Monday, October 17, 2016

My Life According to My Phone


My phone probably knows more about me than any living person. I log my exercise with it, stream podcasts and audio books through it, listen to the radio on it, use it as a map, take notes on current projects with it, store photos on it, track my personal and professional schedules in it, and use it to conduct the bulk of my online social interaction.

As a result, my phone knows me pretty well. 

But does it know me well enough to sound like me?

The Theory

Every time I use my phone's keyboard, I teach it a little more about who I am and how I express myself.
In its most basic form, keyboard prediction uses text that you enter over time to build a custom, local "dictionary" of words and phrases that you've typed repeatedly. It then "scores" those words by the probability you'll use or need it again (LifeHacker).
The upshot of this is that over the past year or two, my phone has become better at predicting what I might say by learning to mimic my thoughts and speech patterns. 

At least, that's the theory.

The Experiment 

To test this theory, I provided a starting point and then let the predictive text function take over. Since my phone offers three options at a time, I just tapped middle choice repeatedly until I'd formed a complete sentence. (Or in some cases, a string of glorious gibberish.)

The Results

Below I've recorded my phone's responses, providing my starting prompt in bold text. I have to say, the results were much more sentence-like than I'd anticipated. 

I started with some basic pronouns just to see where my phone would take them. 
  • I am so excited for the next few weeks, and then we will have a great time.
  • You can download it soon.
  • He was a little more than I have to be.
  • She was like I was.
  • We are not going anywhere tonight.
  • They are not the only thing I can get.
Next I started some random sentences focusing on topics I generally discuss. 
  • Coffee is a great time.
  • This book was the best thing ever.
  • My favorite people have to be in the world.
  • This day is going to be near you tonight. 
  • Going to church with me and my mom is a great day.
  • Traveling with my sister is going on with the idealizing and weird worship of the youthful you.
Then I got ambitious and asked my phone to complete some famous sayings from Benjamin Franklin. 
  • Early to bed and early to get the money.
  • Lost time is never going back home.
  • By failing to prepare, you are not the only one.
  • In this world, nothing can be certain except the last few weeks.
  • Marry in haste, I don't want to.
  • Little strokes fell asleep.
  • The doors of wisdom from you in a bit of time, and where is the best of all of you who are the only thing that I am not?
Then some Shakespeare, because why not.
  • To be or not to be.
  • Double, double-check with you guys.
  • The course of true love never did anything remotely close to the gym.
  • My mistress's eyes are burning up.
  • Love all, trust few, do you want to hang out tonight?
  • If you prick us, do we not have fellowship?
  • Cowards die many times before I go to the hospital.
  • Good night! Good night! Parting is such sweet little boy in the course of human events.
  • Out, out brief candle! Life is but a walking zombie movie with me and my mom.
  • Et tu, Brute? Then we can do it again and again and again.
  • My bounty is as boundless as the first time I've had to go to work with family and friends. 
  • All the world's a stage, and all the time before I leave for work tomorrow morning at the end of the line is busy.
  • It is a tale told by an old man who has been so busy today, so I'm not sure if I can help get her book.
Then some first lines from the Telegraph's list of the 100 Greatest Songs of All Time because I have lost all control.

  • "Wonderful World": I see trees of green beans with you. 
  • "Somebody to Love": Can anybody find me attractive?
  • "Say a Little Prayer": The moment I wake up before I put on my makeup, I read the book and the other one.
  • "Hotel California": On a dark desert highway, cool beans in the world, and the rest is history.
  • "Blowin' in the Wind": How many roads are fine and dandy - you have to work with me.
  • "I Will Survive": At first I was afraid that the other side of the day before the wedding was beautiful.
  • "Hey Jude": Hey, Jude - don't have a nice time.
  • "Dancing Queen": Friday nights and the lights are low, and behold - there is a little bit more work than I thought.
  • "Somewhere Over the Rainbow": Somewhere over the rainbow, cake and ice bucket; and I don't know how long I can stay because I just found out that I have Friday mostly off!
  • "Unchained Melody" Oh my love, my bounty hunter is the best thing ever.
Conclusion

Although my phone's predictive text function does seem to have absorbed some of the major themes of my life (books, work, injuries, superlatives, my mom, weddings, beans), it still doesn't sound like me. At least, not much.

Regarding the major themes themselves, the books, work, mom, superlatives, and wedding topics I can understand. The first four are self-explanatory, and I'm pretty sure the wedding stuff is due to a scene for my third novel that I've been trying to nail down.

The beans? I'm not so sure about those. 

Unless we're talking coffee beans.

* * * * *

Photo Credit: 

By Garry Knight from London, England [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons



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