X-Message-Number: 33502
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2011 16:30:47 EDT
Subject: Response to Chris Manning: Dragon Naturally Speaking

Content-Language: en

Thanks  for your thoughtful reply and for asking questions. I'm going to go 
at answering  them in a different order than you asked them for logistical 
reasons that I hope  will soon become apparent. This is also necessary due 
to the message length  constraints on Cryonet. 
Chris wrote: 
I am intrigued by the fact that Mr. Darwin has the *time* to post  these 
many long emails. I assume he would say that the time spent composing them  is 
justified by the importance of setting the record straight (as he would see 
Mike replied: 
'Wow, this is a weird statement. Information processing and  communications 
technology are advancing at a rate that simply blows me away -  and I'm not 
easily impressed. If medicine were progressing at 1/10th or maybe  even 
1/100th the rate that is being sustained in these areas, we'd  all be immortal 
already. You might as well  have asked me how I manage to find the *time* to 
post so much, given that  using a hammer and chisel to carve my words into 
stone takes so long. And that's  a good place to end this post, because it 
returns us to where we started out:  the intelligent use of technology to 
improve the utilization of the most  valuable resource in the world: human 
intelligence and productive  creativity.' 
Chris  Replied: 
I  don't know what is 'weird' about it. I believe your recent posts must 
have taken  a long time to type. As far as I know, George Orwell's 

'speak-write' hasn't been  invented yet, so I believe you would have used some 
sort of 
keyboard to type  your emails. Possibly you are a fast typist. 
MD:  Fortunately there are lots of people on Cryonet who have actually seen 
me type,  because few people believe it until they see it. I type with one 
finger (right  index) and while I average 60 wpm it is error ridden text and 
slow going. I  learned this bizarre way of typing as a child, and numerous 
attempts at  mastering touch typing have failed (something not uncommon, I'm 
told).  Well over 10 years ago, if I'm not  mistaken, a software program 
was developed called "Dragon Naturally Speaking"  and it is EXACTLY the "
Speak-Write program that George Orwell envisioned. It has  gone through many 
iterations since its first release, with steady improvement.  It is quite 
expensive - with add-ons such as medical word and other technical  word 

recognition capability; you are looking at upwards of $1K. It also has,  despite
they say on their TV adverts, a very shallow learning curve. The  program 
must first master your particular vocalizations and speech patterns  

(something it is getting faster and faster at doing) and you must then master  
to use it effectively. It is the latter that is time consuming and  

frustrating to so many users who can already type well and rapidly. I'm not in  
The  primary first users of Dragon were physicians who used it for medical  
transcription. Indeed; the medical transcriptionist is now all but an 
obsolete  career.  That's how I first heard  about it, and how I got to try it 
out. Dragon is now pursuing the mass market  and runs TV ads in the UK with 
some frequency. 
Dragon  is great for "writing" documents where you know what you are going 
to say and  can say it fluidly and easily. In other words, it is fantastic 
for  conversational writing. Where it is nearly useless (at least for me) is 
 technical or other writing where I have to struggle with what and how I 
want to  say something, and often have to proceed a sentence, or at most a few 
sentences  at  a time. For instance, having to  stop, check facts, check 
numbers, check references and think about HOW I want to  say something. How 
fast or slow you type in that situation is not the  rate-limiting step.  
Blessedly, most of correspondence is essentially conversational and  is of 
the kind that you see business people in the movies in the era of personal  
secretaries say, "Take a letter Miss Smith. In regards to blah, blah..." 
Dragon is  brilliant at that and I would guess it kicks up my efficiency by 

several orders  of magnitude. Also, technical articles in areas that I have good
mastery of and  where the material is a tutorial or a review, can be easily 
dictated using  Dragon and that saves a fortune in time. In those 

situations, I can write almost  as fast as I can speak, and that's very, very 

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