How Apple fixed the ‘’I” -> “A[?]” bug

There was a bug in the latest iOS that was hard to even believe. If you haven’t downloaded the patched iOS 11.1.1 yet you may see it yourself. If you type a capital ‘I’ as in “I have friends inside my phone” it’ll replace it with the bytes for a capital “A” followed by an unprintable unicode character. Here’s how Apple fixed it:

If you typed “I” you got… something else

First, before employing a technical solution, you can get in the habit of avoiding the first-person entirely. Instead of making a Facebook comment like “I have friends inside my phone” try “Are you okay? Where are you?” It avoids the problematic character by merely switching to the second-person. This is a stop-gap solution, obviously, because you can’t keep using the second- and third-person for your social media posts forever.

The short-term fix, necessary for the last few days and still necessary for anybody who can’t download the massive iOS patch, is to set up a text replacement. Go into Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> Text Replacement. What you do is replace the word ‘I’ with something else. In his seminal work ‘I and Thou’ Martin Buber crafted a new use of the word ‘thou’ (‘du’ in his native German). To him it doesn’t mean “you”, it means “you, in the context of this relationship that we’ve crafted and in which there is a unique truth, generated by the relational interdependence of I and Thou.” For Buber there is no such thing as my reality and your reality — we meet and in the connection between us, the space between I and Thou, only there is something real and true. It requires both of us to participate and the world itself becomes an I-Thou universe.

Buber defined two relational types: I-Thou and its degenerate form I-It. Am I relating to another soul equal to myself or am I relating to an object? Am I in the realm between two delicate and mortal humans or am I interacting with a dishwasher? Through this model the worst offense one can wreak on another person is to engage them in an I-It relationship. It casts the other into the role of an object, the lower end of the engagement, the passive non-agent manipulated by or serving the “I”. Relating to a person as one would to a non-person is the foundation of every abuse, of every violence, and the root of our relational fears.

Define shortcuts for the first-person pronoun

Under ‘Phrase’ put ‘I’ and under ‘Shortcut’ put ‘I’ (yeah, the same thing). We’re replacing something with itself to avoid the replacement with another. Then do it again but under ‘shortcut’ put a lowercase ‘i’ and put the uppercase one again in ‘Phrase’. You should have two shortcuts defined now, allowing you to circumvent your personification as an ‘A[?]’ by this iOS system. As of version 11.1 you are the ‘It’ in Apple’s I-It relationship. You are data to be classified and analyzed, a cohort of users to be segmented and tested with marketing campaigns, a lifetime value calculation that gets updated each time you stand in line waiting for Apple to trade your labor for the latest ‘It’ with which you can craft an “I-It” diad.

Once you download iOS 11.1.1 you can remove these keyboard shortcuts. Then you can engage with your lovers and friends through the It in your hand, fighting the semi-stochastic flow of data into your mind that incites you to regress your model of the people who make your life more than survival into friend counts and likes-per-post. Our phones are a battlefield. We line up against well-posed profile images and ideal vacation photos. We march forward. We fight to get behind the selfies to the face someone would never post. Their worst moments; crying puddles on the bathroom floor and needing nothing so much as to be held. Their reddened eyes and weakened bodies, the moments they’d prefer we not see but in which they so desperately need us. We march through the Instagram perfect sunsets and beaches to find each other doing laundry and sleeping in and wondering when our lives will feel better. We flank the LinkedIn profile announcing competence and confidence to get beyond where we can see each other deep in pathetic, life-ruining mistakes. We route “wyd?” and our trumpets declare “You are not alone.”

Our phone presents to us lists of names of people who claim to not need us and it’s only through our vibrant imaginations do we see through the lie and remember that these people are not only our equals but each one is the other half of the little realities that, together, transform this bleak few meaningless decades on Earth into every good dream come true.

It takes a lot to ship an update reliably to so many devices so it’s no surprise that Apple took a week to do so. I hear this version also fixes a bug with “Hey, Siri” so we can once again start conversations with our phones.