Opinion: Siri the Personal Assistant
Disclaimer: I love technology. I love, specifically, my ipod and my computer. If the computer were suddenly to be extinct, I would be rather lost. Namely, because I use it to research everything: from Map Questing directions to finding the nearest food store to locating telephone numbers and finding a job.
However, I do believe that technology overload is wrong. I believe that having to depend so heavily on certain technologies-the cell phone comes to mind-is wrong. I can rant about this for ages. Today, however, my topic of wrath will be the iphone 4S and an article recently posted on CNN by writer Pete Cashmore, entitled “Why I’m Swooning over Siri (She told me to)”, published on October 11, 2011.
Cashmore’s article about the new iphone is written in a jocular tone, spoofing “Siri the personal assistant” (a new feature on the iphone 4s) as an actual person when, in fact, she is just a talking robot in a phone. I appreciate his line of banter (“She’s so generous, that she’ll help you before you even ask”) and am quite frankly stunned that a phone will not only respond appropriately to even the most vaguest of questions (or even statements) but accurately, too, after doing the appropriate research. Amazing technology? Yes. Is it needed? No.
We as a human species will turn into drones if technology like this continues. New inventions tend to make certain skills obsolete (does anyone know how to hand-wash clothes or make their own soap anymore?) which is great, but sometimes we need to know where to draw the line. “Where” seems to be “nowhere” for ambitious tech companies that just see green. Do we really need the phone to find us the nearest sushi restaurant? Is it really so difficult and time consuming to type the words “sushi restaurant nyc” into Google search ourselves? Do we have to lose even that simple “skill?”
Pete Cashmore seems not to care. He writes, “We can converse more with our devices than we do with our spouses and yet never let our digital dialogues impinge on our human ones” without a shred of disgust. No one should EVER communicate more with a machine than their own spouse. Secondly, this very sentence is contradictory: obviously his digital dialogue is impinging on his human ones if he is spending more time in conversation with a robot phone than with anyone else. “We can converse with our phones, newly equipped with intonation and intuition, without ever forming a dependence on them,” he states. Really? Like people aren’t dependent enough on their iphones —and that was before they had a responding robot inside?
Scientists, writers and governments have long extolled the “worlds of the future,” utopian societies with technologies beyond our wildest dreams. Now that said dreams are coming to fruition, it’s time to ask what they mean to ourselves and our society, and whether they are worth it or not. And unlike Pete Cashmore’s 60’s-cheery optimism— “I’m sure these new advances will have no negative consequences at all”—I don’t think any rational human being would agree. And their opinion beats Siri’s any day.