Talk to your toaster

I also used to be excited about the future, but now that I live here, I take it for granted.

NaNoWriMo – national novel writing month – is approaching once again. (“The month formerly known as November”, as I like to call it.) The forums for 2012 are up and running, and in the technology section there is as usually a thread dedicated to speech recognition, or more specifically Dragon NaturallySpeaking. (I would not mind a more general thread, since Windows also comes with speech recognition built in. Hopefully we can have more threads later.)

One thing I wanted to say early on was that it is not enough to be able to use speech recognition in a technical sense. The next challenge is to be able to tell a story to the computer. This is a very different thing, especially for us who have been writers for many years and are used to thinking with our fingers. It also doesn’t help to have been a grown-up for many years, during which you have not been able to tell long, obviously made-up stories to people without them looking at you very strangely. I suppose there are some families in which this problem does not exist, but I am not sure whether it is a good thing or not… ^_^;

So I recommended that people start telling stories to their computers already now, all through October, so that they have gotten over that hurdle, that shyness or awkwardness of telling imaginary stories out loud to inanimate objects. In fact, I recommend practicing on the toaster as well, and with blatant nonsense. The purpose is not to deliver the Great American Novel to your amazed toaster, but to get yourself to accept the unreasonable fact that it is possible to tell stories to home equipment. Such are the times in which we live. I could not have made it up in a sci-fi novel. Magic fantasy, perhaps, just perhaps.

I ask you, gentle reader, to consider this: Not only do I occasionally talk to a machine without being insane (or more so than those who don’t). I also carry in my shirt pocket a telephone, my own library with dozens of books, a bookstore with millions more, thousands of newspapers from all over the world, millions of songs and an unknown number of movies, and enough cat pictures to last the craziest old cat lady for a lifetime.

You can probably add to this, but the point is: I do this almost every day without giving it a second thought. I don’t wake up each morning thinking: “Oh my God! I live in a miraculous, magical world filled with amazing wonders that I would not have believed were possible when I was a child – what should I do today to take advantage of this to the fullest?”

If I did, and if my conclusion was that I should start the day by talking to my kitchen equipment, that might not be the worst thing I have done in my life.