Retired programmer charts his cognitive decline using Grammarly

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It’s vertically an interesting take, but I wonder how much is actually caused by using grammarly. Like my habit of typing blindly into the Google’s search box, letting a machine sort out out my typing.

Edit: case in point, the “vertically” above should’ve been “certainly”, but some typo and autocorrect changed it, even though I used the iPad while sitting down and paying attention.


Yeah, I’ve noticed that my text-entry in general has gotten a lot sloppier because tech has just gotten so good at polishing it up.

Lacking the need for greater rigor, I don’t have to waste resources. Is that me in decline, or me evolving?


One of the issues with his methodology is that the online service itself is subject to change; Grammerly has different customers than it did two years ago, and also has presumably enhanced its algorithms in that time too. So who really knows? His benchmarks are moving targets.


IQ scores are also moving targets. They adjusted every so often to place a score of 100 at the current population’s median. And yes, they have been going up. Today’s average person is smarter than the previous generation’s average person.

But maybe it’s not a bad thing to measure himself on a moving scale. An inability to continue to grow his skills (simply maintaining a steady state) would still be a disadvantage over time. As time passes and grammarly improves while he remains the same, he’d be making negative progress in the tech world.

God knows I feel like that all the time; and the feeling gets worse every time we hire a millennial who brings in yet another new language or tool; or attend a conference where the latest theories I’ve never heard of are already being turned into products and methodologies I’ll never know how to use. On the plus side, it’s a real privilege to work with these geniuses and learn from them.


This post had me thinking about my own current state-of-sharpness, and I have to say that on the whole 74-year-old me keeps up pretty well with, say, 30-year-old me. I’ve been writing for professional publication since 1975 or so (and I was teaching writing before that), and while I sometimes do have to fish around for words, my grammatical and rhetorical skills are as good as they ever were–and, thanks to decades of practice, I can turn out copy a bit faster.

I’m aware of research that suggests that memory-related decline is compensated for by the kind of procedural optimization that comes with experience, and I certainly can frame an argument or explanation even faster than I could in grad school (and back then I was already fast–no brag, just fact).

An odd side observation: I noted a decline in my once near-perfect spelling after a decade or two of teaching undergrad composition–it wasn’t age but corruption of the recognition machinery from seeing so many misspelled words in the papers I had to grade. It wasn’t the “hard” words that I’d have to correct but the same ones that students consistently misspell–the i-before-e family, for example. FWIW, I also noticed early on that I would misspell words on the blackboard that I never did writing on paper–different muscle sets involved, I decided, related to the kinds of touch-typing keyboard typos generated by reversed finger combinations. Spelling’s a funny business.


I’m cognitively declining right now. So it goes.


Didn’t Prof Hawking warn against such things?

Mine has gotten even better than it was because the tech has gotten so good at fucking it up! :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

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But like everyone else, he has the ability to grow, I don’t understand why he sits there passively measuring the decline?

(No, I didn’t RTFA, maybe he answers this.)


Grammarly is an online service, right? As the software evolves to catch more errors and have fewer false positives (or to keep up with the evolution of the language), won’t that affect the data?

I wonder if Grammarly is selling thinly ‘anonymized’ data to health and life insurers yet…

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