What Searchable Speech Will Do to You


We are going to start recording and automatically transcribing most of what we say. Instead of evaporating into memory, words spoken aloud will calcify as text, into a Record that will be referenced, searched, and mined. It will happen by our standard combination of willing and allowing. It will happen because it can.

“Intentionally or not, the tech will soon get so good as to reach a tipping point—what the journalist Matt Thompson called the Speakularity—where “the default expectation for recorded speech will be that it’s searchable and readable, nearly in the instant.” The only question, then, will be what we decide to record.”

“When something like the Record comes along, it won’t reshape the basic ways we live and love. It won’t turn our brains to mush, or make us supermen. We will continue to be our usual old boring selves, on occasion deceitful, on occasion ingenuous. Yes, we will have new abilities—but what we want will change more slowly than what we can do.”

“Having a Record will just give us a new dimension on which to map a capacity we’ve always had. People who are constantly being recorded will adapt to that fact by becoming expert at knowing what’s in the transcript and what’s not. They’ll be like parents talking around children. They’ll become masters of plausible deniability. They’ll use sarcasm, or they’ll grimace or grin or lean their head back or smirk, or they’ll direct their gaze, so as to say a thing without saying it.”