From The Blog

E-mail Print PDF

More often than not, the “Autocorrect” function has become, since 2010, a useful tool when generating electronic messages.  Rather than expose the writer to ridicule for misspelling or require later editing, Autocorrect will edit and change the spelling as the writer proceeds saving both time and reputation.  This is certainly useful.  Ironically, however, Autocorrect needs editing in turn or else the writer may send an unintentionally embarrassing text.

For example, one music teacher delightedly posted the photograph of a young pianist with the “autocorrected” caption: “So proud of my student after her rectal performance.”   Another writer can probably expect a visit from the authorities after posting a recipe for “I-Taliban meatballs.”  Any relationships is bound to suffer when a respondent had “No, I don’t” autocorrected to “No, idiot.”  Probably true but not likely to get him hired was one job applicant’s “Thank you” note autocorrected to: “It was a pressure meeting you.”  And one drama teacher might have had much to explain to the police when her “auditioning of kids” was autocorrected to “auctioning kids.”  Fortunately, she caught the error in time.  Her correction was autocorrected to “suctioning kids.”  

Usually Autocorrect will sabotage any message I send that involves Hebrew expressions written phonetically in English.  But I also have a personal autocorrect error to report that actually improved on my intention. 

Read more...
E-mail Print PDF

I spend too little time on Facebook to really care, but Frank Bruni’s reaction to the debate on the algorithm that determines popular trends is instructive.  Facebook representatives claim that the lead stories are determined by popularity alone and popularity is determined by numbers.  The more Facebook users click on a topic, the higher that topic will rank.  However, critics claim that a cavil of Facebook staff actually manipulate the system so that what they consider trend-worthy (read: liberal political views) is ranked higher than numbers alone demand.  Frank Bruni, however, sees this entire debate as a red herring.  What Facebook users are most interested in is not how trends are ranked but in ensuring that only their cherished views are shared.  To Bruni, despite Western civilization’s technological advances, we still remain a tribal society.  We want to exclude others we don’t “Like.”

Social psychologist and New York University professor Jonathan Haidt describes this kind of tribalism is his 2012 best selling book entitled The Righteous Mind.  Culturally, people want to spend more time with people like themselves and less time with people who are different.  On his view, Facebook amplifies a tendency that already exists.  Bruni goes further.  His take on the Internet in general is that people gravitate towards views they prefer and seek to have them validated – not questioned – by others.  Rather than a source for contrary information that would help refine our views and test our opinions, people are using social media to confirm their views and immediately condemn those who stray from the accepted truth.  A similar pattern has emerged in the hallowed halls of universities where in the name of micro-aggression students can censor contrarian ideas.  Those who fail to conform to the dogma of the left-wing political agenda are open to condemnation or worse.  Our tribalism has generated a program of “illiberal arts” on our college campuses.

So rather than spend time on Facebook, I prefer to spend time studying Talmud where the most outlandish opinions are voiced and not just tolerated but seriously discussed.  The give and take of Talmudic passage demonstrates that no opinion is sacrosanct and the most compelling opinion is that which stands up to the most intense scrutiny.  The purpose of studying Talmud is not to find confirmation for what you hold to be true but to examine whether that which is thought to be correct actually is.  Almost ironically, Talmud study that is held to be so parochial is actually more pluralistic than Facebook.

  

E-mail Print PDF

As Moses gathers together the people of Israel to once again affirm the covenant struck with God, he insists that not all those who stand together are present.  As the great medieval commentator RaShI, Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac of Troyes, explains, Moses is referring to those Jews of later generations who, although physically absent, were spiritually included in the covenantal reaffirmation (Commentary on Deuteronomy 29:14).  In effect, all Jews were present at Sinai and all Jews were present to accept the covenant.  Hence, no Jew has the opportunity to opt out of the contract claiming that he or she was not party to the agreement.  At the same time, it is intriguing how our tradition places us all at Sinai as if we were actually there.  Through probability theory it is also intriguing to note that our past is also part of us.

Read more...

Words to live by

 

If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.

-  Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia