Ysabechhum Not Ydbachhum

In Arabic, Ysabechhum means Good Morning, whereas Ydbachhum means Kill Them! A Palestinian labourer didn’t spell it wrongly when he posted a selfie next to his tractor, on Facebook wishing his friends a Good Morning. In his case, Artificial Intelligence got it wrong and sent the Israeli forces to arrest the poor bloke. A good reminder to all school children out there, pay attention during your spelling lessons! It may just save your life one day.

My sons were again asking me why I didn’t properly anglicise their names, especially knowing they would be growing up in Australia. I reminded them our surname was actually given to us by our old colonial masters, the British who ruled Malaya and Singapore from 1873 to 1963. It was some nincompoop Brit who failed to spell our family name correctly. And now we are stuck with it unless someone is resolute enough to change it. A name spelt without a vowel is simply too difficult for the western tongue to say let alone announce on stage. And so, my sons who are musicians have always had to put up with their names being badly enunciated on the radio or on stage ever since they were six years old. Why didn’t I give them names that are easy to spell and easy to remember e.g. Lang Lang and Yo-Yo. They aren’t being reasonable, how was I to expect they would have a career in the performing arts? If I did, I would have renamed them Elvis or Sinatra.

In the not too distant future, parents will have an easy job of naming their children. Big Data algorithms will discover through our biometric data what makes us excited and happy, and with 5G and super computer power, external computer systems can hack into our digital world and know what our desires, interests and preferences are. AI will know us better than we know ourselves. AI will definitely know our children better than we know them, having access to their Google or Baidu searches, Facebook, Twitter, Wechat, Whatsapp and Instagram accounts. AI would tell the parents, at a price, what careers will be ideal for their children. And if AI calculated that a child has the right aptitude and attitude to be a concert pianist or cellist, it could supply a short list of new catchy and more importantly, appropriate names for the parents to rename their children. Maybe Lang Lang the Second? Or Yo-Yo Two? Urghh, that would take the angst out of parenthood, wouldn’t it? It would be AI’s fault if their name was spelt wrongly.

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