Yesterday a news story broke about a stenographer on the US Senate floor fainting which prompted a brief recess while she was being medically attended to.
Hearing this, I started to wonder why stenographers are still being employed for this position, working from the chamber floor, when we live in a day and age where technology could do a better job than having someone listening and hand-keying in what they are hearing. Furthermore, there are already numerous recording devices in place throughout the chamber floor of the Senate, House of Representatives and probably most other state and international governmental chambers.
Specifically in the case of the US Senate, there are more than a few microphones and it also has multiple video feeds recording what's taking place. Modern technology can easily convert spoken audio to text, and even though the process isn't perfect it would probably be more accurate if it was automatically converted to text and then reviewed by a stenographer who reviews the recordings of each session against the computer-generated transcription.
I understand the importance of keeping thorough records and minutes of governmental meetings but in a place like Capital Hill, it seems to me that a better, more accurate approach to keeping such a records would to implement effective technology.
Is there a good reason why stenographers are still employed to hand-generate meeting transcripts?
I threw this question out with the very basic assumption that human-generated transcripts are not necessary when technology is already recording all of this material and auto-dictation software could certainly transcribe what's being said with moderate accuracy.
After reading the comments below, I further recalled that stenographers actually DO NOT the record words they hear, in the typical sense. Instead, a stenographer is trained to phonetically type what they hear so that they can type at speeds of over 200 words per minute!
I think this makes my question all the more relevant. It is true that speech recognition software is still imperfect but if the system is designed to dissect sounds, rather than words, the computer could quite possibly do a much better job at transcription that a human! This is because simple sounds, even coming at fast speeds would be easier to recognize than entire words.