Keep the autocorrect apocalypse from coming

Alix Paultre, Editorial Director, PSD



Alix Paultre, Editorial Director, PSD

Our society, already in the throes of integrating multiple disruptive technologies simultaneously, must also integrate the myriad byproducts and their impact as well. We take for granted that the future will be a web of inter-communicating smart devices within a cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure and the greater challenge of the Smart Grid, but we often forget what that really means in the context of reality.

The case in point is the slow creep of what is most visibly manifested in cell-phone autocorrect systems. Similar to spell-checking tech in desktops, autocorrect in handhelds takes a far more aggressive tack to “help” you write your messages with one hand while holding a burrito in the other (often to hilarious results). The problem starts to become apparent when you the autocorrect systems start rejecting words that you want to use that aren’t in its vocabulary. Sure, in most cases you can teach the system your personal vernacular, but it is troublesome that we make the machine the default authority.

This issue manifests itself in the larger world in supervisory systems, from construction to aerospace, that override the input of users under circumstances determined by others in the system’s command code. This is often necessary, as safety often demands us to behave in very strict ways to perform a task. However, we must be extremely vigilant to pay serious attention to the creation and development of the command systems and infrastructures involved, lest we wind up in a world of restrictions we cannot remember the origins for.

The design engineering community must remember that each of you are literally (and I mean that in the old-school sense) creating the future as you go along, and every solution you develop will become the underpinnings for the next generation of products and services that will spring from the application spaces served. The best of you will also take into consideration (only hindsight is 20/20, I’m not asking you to become clairvoyant) the ramifications of your solutions and how the spinoffs of those solutions will resonate through the real world.

As the IoT and the Smart Grid evolve there will be many command & control issues that need to be recognized and addressed before the solutions are solidified. The IEEE, PSMA, and other professional groups are a great way to help ensure that tomorrow’s solutions also address tomorrow’s sensibilities. We must all remember that the solution that was born on your desk will be growing up in the real world, and will create an impact that sometimes is difficult to predict.