Why a human is necessary to do this job

I was going through old emails and stumbled across one from yonks ago. I thought I’d share the following anecdote with you:

There was a guy I was about to post on Charley (he’s not on there anymore), and his details said he was Chinese. The problem, though, was that his last name was Nguyen. Nguyen is a Vietnamese name as far as I knew. It certainly didn’t sound Chinese, and it made me wonder whether they’d gotten his national origin wrong. Without further I contacted my friend John (you’ve heard of him before) to ask about it. Not only is John’s father Vietnamese, but John himself has a master’s degree in East Asian Studies with a focus on China. Oh, and he’s a lawyer too. He’s a genius and everything I might have become and didn’t.

Could a person named Nguyen be Chinese, I asked him, or were there any Vietnamese people living in China? He replied that Nguyen was most definitely Vietnamese and only Vietnamese, and although China did have a small Vietnamese population he thought it was much more likely that the agency had just made a mistake.

Just to be on the safe side I marked Mr. Nguyen as “Asian” without specifying where in Asia.

In another instance, even further back, a young woman missing in California was wearing a Bowdin College sweatshirt. I saw that and knew right away that it had to be a mistake: there is no such place as Bowdin college and as far as I know there never has been. There is, however, a Bowdoin College, and I think it’s pronounced “Bo-din.” And it may significant that Bowdoin College is all the way over in Maine, about as far away as you can be and still be in the country. It’s a stretch but that case is one of the “few details are available” ones so I’ll take what I can get.

Anyway, I don’t think a computer could have been able to figure out either of those things. Computer-generated matches and stuff are great. But sometimes a human eye is required.