Fault-Intolerant by Isaac Asimov

এই ব্লগে যে ছোটগল্পগুলি পোস্ট করা হয়েছে তার ক্রমেই একটি ছোটগল্প – অন্ধযুগের সৃজনসঙ্গী – প্রকাশিত হয়েছে ‘তীরন্দাজ’ পত্রিকায়। এইখানে তার লিংক রইলো। গল্পটির সাথে সম্পর্ক আছে আইজ্যাক অ্যাসিমভের এই গল্পটির।

The short-story beneath was compiled in Gold: The Final Science Fiction Collection is a 1995 collection of stories and essays by American writer Isaac Asimov. It is an inspiration behind a short-story of mine which is forthcoming. Copyright belongs to the publisher of the anthology.

14 february

I didn’t get confused. Now that the proof is in, I can talk about it. The short story went as smoothly as cream. I brought it in and they’ve taken it. No problem.

So I’ve finally started my new novel. I should have started it a month ago, but I had to make sure I could work my word processor first. Let’s hope it works. It’ll seem funny not having a pile of yellow sheets I can rifle through when I want to check something I said a hundred pages earlier, but I suppose I can learn how to check back on the discs.

19 february

The computer has a spelling correction component. That caught me by surprise because the representative hadn’t told me about it. At first, it let misspellings go and I just proofread each page as I turned it out. But then it began to mark off any word it was unfamiliar with, which was a little bothersome because my vocabulary is a large one and I have no objection to making up words. And, of course, any proper name I use is something it was unfamiliar with.

I called the representative because it was annoying to have to be notified of all sorts of corrections that didn’t really have to be made.

The representative said, “Don’t let that bother you, Mr. Ivanov. If it questions a word that you want to remain as it is, just retype it exactly as it is and the computer will get the idea and not correct it the next time.”

That puzzled me. “Don’t I have to set up a dictionary for the machine? How will it know what’s right and what’s wrong?”

“That’s part of the fault-tolerance, Mr. Ivanov,” he said. “The machine already has a basic dictionary and it picks up new words as you use them. You will find that it will pick up false misspellings to a smaller and smaller degree. To tell you truthfully, Mr. Ivanov, you have a late model there and we’re not sure we know all its potentialities. Some of our researchers consider it fault-tolerant in that it can continue to work despite its own flaws, but fault-intolerant in that it won’t stand for flaws in those who use it. Please report to us if there’s anything puzzling. We would really like to know.”

I’m not sure I’ll like this.

7 march

Well, I’ve been struggling with the word processor and I don’t know what to think. For a long time, it would mark off misspellings, and I would retype them correctly. And it certainly learned how to tell real misspellings. I had no trouble there. In fact, when I had a long word, I would sometimes throw in a wrong letter just to see if it would catch it. I would write “supercede” or “vaccum” or “Skenectady.” It almost never failed.

And then yesterday a funny thing happened. It stopped waiting for me to retype the wrong spelling. It retyped it automatically itself. You can’t help striking the wrong key sometimes so I would write “ She” instead of “the” and the “ 5” would change to a “t” in front of my eyes. And it would happen quickly, too.

I tested it by deliberately typing a word with a wrong letter. I would see it show up wrong on the screen. I would blink my eyes and it would be right.

This morning I phoned the representative.

“Hmm,” he said. “Interesting.”

“Troublesome,” I said, “it might introduce mistakes. If I type ‘blww’ does the machine correct it to ‘blew’ or to ‘blow’? Or what if it thinks I mean ‘blue,’ ‘ue’ when I really mean ‘blew,’ ‘ew.’ See what I mean?”

He said, “I have discussed your machine with one of our theoretical experts. He tells me it may be capable of absorbing internal clues from your writing and knows which word you really want to use. As you type into it, it begins to understand your style and integrate it into its own programming.”

A little scary, but it’s convenient. I don’t have to proofread the pages now.

20 march

I really don’t have to proofread the pages. The machine has taken to correcting my punctuation and word order.

The first time it happened, I couldn’t believe it. I thought I had had a small attack of dizziness and had imagined I had typed something that wasn’t really on the screen.

It happened oftener and oftener and there was no mistake about it. It got to the point where I couldn’t make a mistake in grammar. If I tried to type something like “Jack, and Jill went up the hill,” that comma simply wouldn’t appear. No matter how I tried to type “I has a book,” it always shows up as “I have a book.” Or if I wrote, “Jack, and Jill as well, went up the hill,” then I couldn’t omit the commas. They’d go in of their own accord.

It’s a lucky thing I keep this diary in longhand or I couldn’t explain what I mean. I couldn’t give an example of wrong English.

I don’t really like to have a computer arguing with me over English, but the worst part of it is that it’s always right.

Well, look, I don’t throw a fit when a human copy editor sends me back a manuscript with corrections in every line. I’m just a writer, I’m not an expert on the minutiae of English. Let the copy editors copyedit, they still can’t write. And so let the word processor copyedit. It takes a load off me.

17 april

I spoke too soon in the last item in which I mentioned my word processor. For three weeks, it copyedited me and my novel went along smoothly. It was a good working arrangement. I did the creating and it did the modulating, so to speak.

Then yesterday evening, it refused to work at all. Nothing happened, no matter what keys were touched. It was plugged in all right; the wall switch was on; I was doing everything correctly. It just wouldn’t work. Well I thought, so much for that business about “Not once in five years.” I’d only been using it for three and a half months and already so many parts were out that it wouldn’t work.

That meant that new parts ought to come from the factory by special messenger, but not till the next day, of course. I felt terrible, you can bet, and I dreaded having to go back to the typewriter, searching out all my own mistakes and then having to make pen-and-ink corrections or to retype the page.

I went to bed in a foul humor, and didn’t actually sleep much. First thing in the morning, or, anyway, after breakfast, I went into my office, and just as I walked up to the word processor, as though it could read my mind and tell that I was so annoyed I would cheerfully have kicked it off the desk and out the window–it started working.

All by itself, mind you. I never touched the keys. The words appeared on the screen a lot more quickly than I could have made them appear and it began with:

fault-intolerant
by Abram Ivanov

I simply stared. It went on to write my diary items concerning itself, as I have done above, but much better. The writing was smoother, more colorful, with a successful touch of humor. In fifteen minutes, it was done, and in five minutes the printer had placed it on sheets.

That apparently had just been for exercise, or for practice, for once that was done, the last page I had written of my novel appeared on the screen, and then the words began to proceed without me.

The word processor had clearly learned to write my stuff, just as I would have written it, only better.

Great! No more work. The word processor wrote it under my name and wrote with my style, given a certain amount of improvement. I could just let it go, pick up the surprised reviews from my critics telling the world how I had improved, and watch the royalties pour in.

That’s all right as far as it goes, but I’m not America’s most prolific writer for no reason. I happen to love to write. That happens to be all that I want to do.

Now if my word processor does my writing, what do I do with the rest of my life?

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