Siri, Did You Just Judge Me?

Posted by admin on 12/20/2011


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Siri, Did You Just Judge Me?

It was only a few weeks ago that I read a little article about the political beliefs of the new iPhone 4S, a small matter in which the all-knowing Siri voice interaction app on the iPhone 4S was unable to provide guidance on abortion clinics. An immediate uproar came about proclaiming that “SIRI is pro life!” despite the odd and off-putting fact that Siri will provide you a place to stash that dead body you…found.

While it is not complete folly to believe someone might possibly have programmed Siri to judge your need for an abortion I, personally, find it rather unlikely that one of the largest technology companies in the world has all of a sudden become active in abortion politics. It would be pertinent to remember at this point that the late CEO, Steve Jobs, for whom Siri represents the pinnacle of an enormously important and creative career, has advocated his use of LSD as among the most important creative experiences of his life. Call me crazy but I don’t think this is a man that held an incredibly conservative world view, nor is it likely he advocated one in his brainchild, Siri.

Siri is in fact only a piece of software. She is programmed to do many things, and the distinctly human-esque manner in which she does so is incredibly clever. However the fact that she can not find you an abortion clinic is likely a problem with an equation deep within it’s millions of lines of binary and likely driven by a distinct allergen abortion clinics have to the political controversy surrounding their existence, and the word that describes it. In English: this is likely a product of modern search engine marketing techniques and keyword choice. However by interpreting, or attempting to interpret, your voice commands with such a high level of sophistication Siri suddenly brings the iPhone to a plain of intelligence formerly only occupied by animals with blood in their veins. All of a sudden Siri is judging us, “she” is our peer.

Therein lies the odd transition that has come to the world with Siri, a truly transformational advancement of human interaction with technology, and which is brought into distinct relief with this debate about “her” moral beliefs. All of a sudden an app is anthropomorphized to “her” and Siri begins giving us the idea of some semblance of humanity within the lines of code, of judgements and moral convictions amongst the bits of data. While this is a common human behavior, ascribing human characteristics to things we find dear, it does not actually make Siri at all human. Siri will not be endorsing a candidate for President this year, she does not notice you’ve put on a few pounds and she does not crave your attention or flowers on occasion, she’s just taught to act like she cares because you like it. You’re only human, after all.

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