QuickType in iOS 8 – a bigger deal than it might seem at first

One could conceivably claim that convenience is the mother of all communication. By “mother” I of course mean a set of other metaphors including but not limited to progenitor, caretaker, instructor, guardian, and then maybe conscience, nudge, antagonist, friend, ally and eventually (in dotage) a responsibility.

According to this claim there must thus be a theoretical point in ancient, pre-recorded time when inconvenience reigned supreme, unchallenged by our fretful attempts at being comfortable. In this hazy era we were likely as haphazard as Lucretius’ “dust motes dancing in the sunlight” – mere atoms in nature. But whenever it was that a creaturely commitment to convenience developed and managed to puncture this regime, forms of communication must have rapidly been born. For how else, could we have set about working well with like-minded members of our species?

After the arrival of formal language systems (the true sea change) the task has fallen upon technology to serve as the catalyst for all the subsequent step changes in the relation between convenience and communication. Given how far we’ve come already and how much we can imagine growing from here, let’s hazard a guess that communication is in that golden period of pre-adolescence, the pre-teenage pause during which, for the most part, mother and child are aligned.

With iOS 8 and the introduction of QuickType Apple is bringing us a meaningful step closer to the tumult of adolescence, that period of continuous change and growing pain, where whimsy rules the day and emotionally charged interactions explode unpredictably.

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We’ve grown quite used to AutoCorrect, the robotic system for fixing typos and finishing words as we type them. With QuickType, though, I don’t just have a computer helping me finish the words I type; I now have a computer on hand to help me choose the words. I could easily have an entire conversation merely by continuously selecting one of the three or four words an extremely intelligent machine presents me with. While the result may not be perfect or complete, what communication event ever is?*

AutoCorrect has caused a lot of ink to be spilled because it produces comic misunderstandings through accidental exchanges. QuickType is an intervention and not an aid, but I have yet to read any jeremiads about the damage it is going to do to our unique voices or how it might corrupt the youth. Is this because QuickType is so extremely helpful?

My mind wanders to the role rationality plays in communication. The philosopher Donald Davidson once put it, “rationality is a social trait. only communicators have it.” If convenience starts nudging communication to get better grades and work harder and clean up its room and be on time, what will happen to rationality? Suffice it to say, one of the most exciting parts about adolescence is fantasizing about becoming an adult.

*My first use of QuickType (above) felt like a true shortcut, on par with when I learned something like command + v; and we all know that ease is addictive.

 
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