With the creation of a device that changes the tone of your online messages, we at TBS see a much darker future in store for our species.
Imagine this for a moment. Computers consciously aware of our tone, offering an alternate for our attempts to con Tina from Accounting into sexual congress. “….Use more veiled pathos, David”. No, it’s not the logline of a Woody Allen reboot of 2001, It is something much darker. And it’s already here.
Some start-ups are bringing to market things like the ‘Tone Analyser’. The TA is an algorithm that uses Watson, who is an AI, to analyse the tone of your written communications, be it your emails, your youtube negging or your tinder zingers, Watson fires back with cyborgian Frasier Crane wit. ‘Sounds great!’ I agree, but that’s only because I disagree.
While implementing the intricacies of the spoken word into text, to ensure our tone is accurately represented is an amazing achievement.
It is but a cover for the dark truth:
These apps are planning to weaponise sarcasm. Whether they meant to or not, is irrelevant. One day in the near future we will teeter on the edge of Grammargeddon.
It’s easy to image how the whole sentence will fall over, too. Watson, acting on its own, will change the tone of a diplomatic email between the US and China, thereby launching the first (lyrical) bombs. Beijing will be puzzled at the sudden lurch towards litotes in International Policy. China will want to know ‘why’. But by the time China sends this email, it will already be too late. An inadvertent hellstorm of double-negatives will be raining down on the US.
And from there, what? Robotic drones buzzing down the street, metallic eyebrow cocked, razing buildings and the resistance members within, piously droning “Ohhhh didn’t see you thereeeeee” or “You right there, mate?”
I say No.
I’m drawing a line across the page.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as that, as there’s nothing to stand up against. You can’t wound Sarcasm. It’ll never directly show pain. And the UN will never ban it, because they’d probably use it against us.
We can’t put the thesaurus back on the shelf. But what happens next is up to us. We need to outthink our creation. What we need is a resistance movement. A movement to resist our human urges to insult from a place of safety.
Next time you want to be passive-aggressive, do it in person.
If you want viciously cut someone down, use the telephone.
Cold facts and harsh accommodations to be made in polite society, yes, but our species depends on it. We need to keep our electronic communications dour, factual. To be doubly sure, I vote we hurl the Tone Analyser into the molten rock before it becomes aware enough to fire back an ironic thumbs up.
I know that all this is just words, but know that words will be the currency spent in this conflict, and while the war will be fought on the web pages of history, it’s up to us how we write it.