This, you may find hard to believe, especially given the title of the article. But in fact this was told to me by my superior, as an anecdote of computer lore worthy of mentioning to anyone remotely interested: the principal players involved are a high-tech supplier, and a set of very diligent humans halfway across the globe….

I work for a company that creates software for hospitals and doctors, to facilitate them in their evaluation of their patient’s condition. The big imaging systems like , , CT, and many more produce digital images that need to be cataloged and stored, distributed and what’s more important, diagnosed.

Enter the computer: never bored, never tired, always willing to help. But it doesn’t do the job by learning it, but by being instructed how to do so. So a lot of guys like me figured out how to make a computer listen to a human, and type out his speech, with varying success. It is quite advanced nowadays, but lately the Speech Recognition companies are under siege from a new system that provides better recognition, fewer errors, and a lower price tag: Humans!

Imaging Dr. Feelgood working on diagnosing his patients in Miami Florida. He speaks into the microphone, that is connected  to his new-fangled speech recognition system. His voice get transformed into a digital soundstream, which is then transfered over the Web to Bangalore, (I’m just naming some places, I may well be wrong). Out there, in the night shift, Sujitra Suktaay hears the doctor’s voice coming from her headset. She is remotely logged into the hospital’s information system, and knows about which patient the doctor is talking. In fact, the system presents her only with a text field to type what she hears. She types, her keystrokes are recorded, and then sent back to the hospital system. End of story…..

Apparently, this setup works! It is cheaper and more accurate to transport the information halfway across the globe twice, rather than having a computer do the dirty work. The ladies out there are less picky than their western colleagues, because they make a decent living according to their standards, and the doctors are impressed because this system outperforms both their secretaries and their computers! 

Everybody happy, although the doctors still make much more money than the Asian ladies who are at their late night beck and call….

Love the Oneness, even if it does seem rather unbalanced….