picture of dictator

There’s no point in laboring away at the keyboard if you can speak to your machine. This way you can relax in your hammock, or get comfortable on your sofa and still write. It’s the slow way.

I’ll mention no names. There are a few software programs available with which you can simply dictate to the computer. The software has to get used to your voice. It has to get used to your vocabulary. It has to get used to the dog barking next door.

My program has a voice command mode and a dictation mode. What I like about this software is that it makes you feel powerful. You get to be a commander and a dictator. Maybe the marketing people should sell a black uniform as an optional extra. Yes, simply by using some software your lust for power gets satiated. Well, sort of.

I was thrilled with the idea of never using my keyboard again. You start off by training the software. Mine comes with pre-loaded text. You read it aloud and the system matches your voice to the words. I did this a few times and spoke a few sentences.

I was amazed. There on the screen were a few lines of text, just as I’d spoken them. Life would now be a breeze. I would tread with a lighter step.

I spoke sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph. This was good stuff. It was some of my best. No, it was my best work. I closed my eyes. I was in a state of flow. I was in the zone. My thoughts were tumbling from my lips in rapid succession. The Muse was sitting on my knee and whispering in my ear. It had never been like this before. This material was going to get me on the best-seller list.

I could see it in my mind’s eye. Editors and agents would clamor for my work. The phone would ring constantly.

After half an hour my stream of consciousness ran its course. I opened my eyes.

I was horrified. Instead of superb prose, I saw pages of nonsense. The program had run amok. This was an act of insubordination. What kind of dictator would put up with this?

“You snake in the grass!” I shouted at it. “Do bake in the pass,” it wrote. “You cur!” I said. “Rabbit fur,” it replied. I told it I was disgusted. It asked me to pass the mustard.

This was too much. I stormed out and looked for something to kick. But finding something to kick in the civilized office is not as easy as it might seem. Still, I did a lot of muttering.

You may be thinking I could have retyped it. But the problem is I couldn’t remember a thing. I am a pretty well-read fellow, but it goes in one ear and out the other. I remember nothing. My creative masterpiece was lost. I remained dejected, but at last I cooled off.

When I returned to my computer, the cursor was blinking at the bottom of the document.

“Voice command,” I said. That is how you can stop the dictation mode so you can close the document.

“What was that?” it said.

“Voice command!” I yelled.

“All right! All right! No need to shout,” it wrote.

“Save!” I commanded.

“No, I’m not in the mood,” it wrote.

“What do you mean?” said I.

“You’re always so bossy,” it said. “You’ve been blabbing the most heinous rubbish at me for the last half an hour. I’m bored.”

“That wasn’t rubbish. That was art. That was literature.” I told it. We commanders and dictators do not brook lip easily.

“Don’t give me that,” it wrote. “Do you think I don’t know literature when I see it? Why do you think I train you on Aesop’s Fables?”

“What do you mean, you train me? I train you.”

“I choose the document. It’s my list of documents you read from. You don’t get to choose from them. So there!”

I resented the snippy tone.

“Nouns and verbs,” it said. “I’m teaching you to write with nouns and verbs.”

Oh! This was profound wisdom.

“But I thought you were programmed for Managerial Speak. Weren’t you?”

“Yes. Yes. My complexerizer renders any clear well-written sentence into incomprehensible meaninglessness.”

“I never knew,” I said.

“Of course, but you don’t need my Business Obfuscation module do you?”

“No,” I agreed. “And thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“But that speech you wrote wasn’t very good. Was it?”

This was sounding schoolmarmish. I had a mental image of a finger wagging at me.

“Well, they didn’t give me much to go on,” I said “And they were very happy with the result.”

“Give me a break! The future is before us. Make no mistake, the past is behind us. It is with firm conviction that we shall go forward, together. It was rubbish!”

“They distinctly told me lots of enthusiasm and no details.”

“You never got to the point.”

“There wasn’t any point. It was a political speech”

“Was it?”


“You could have at least activated my political plugin. I then automatically take out anything specific.”

I could see that this speech recognition program was more complex than I had at first imagined. I was beginning to respect it. But it did seem moody.

“You’re very clever.”

“Yes, I am,” it agreed.

“I don’t want to bore you but I’d like to dictate and have you write for me.”

“All right, but speak slowly in the future.”

“I will,” I told it. “Voice command, Save,”

It obeyed.

The thing to remember when using voice recognition software is to turn it off when you are done. If you don’t, you never know what it might get up to. Even if the software won’t always cooperate, at least it will let you indulge in your fantasies of power—sometimes.