December 17, 2007

From the Departmenths of Cupertino

Passed on by Victor Steinbok, from Eugene Volokh's blog of 12 December:

I Smell an Auto-Correction Glitch:

From the American Association of Law Schools program:

In 1934, in the Departmenth of the greatest depression in history ....

I have a posting coming on Scunthorping in automated taboo avoidance.  One of its points is that substring search-and-replace programs have the potential for considerable evil, as above.

[Correction, 12/18: Loads of people have written to explain that the error here was probably not in automated correction (involving search-and-replace), but in automated COMPLETION.  As Jim Gordon put it (in the anthropomorphic way we have all come to talk about programs): "the program thinks it knows what the word will be as you begin to type it. This is then compounded, perhaps because the typist is looking at either the draft text or the keyboard, rather than reading what he/she writes."  The idea is that you type "dep" and that's explanded to "Department" (complete with caps), but you press on with the rest of "depth".  This is not an entirely satisfying account, however, because it would predict "Departmentth", while automatic substution of "Department" for "dept" would (correctly) predict "Departmenth".]

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at December 17, 2007 08:18 PM