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No, this time it's not about fraud but about inadvertent alteration of the written word – and number! – due to technical limitation and hybris. The problem as such has long been known, see Kriesel in my list of 2014-09-26 . That does not mean it's solved. Take a look at what I just found on Google's archive.org . This book is offered in two versions. First there is the state-of-the-art high-quality modern one:
and then the primitive old-style one in lower quality and twice as large:
Look at them (click to see the non-reduced originals) and concentrate on the letters “b” and “h”. Notice that the error works in both directions. The scan is not in the least visibly problematic, all letters are seemingly perfect and crispy clear!
Friends and colleagues often laugh at my geriatronic ways and my insistence on the old, proven, simple, and primitive, when modern technology is so much better. I distrust everything intelligent and automatic and insist on controlling every single step in a procedure myself. This is one more example of the reasons why. Please note that the example above is ugly but harmless and remember that the very same thing has been shown to occur with numbers in tabulated data. Please also remember that online sources have more or less totally replaced the printed word on paper.
The truly creepy thing about this is that at least in principle the same thing can happen when making a photocopy or taking a photograph of a manuscript or inscription using a modern high-tech camera. Especially in Hebrew some letters are notoriously difficult to tell apart. Imagine transcribing from a photograph or facsimile where these have been invisibly replaced by clear and unambiguous images of the wrong letter.
Do not and never trust a machine that tries to be more clever than you are – especially not if and when it is! Or, as I keep saying in spite of continuously being ridiculed for it: “Never ever use any technology, that you do not fully understand!”
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