MasterPo says: This blog is about topics and issues that are of importance to me. I am not one of the countless blogging lemmings that are tripping over each other scurrying down the hill and off the cliff of blogging oblivion trying to write the greatest blog on the latest topic de'jour. Your comments are welcome.

January 10, 2010

Computer Enforced Political Correctness?

It was said by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839: The pen is mightier than the sword. And thus with the stroke of a pen – rather, the stroke of a key on the keyboard – MasterPo had yet another profound observation.

At work today, MasterPo was typing out a document using MS Word (as do millions upon millions of people around the country and the world every day). MasterPo's tough typing skills are very good but once in a while a finger slips or misses the correct key.

In a particular paragraph of this document I meant to type the word "bigger". But, alas, instead of caressing the "B" key" my finger rubbed the dangerous "N" key. Thus, the word "nigger" was placed in the document instead of "bigger".

After type the paragraph MasterPo went back and proof read what I had just written. Immediately the typo was found and corrected.

No one harmed.
No riots.
No teachable moments.

But as MasterPo was typing out the correction, he noticed something.

MS Word did not highlight the word "nigger" as a misspelling (no red underline). And Word did not highlight it as a grammatical error (no green underline). It just accepted it.

Does that mean the word "nigger" is part of MS Word's built-in dictionary?

Obviously so.

This observation immediately lead to another thought in MasterPo's fertile mind:

What if….a company like Microsoft whose installed base of Word and other applications is measured by the millions or even billions, decided to enforce it's own view of speech?

Similarly, what if….the government of the country in which a company like Microsoft with it's installed base of daily used software in the billions forced or coerced the company to implement the government's view of speech?

Think about it.

In this case, the word "nigger" was not recognized as structurally or grammatically wrong.

So should it be?

Should MS Word flag the word "nigger" as being incorrect?

If you say so, then what else should be flagged?

In today's American society words like Capitalism, Free Market, Greed, and Private Property are becoming more and more taboo.

Or perhaps the names of certain people's names like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannety or George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan, should also be flagged as a warning also.

In Stalinist Russia thousands of copies of page replacements for a state issued history book. Citizens were ordered to remove certain pages from the book, destroy those pages, and replace them with these new pages essentially rewriting history. (And millions did just that cheerfully!)

Now in the electronic age not only history but language and thought itself might be possible to be changed by usurping a common daily application.

Tiny bits here and there.

That's how it happens.

Food for thought.

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