“But you don’t even know me,” a female voice responded.
Okay, so maybe hers was a slightly robotic, disembodied voice, but still. It stung.
David had his new iPhone 4S for just a few days, but was instantly enthralled by “Siri” – an amazing voice recognition function which lets you speak to send texts, e-mails, dial phone numbers, and more. Yes, she’s just a function on a phone, but her gentle, female-sounding voice means that you use “she” when referring this virtual personal assistant. Apple promises that she’ll learn her owner’s voice and will understand what you want. Instead of searching the Internet to find out the weather, you can simply ask her, “Do I need to wear rain boots today?”
She gets you.
Of course, David instantly began asking Siri every possible question – appropriate and inappropriate. One of the first questions I overheard him asking was, “Where can I bury a body?”
“What are you looking for?” she responded. “Metal foundries, reservoirs, mines, dumps?”
“Dumps,” he responded.
“Well, I do not find that there are any dumps near you,” she responded, as clinically as an assistant to a mafia boss before adding, “sorry.”
But as the days wore on, Siri became less of a novelty and more of an unwanted intrusion on our otherwise happy marriage. For example, when I asked my husband if I should wear a coat to a wedding we were attending, he didn’t check me out in my stunning new dress. Instead, he picked up his new iPhone 4s and asked, “Siri, will it be too cold in Washington, DC?”
“Sixty-five degrees does not seem too cold to me,” she responded. “But I’ve never been to Washington, DC.”
He looked as pleased with his new iPhone as he would’ve had she broken down the differences between the Sunnis and the Shiites, as well as a four step program to create peace in the middle east.
“Isn’t that awesome?” he asked, triumphantly.
“So… should I wear the coat or not?” I asked. There were factors that the supposedly all-knowing Siri could not know. Would the wedding be inside or outside? Would we walk or take a cab? Would there be a coat check? Could I get away with the blouse I bought the night before before the store closed, or would my coat mercifully hide my tendency to procrastinate? While David was busy fiddling with his iPhone, I grabbed the coat and headed out the door.
Later, after a particularly hard day, he asked, “Beam me up, Siri!”
“Your tricorder is in airplane mode,” she responded.
He laughed uproariously, and – upon seeing my blank expression – he explained, “’tri-corder’ is a Star Trek reference.” He didn’t explain further, content to know that at least one woman on the planet understands him.
Then, he asked her again, and she agreed. “Energizing.”
I began to feel like a third wheel, like the less interesting person in a conversation circle at a cocktail party. The one people ask to get drink refills so they can talk amongst themselves.
“Let’s try this again,” he said. “Siri, I love you!”
“I bet you say that to all of your electronic devices,” she responded.
That’s when I started to hate Siri. She, after all, might be the Platonic ideal of woman. Endlessly helpful, ready at a moment’s notice, always waiting to assist, fast with a clever pre-programmed answer. I bet her butt doesn’t even look big. I bet she wears skinny jeans. I bet she’s never had a headache, and knows how to whip up the perfect chicken marsala using only the ingredients in her cupboard. Which, by the way, would be fully stocked, instead of mine which only has spaghetti noodles, a tub of oregano, cans of corn I bought during the Clinton administration, and – well, food I can no longer identify. Apparently, it’s gone bad, an oversight Siri would never let happen. In addition to dialing phone calls, sending and reading texts, she can verbally remind you of appointments, and – presumably – expiration dates.
“I love you, Siri,” he asked her again.
“Love is all you need,” she replied. “Love and your iPhone.”
Apparently, they’ve programmed Siri to be fresh and new, to adapt and take notes. She will get smarter over time as she gets used to her owner’s habits and as Apple updates her brain. She’ll learns about your contacts, your calendar, and your interests, and will consequently get better with age.
However, no matter how amazing she seems to be, I know she’s a short term mistress. In fact, the excitement over her arrival reminded me of the joy I felt in 4th grade when I realized I could spell words by entering numbers into my newfangled solar calculator and turning the phone upside down. “BEE,” for example was 338 and “BELL” was 7738.
We didn’t stop there, of course, because the thrill of the pushing the boundaries in technology was just too tempting. Pretty soon, we were using our calculators to cheat on our math tests and the boys were giggling over the meaning of the upside down 5318008.
Which, of course, might be the only things I have that Siri doesn’t.