HYDERABAD: Recently when the Google image recognition app identified two black people as gorillas in San Francisco, Google spokeswoman had to apologise calling it a technical error.
But, the incident was also a reminder among internet communities that even the most advanced technology lacks human sensitivity.
Back home, when City Express peeped into smartphone users’ experiences, a flurry of ironic instances came up when technology left them to deal with funny but embarrassing situations – sometimes as mortifying as announcing that the user’s period is due the next day. And we are not talking about autocorrect!
“I was showing my colleagues pictures of my recent vacation when suddenly the Period Tracker app decided to pop up a notification to remind that my period was due the next day. I was mortified,” recalls Hiral Shah, an event manager and adds sheepishly, “My colleagues now know me a little too better now.”
Technology and its devices which give us near-infinite prowess to communicate, learn, create regardless of space, time and distance – it sometimes misfires. Though most of us turn to Google when in doubt, the-all-powerful-search-engine sometimes makes silly errors. For anyone who wants to know who actress-turned-politician Jayaprada’s husband is, will be amazed that the search engine’s image option shows Amar Singh! Clearly the result is one of the technology’s senseless solution to a query, devoid of Jayaprada’s sensitivity. Thankfully, Jayaprada has not raised a social media storm about it yet.
Another Google app that most of us swear by is Google maps – a great resource, when it’s accurate.
“Once my family and our neighbours planned a darshan to a temple in the outskirts of the city. Since we didn’t knw the way, I ‘googled’ got the directions. My father, however insisted that we take a physical map. I confidently asked him trust Google. After taking the “direction” as shown by the map we reach an open farm land where there was no sign of the temple,” recalls N Murli, a student.
Google’s goof up not only earned Murli wrath of the elders but also a “back in my days...” lecture from this father.
While days when escalators were the newest technology that made a lot of people almost fall, and bystanders a reason to smile, technological advancements of today can cause a lot more damage – read job loss, almost!
Stuti Kumar, a techie recalls how one noon she was frustrated when music on her phone refused to play. “I kept turning up the volume wondering why the song wasn’t playing. After a while I got a call from a colleague that the entire floor got a minor heart attack when my mac started blaring Lalla lalla lori.
I had forgotten that my iphone and desktop were synced,” she laughs. Grateful that the manager was out for lunch or she would have got an earful.
E-embarrassments comes in all forms and in varying magnitudes – from doing a ‘reply all’ to a mail with mean things about another colleague or the boss, or sending a lewd message on the family WhatsApp group instead of the friends group, breaking your head when the system doesn’t start, without realising that the main is not plugged in to the appearance of an old embarrassing photo from college days on your Facebook wall.
Prableen Kaur, a primary school teacher says while most of these mistakes are oversight that are laughed over and forgotten, sometimes they end up creating permanent damage in relationships. The solution? “Let’s depend less on machines and more on people,” she says.