Master­strokes by mes­sag­ing mine­fields

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - REGION - Ritu Kamra Ku­mar rit­uku­mar1504@ya­

Amer­i­can es­say­ist Henry David Thoreau once said, “Men have be­come the tools of their tools.” True, there is a new af­flic­tion around now and it is called WhatsApp. It rules over hu­mans, nearly cover­ing a sev­enth of the world pop­u­la­tion. The world we are liv­ing is straight out of a dystopian novel that hasn’t been writ­ten by Ge­orge Or­well but by our very own Mark Zucker­berg. Many of us ini­tially down­loaded WhatsApp be­cause it was fun, easy, eco­nom­i­cal, safe, sim­ple and a fast way of call­ing and shar­ing the text but never re­alised that it would dig its ten­ta­cles deep into our lives to take it over.

An ac­quain­tance cre­ates a group and adds you in it with­out your con­sent and you start get­ting mes­sages from strangers putting you in dilemma ‘to be or not to be’. Even the text we key is not in our con­trol, the num­ber of times, we don’t read the mes­sage we have sent and let it go only to dis­cover to our hor­ror that what we have sent is what we never meant. As I try to send a text mes­sage on my mo­bile phone ‘love’ be­comes ‘loaf’, ‘pull’ be­comes ‘full’. This pre­dic­tive dic­tio­nary, an in­built fea­ture of smart phones pre­dicts what it thinks you want to key in and if you key in some­thing dif­fer­ent it au­to­mat­i­cally cor­rects the word to what it thinks it ought to be. This is how auto-cor­rect dic­tates you. I just wanted to say ‘so lovely’ to a friend who looked lovely in her profile pic­ture but I sent a mes­sage ‘slovenly’ and no­ticed it after two days! So un­in­ten­tion­ally with one wrong word, I blew up the whole world. Mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, I be­lieve owes Ox­ford dic­tio­nary an apol­ogy as it gives us many ‘oops mo­ments’ to roll in pure com­edy.

An­other blun­der that of­ten puts us in hot wa­ter is chat­ting si­mul­ta­ne­ously with two or three friends or groups. I once wished ‘Happy Wedding An­niver­sary’ to a spinster col­league and all my sorry, please, dis­re­gard put me fur­ther into deeper wa­ters. In our ‘Fam­ily Ties’ group I revealed a se­cret that I was sup­posed to leak into the ‘Funny Fam­ily’ group. This led to fam­ily fights and feuds. Though I wanted to laugh, I had to apol­o­gise to tide over the em­bar­rass­ment.

Com­mon names mess up the mes­sag­ing mine­fields when one is play­ing a prank. I sent a mes­sage to Dr Mamta, my col­league and friend, ‘Come to staffroom. We’ll take your class to­day” and Lo! It was sent to Dr Mamta, a gy­nae­col­o­gist friend who replied, ‘Once a teacher, al­ways a teacher, want to sum­mon a doc­tor for class.’ I tra­verse such mine­fields of dis­as­ter as a con­stant ca­su­alty.

An­other WhatsApp fea­ture that plays havoc with our self re­spect is ‘last seen’ or the sin­gle grey tick, dou­ble grey tick or the blue ticks. You feel rest­less find­ing the grey ticks turn­ing blue and still not re­ceiv­ing a re­sponse. It presses a panic but­ton, leaving you won­der­ing of what’s gone wrong. I need an an­swer. We have an im­age of the re­cip­i­ent of our mis­spell ef­forts star­ing at the con­tents and then swarm­ing off with­out both­er­ing to re­ply. When we get the much-awaited re­ply our face lights up with a smile that all is well.

I be­lieve a think­ing ma­chine ought not to be called ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence. Their in­tel­li­gence is not ar­ti­fi­cial, it is real. Our in­tel­li­gence for hav­ing in­vented them is all ‘altu-faltu’ in­tel­li­gence for we are hu­mans. We can’t be perfect. This ma­chine tai­lored ‘world of words’ truly out­smarts us by its master­strokes!


The writer teaches English at MLN Col­lege, Ya­mu­nana­gar

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