George Carter
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AI Is Making Me Lazy

| Saturday 18th May, 2024

I found myself rather distressed today. I’m in Japan at the moment and having passed JLPT N4, I have a decent enough working knowledge of Japanese.

In fact, only the other day I realised how darned grateful I am that all those casual interactions go completely smoothly pretty much all the time… you know, when someone offers to press the button in the life and you say “4th floor, please”, when you’re getting off the train and you gesture to a fellow passenger and say “Please, after you”…

But as I was mooching around MoriokaI noticed a disturbing trend in my behaviour. On seeing an information board, I’d grab my phone and fire up Google Lens before ever trying to actually read the sign first.

It really hit home when I saw the sign on a building and realised that at some point I knew every one of the five characters I was looking at but could only recall the meaning of two of them, and couldn’t even figure out the whole meaning from the context.

I looked for a good few moments, staring at those characters, racking my brain for the compartment they were stored in, and failing to retrieve them.

Had I been reading more full signs I’m willing to bet that those five Kanji characters would have appeared individually, and with more context around them so I could, indeed recall them.

It’s not as bad as it could be, I’m still getting the gist of maybe half of the signs I’m reading. But I guess if you don’t use a language it goes rusty.

And that’s the problem… even given the best opportunity in the world to use the language (i.e. total immersion), it seems I am taking the easy route and allowing my skills to atrophy further.

Perhaps for the remainder of my trip I shall declare Google Lens (and Google Assistant) off limits and rely on my knowledge, instinct and mental flexibility along with the old backups, smiling and mime, to get by.


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