In Defense of Humans—Machines Are Not Ready Yet


I recently submitted an internal organizational document that was spellchecked in addition to my review; several times.  One sentence where there the intent was to say, “that which is …” was change to “that witch is …”

Did I type it wrong or did ‘auto correct’ take over the decision process?  In any event spellcheck did not perform adequately against minimal Quality Assurance standards.  And how many of us ‘fat finger’ text messages?

Is this is the technology that is going to drive me to work safely over 200 days a year; round trip?  I hope not.

One pervasive message—technology gets better with time (more mature).  Is this true?

How old is spellcheck?  By some accounts it dates to the 1960s.  Most believe by the late 1970s.  So close to half a century.  Yet!

Usually a spellchecker is not used in a life or death situation.  That is unless it’s for your resume or job application!  However, what about software that is utilized for critical processes, i.e., medicine, process control, etc.

There are many examples where apparent software failures have negatively impacted human life.  This pundit has written this subject including a look at Man Machine Codependency.  In another blog we commented on problems associated with valid and reliable analysis of Big Data.

In this author’s opinion, software is getting better and while most likely will not be perfect, will change our daily processes.  The human overlords will need to be trained and/or retrained for the digitalization era.

This cautionary tale is not about this writer’s inability to use word processing tools.  As we depend on these tools for critical decision making, we must have the core knowledge of the subject we are tackling.

During a class on digitalization for my master’s level students, I put forth several examples where errors were made by various software applications.  Most had a level of comedy to them, but ALL have potential real-world consequences (bold font).

  • All People in Canada are the Same AgeDemographics for Census or Marketing
  • In Excel 2007, multiplying 77.1 times 850 yielded 100,000 instead of the accurate answer 65,535—Accounting or Engineering
  • The Making of a Fly, a classic work in developmental biology, was listed on as having 17 copies for sale: 15 used from $35.54, and two new from $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping)–Procurement
  • Finally, Airline Disaster on AutopilotSafety for the Traveling Public

This writer has authored books, articles, speeches, presentations, and blogs for many years.  Arguably, he can claim some experience as a writer.  Subject Matter Expert?

In one instance, the ‘witch’ word won over my intent.  Did the technology cause this error?  Probably, as the goddess of Halloween is not something I typically pontificate about—not on my radar, so to speak.

Humans can rule for the foreseeable future.  That is unless we seed to the technology.  Most importantly, algorithmic errors can lead to cataclysmic business and even life events.

Finally, I spellchecked this blog before publication, and it caught the ‘witch’ word this time.  Go figure.

How Prepared is Your Organization to Oversee the Digitalization Transformation?

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