Link: The Rise of Auto-Complete Culture, And Why We Should Resist
Upfront I will say this: I really dislike this article, but I can’t quite put into words why, so I wanted to share it with you all and talk about it.
The premise of the article is that algorithms are sanding down the edges of our language and our individuality through things like auto complete messages, suggested responses, and Google’s AI drawing project.
There’s also a bit of Jaron Lanier angst about selling our data and becoming the product.
The core of the argument seems to be this:
Well, future generations of thinking humans care. Consider how scientists found that the average literate person’s vocabulary has shrunk over the last two centuries, after analyzing unique words used in books since 1800. In exchange for awesome technologies like television, text messaging, and an app called “Yo” that let you type a single word (and raised $1.5 million for it), we slowly handed over the ways we can express how we feel and what we think.
And what he is scared of is this:
What really scares me about the rise of aggregated, averaged, auto-completed culture isn’t just that I feel it chipping away at my own vocabulary, but I fear it will will teach young people how to speak via an anonymous algorithm before they can develop their own splendid, flawed voices, before they can invent new words, and new forms of self-expression, that will enrich our culture and progress as a society.
It sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Google is coming for our artists! But I want you to think of your favorite author or artist who bucked social norms to herald a new era of human expression and meaning. Now imagine that, instead of creating the most impactful work of their career, they phoned it in that afternoon with an auto-completed sentiment.
This strikes me as a pretty poorly argued and thinly supported argument. He’s picked three examples and cited one random statistic. Also, he appears to only be addressing the Western, English speaking world. Also, famous convention-bucking-artists are famous convention bucking artists because they buck convention!
However, I’m interested in what you guys think: is the rise of algorithms smoothing out the world around us? Do you think that snapchat, instagram, twitter, texting, facebook, email and all of the other new ways we communicate are shrinking the way we express ourselves, or expanding it?
I apologize for yet another dry sauce hot sauce. To make up for it, here’s a Vine classic (RIP Vine).