Monday, August 15th, 2022 21:54:53

Scientific Scurrility

Updated: October 29, 2011 10:44 am


India That Is Bharat


One lives and learns. Satiricus learns that the computer is being hailed as the triumph of technology in respect of artificial intelligence. Frankly speaking, he is less than thrilled. For his friends assure him that no amount of artificial intelligence can make up for his lack of natural intelligence. That being so, Satiricus simply does not fancy the prospect of a PC—personal computer—getting personal. Unfortunately for mankind (as distinct from womankind) that is what some silly scientists are trying to do. Take BMW, the car manufacturing company. Some time back it had to remove the computerised navigation technique in its cars. Why? Not because it was faulty, but because it spoke in a female voice. The company reportedly received calls from agitated men all over Germany with the same complaint—they couldn’t trust a woman to give them directions. See? With apologies to a certain poet, breathes there the man with soul so dead, who never to himself has said, I’m willing to be directed by my better and/or bitter half? Satiricus, a mere male, thinks not.

Then again, the other day Satiricus read a headline threatening that “PCs that argue back are coming soon”.The report said : “The computer crashes, and we respond angrily at the flickering screen; but we may soon risk being shouted at by the machine we have just cursed.” Good God! A cussed computer that can cuss? Hiding this moral degradation of this moron of a machine under scientific jargon, the report said : “Reseachers at Cambridge and Edinburgh universities are developing technology that can recognise and generate natural-sounding speech.” This is really too much. For in the considered opinion of Satiricus, it is natural for a man to curse, so a machine spewing out natural-sounding curses is an unnatural encroachment on the freedom of abusive speech.

There is also another angle to this scientific scurrility. In their abominable attempts to equip computers with cuss-words these British fellows would obviously do so in English. But which English ? Will it be English English or American English or Hinglish or Chinglish ? All in all, Satiricus is firm on two points: A personal computer must not get personal, and a computer that talks must not talk back.

Pernicious Pen

There are times when Satiricus takes up his pen to write this column but does not know what to write. Then he feels stressed. But now he feels relieved. For a European researcher has invented a pen that can not only detect stress but also reduce it. There are sensors in the pen that measure stress. When they detect quicker movements of the writing hand indicating high stress, the pen becomes heavier and more difficult to move, making the writer slow down and relaxed. This is certainly a good news for the illiterate tribe of columnists like Satiricus. For if he tries to just dash off this column, his pen won’t let him do so. It may even stop him from writing the usual garbage. But in that case Satiricus will rise in revolt against his pernicious pen. He will not only produce good-quality garbage but process it through the computer, for he knows that every computer in the world works on the GIGO principle—Garbage In Garbage Out. And after reading many columns in many papers he has also come to know that carefully computerised and elegantly e-mailed garbage unfailingly tricks the editor into thinking it is print-worthy.

Surveys Galore

What do Americans do when they have nothing else to do? They make a survey. So Satiricus was under the impression that making a survey was an exclusive American pastime. But now it seems the contagion is spreading among the Brits—and the results have gems of knowledge for this ignoramus. For instance, one recent survey has led to the discovery that British moms spend 70 hours per week on home chores, which is worth an annual salary of 37,000 pounds. A second survey showed that Brits returning from holidays spend nine million working hours every year in telling their colleagues about the fun they had, which works out to 22 minutes per vacationing Brit. And a third survey, believe it or not, showed that the average Brit says ‘sorry’ 3,000 times a year.

Well, now, what do you know? All three surveys were certainly on topics of national importance. But may Satiricus suggest three more topics of still greater importance ? They could be: No. 1: How many times does a Brit do something he shouldn’t without so much as a ‘sorry’ ? No. 2: What is the average height of the tall tales a Brit tells his colleagues about his holiday fun? No. 3: How many billable hours of house work does a Brit housewife spend per day in backyard gossip with Mrs Neighbour?


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