Siri Takes Shape

Every time I read some shocking piece of ignorance about how humans will one day shed the limitations of physiology and move into a glorious post-embodied future, I just laugh. As if human consciousness could ever be severed from the body; as if it ever would want to be…

We anthropomorphise everything, even our technology. A species that creates proxy personalities and even body-images for cell phones isn’t going to be abandoning the flesh any time soon.

Here’s just one tiny example. Siri is the voice recognition software for iPhone 4S. It was created to have a more human tone and personality, so much so that some people have been trying to imagine what “she” would look like. It’s a kind of reverse transhumanism, in which we take a “pure” technology already freed from the “limitations” of the human body, and inject it into the the form of human physiology.

When Shapeways held a contest for people to imagine what Siri would look like, the vast majority of the forms were anthropomorphic. The only finalist without any recognizably human elements was a fairly obvious parody of HAL 9000.

Siri is nothing but a voice. The Shapeways project reveals a deep need for people to give form to that voice: human form.

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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • leahlibresco

    Welcome to Patheos, Thomas! I blog in the atheist portal and I’m also very interested in the ethics of swiftly advancing technology, though it looks like we’ll be on the opposite sides of a lot of these questions. I’ve given my readers a heads up that you’ve joined us and posted a few thoughts in response to your Siri Shapeways writeup here:

    Looking forward to some good dialogue. It’s great to see people trying to help ethics catch up with tech.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Thanks for the post and the welcome. I need to spend some time your writing, but, yes, I imagine we’re on opposite sides of this one. I appreciate your willingness to engage on the topic. It’s not the main thrust here (I’ll probably do a lot more on IT), but it’s a pressing issue.