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When Smart Technology Is Not Really That Smart



If you have ever traveled with your smart devices overseas, you have probably noticed funny quirks in your email or web pages you use often. Let’s suppose you have gone to Germany but not necessarily speak German. Do you really appreciate your email being automatically translated to German? This correspondent the other day felt shivers down his spine when he saw his email’s recipient’s name translated to “Andrew” from the original Italian of “Andrea.” It got worse: this correspondent’s own name had been spelled as “Grandfather.” The very intelligent and polyglot, yet at the same time very dumb, automatic translator, had rendered his name as such from a European dialect. No matter how many times these browsers have been asked to please not translate, they carry on regardless. So we have to go through the annoying process of persuading our browsers to thanks, but no thanks: we still want to book a hotel room in our mother tongue regardless of whether we are in Oslo, Athens or Timbuktu. Smart technology will really be smart when they stop making us our life difficult with unsolicited favors that do us no favor.

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