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Textbooks: Desperately Seeking Humanoid Editors

Updated on February 2, 2018

A few years ago, I bought my first textbook on network security and ethical hacking. Will not disclose the name of the book or who wrote it, but will just say that the author is someone I respect very much, an amazing teacher with decades of experience in his field and a great sense of humor. Never before have I picked up an educational book, that made me laugh and giggle through almost every single page. He would always open each chapter with witty comments and would add a hilarious opinion on real-world technology blunders and news. Publishing company was McGraw-Hill, so we’re talking about a very reputable publisher, that has been around for many decades. The book came with the addition of a CD, that carried the book’s material and a very large section of practice exams so you could feel well prepared when going in to give the lengthy and complicated test for the ECC.

As the book’s author is an Information Security pro, he, of course, knows the given material better than any student out there. Although it was well written, it also carried many mistakes, much to my dismay. An example I can give here would be mathematics, physics or other textbooks that carry formulas or very specific instructions on how a task is supposed to be carried out. If one of those formulas has a typo or the wrong word is accidentally inserted into the instructional document, then the student may come across these important issues:

Complete a given task the wrong way, because steps needed to complete the project, weren’t properly explained to them or were just the wrong steps to take. There have been many times where I started to read instructions on how to use a specific tool, but couldn’t make sense of what I was reading due to grammar and spelling mistakes. There were even cases where I followed instructions perfectly, as I could understand the written directions very well, yet nothing worked the way it was supposed to, and eventually found out, directions were false.

Memorize the wrong formula from start, which leads them to inaccuracies and the production of miscalculations. Also, it’s fairly common that the way we learn something the first time can become a temporary habit until we retrain our brain on the specific subject. Something like this is especially harmful and can bring chaos when it involves personal and corporate finances, but also when scientific research is being done. Simple example: (real textbook typo) The Quadratic Equation -> ax2 + bx + c = 0 presented as ax2 + bx + cx = 0 in a textbook that I won’t mention here.

How about forcibly responding to a test question with an inaccurate answer? If the solution to a query says we must mark two or more from the list of answers, otherwise the returning statement will be wrong, yet the screen output on the exam computer, is giving the choice to only pick one, then you’re unwillingly forced to give the wrong answer. Thankfully, you can alert the helpful proctor in this case. If he is there and if the rules allow it of course….We have learned to rely on automation so much, even with editing nowadays. What used to be an editor, for any kind of book, is now a tech-editor or at the very least, some sort of software. And don’t get me wrong, as much as I love technology, automation, and innovation, humans are still needed for things such as editing. Grammar is also very important. It helps us understand each other and communicate in ways math cannot. And because software is based on computer logic, which in essence means math logic, an editor like Grammarly, can only help so much (don’t get me wrong, I use it too, but still have to proofread and make sure things are written in a way, where a human will understand flawlessly). That’s because an automated editor doesn’t know that when we communicate, as an example, we don’t use adjectives when they’re not needed, simply because they are implied, and therefore unnecessary sometimes. A few lines above, I wrote “And because software is based” but the program notes that phrase as a mistake in grammar, telling me I should be writing “And because_ the_ software is based”. This is because it doesn’t recognize that inserting the adjective, in this case, isn’t necessary. In real life, day to day conversations, that extra adjective (the) is implied and therefore not needed.

This is why we should always combine and rely on the human element just as much as our incredible technological advancements. We should bring humans and technology together in all projects we create. Because we can complement each other…human plus machine is better than just machine alone. Especially when it comes to things that require sentient reasoning.


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