10. August 2023

I Ducking Hate This!

I love technology, but there’s one thing about it that truly gets under my skin: its penchant to patronize me.

Need examples? I’ve got a few:

Car’s Lane Assist. My car won’t let me permanently turn off lane assist. The irony? This system often misreads lane markings in construction zones, leading to more nerve-wracking situations than any other feature in the vehicle. The company’s rationale to turn it back on every time I start the engine? Safety. So, I can speed down a German autobahn in 150mph, but intentionally crossing a line is a safety hazard?E-Scooters Post-10pm. Ever tried renting one of these after 10 pm? Here in Germany they feel the need to remind you not to drink and drive. (Well… thanks for the reminder… I guess)
Oh, and then there’s the cherry on top — you have to click a “Yes, I’m sober” button. Really? If someone’s intoxicated or high like a satellite, do they genuinely believe a pop-up will inspire a moment of clarity?Swipe Keyboards. Here’s my latest grievance and the inspiration for this post: I’m a swipe keyboard enthusiast. It’s fast, efficient, and usually intuitive. But here’s the catch — I occasionally drop an f-bomb in casual chats. Now, I seldom swear, but when life throws a curveball, a ‘wtf’ is apt. However, trying to swipe that out results in the hilarious (and infamous) “what the duck”. On investigating, I learned that this isn’t just about censoring swear words but also “highly sensitive words”. And who decides what’s “sensitive”? Since our flagship phones hail from American companies, the U.S. cultural standard dictates this sensitivity threshold. And guess what? Some of these standards are startlingly conservative. Case in point: The term “abortion” is apparently too delicate for Apple. Seriously?

I get it. Car manufacturers don’t want to get sued for not setting the highest security setting. E-Scooter operators shy away from potential liabilities. Apple and Google may not want certain words appearing in auto-suggestions. That’s fair. But here’s a thought: why not have adjustable sensitivity settings and respect the decision of the users? Or, as an alternative, allow the word to be typed and swiped but exclude it from suggestions? Both seem more practical than establishing “nanny-systems” that play language and decency police.

As our world becomes increasingly digitized and our realities filtered through electronic interfaces, ensuring these systems mirror our genuine expressions and respect our personal decisions isn’t just a preference. I think it’s a right.

Picture: Pixabay, created by Christian Dorn

Bonus example: I tried to generate a picture for this article and used the word “prude” in my prompt. DALLE2 slapped my wrist because this prompt appears to violate their content policy… Well, it was not a very good prompt anyway.

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