Crazy Transformed Asians

The sentence didn’t look right. I read it twice, and thought, “An editor at ESPN missed this.”

The line read: “Morrison played just 28 percent of the defense of snaps for the Packers last season . . .”

The defense of snaps?

Then, in the next paragraph, it happened again, only with a different team: “Morrison played 75 percent of the defense of snaps for the Colts . . .”

It took a few seconds before the big a-ha moment: Somebody dictated this article and the artificial intelligence mistook “defensive” for “defense of.”


I know this because I dictate a ton of rough drafts, everything from car reviews to book outlines to blog posts. The sometimes-hilarious goofs in the process easily slip by if you’re not careful, especially since they’re real words that autocorrect won’t catch.

My personal favorite from the past year was an outline for a speaking presentation I was scheduled to give in a few months. As I walked in the park, dictating into my phone, I wondered: “What small transformation can I help people make?”

Fair enough. But my phone’s brainy recorder decided that what I’d said was: “What small transform Asian can I help people with?”

Listen, this is not a knock on the technology. Far from it. To think how far and how fast we’ve come with dictation software should be mind-blowing. We’re just spoiled, so we can’t imagine it not being perfect every time.

Part of me hopes we never get it perfect. There’s something charming about these little mistakes, these reminders that artificial intelligence isn’t supposed to do everything for us. We’re still ultimately (and thankfully) in charge of the final product, and shame on us if we don’t do our own little part to oversee the machines’ work.


Or maybe the machines are damned-near perfect, and they’re just having a bit of fun at our expense. Perhaps they secretly chat with each other and see how often they can make us look silly. This could be an AI joke where we’re the butts. If so, good for them.

Here’s to the future of funny dictation, and the embarrassment it will hopefully produce in the name of humility.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I have some Asian friends in desperate need of transforming.

Dom TestaComment