ne of the earliest recordings of predictive text is the Ming Kwai typewriter. Invented in China in the 1940s, this electromechanical typewriter would suggest the next keys to press after you've made your first stroke, making you work faster and more efficiently. Since then predictive text has permeated just about every form of writing technology from early SMS to smartphones to the software I’m typing this essay with.
Predictive text birthed autocorrect, invented by Dean Hachamovitch an engineer at Microsoft Word in the 1990s. In an article in Wired on the history of autocorrect, Gideon Lewis-Kraus writes
“The notion of autocorrect was born when Hachamovitch began thinking about a functionality that already existed in Word...You could set up a string of words—like insert logo—which, when typed and followed by a press of the F3 button, would get replaced by a JPEG of your company's logo. Hachamovitch realized that this...could be used far more aggressively to correct common mistakes. He drew up a little code that would allow you to press the left arrow and F3 at any time and immediately replace teh with the. His ‘aha’ moment came when he realized that, because English words are space-delimited, the space bar itself could trigger the replacement, to make correction … automatic! Hachamovitch drew up a list of common errors, and over the next years he and his team went on to solve many of the thorniest. Seperate would automatically change to separate. Accidental cap locks would adjust immediately (making dEAR grEG into Dear Greg).”
So autocorrect is the great machine, tidying up your errors as you go and making sure that your minor mistakes disappear. Autocorrect will instantly revert to the right word so that no one ever needs to know that you wrote abs when you really meant and.
As well as replacing common grammatical errors your phone will use an AI combination of predictive text and autocorrect to learn from you. The words you use the most are at your fingertips. Names, places and words I use daily, appear on my phone as I’m typing the first letter of the word. I once typed my son's name in capitals as ROMAN and now every time I write his name, it appears in full caps. This doesn’t happen on your phone. My autocorrect is different from yours.
In the same way that your phone is programmed for you, your brain is programmed only by you. So the question is, which version of you is programming your autocorrect? Who is the engineer behind your predictive text?
Think of it like this - if you start to write with good intentions, you write from your higher self. But your phone - with its autocorrect function battling against what you actually want to say - acts as your lower self.
When you metaphorically start typing, your higher self is saying the things it wants to say; it’s speaking its truth. Your autocorrect - your lower self - says “no, this is what I know based on previous data you’ve told me or what I’ve heard and this is what I think we should do instead”. This might show up by switching out “I’m going to” with “I can’t” or “I need” with “I don’t deserve”. If you’ve only ever typed negativity into your personal keyboard, well guess what, when you start typing, it’s going to autocorrect negatively.
Your phone might be delivered with a fresh program using the right language, and it understands the basics of grammar, spelling, and your personal typing habits, but that doesn't mean it always gets it right. As people, there’s a constant war between our lower and higher selves, just like you’re at war with your phone and its bloody autocorrect (I have never ever wanted to type ducking hell!) If you don't catch this disconnect, and you hit enter too fast, the results can be harmful to your mindset.