it got worse. I can conceive that the wind sometimes sounds may sound like “Bush”--- “wussh.” Yet by no stretch of the imagination does the wind ever sound like “Reagan’s.”

Maybe Diebold slipped a short bit of code into my Dragon software that biases it towards hearing ambiguous words, or even silence, as the name of conservative icons? Perhaps the Diebold people are working with the Dragon people? Perhaps the Diebold people even surreptitiously inserted it into a recent Dragon automatic update in time for the election?

My rational mind says forget it. But something in me says don't be so quick---only forget it provisionally. In fact, at some level, I can't help myself. I am waiting to see if in the next year or so my Dragon proves its lack of bias by spewing forth unbidden “Obama,” “Hillary,” “Gore,” “Kerry,” or “Edwards.” To give it lots of leeway and help restore the world to its right order, I will also accept “Clinton,” “Roosevelt,” “Kennedy,”Truman,” “Carter,” or even “LBJ.”

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