What do you all think about the sadness of Siri? For me, personally, I find it sad (though also a bit of a curiosity) because Siri was my great grandmother's name, and so it's an odd association. But more generally speaking, I and others have commented on Apple's celebrity Siri commercials that there is something sad about a person talking to an inanimate object about rather inane things (telling you a joke, telling you the weather when you can already see it's raining, etc.). Tim Cook was asked about the sadness of Siri interactions at D10 yesterday: Cook: Siri proves that people want to relate to the phone in a different way. There wasn't a lot of invention in the input. Then touch came along and was cool and new. I think voice -- particularly when it understands context not just voice recognition -- but what makes Siri cool is that she has a personality. She becomes many folks' best friends. Walt: Isn't that a bit sad? Cook: I'm not one to judge. My follow-up question would have been: "Apple's decision was to make a system with a personality, and it's been Apple's decision to market Siri as a friend to lonely people on rainy days. I'm not asking you to judge your customers. I'm asking you to judge the product. Why is the focus for Apple on the personality more than showing use case scenarios where Siri is making people's lives simpler, in other words, needing to use the phone less, rather than using the phone more as a surrogate for human interaction?" I see the value in something that understands what you mean. And I can see the marketing value in a personality. But I'm not sure that Siri is better than something generic called iUnderstand (I'm sure there's a better name than that) that does exactly what Siri does but doesn't come with a name, a persona, and ad campaign that anthropomorphizes Siri. Something that is more of a system service than something presented as a separate persona. I think Tim Cook sees Apple as starting something new with artificial intelligence. I'm not sure if that's true (there are plenty of examples of work in artificial intelligence predating Siri, such as Watson), but I can see natural language comprehension becoming more powerful and mainstream. But if this is to take off, I think there's more of a fundamental question than just Apple's case of Siri in how we want to interact with natural language understanding. In the past we've had personas like Clippy in Microsoft Office, which tried to anticipate your needs. There was Eliza, the therapist, going back to the 1960s (I think). But if you look at the most common tool we use for finding information: Google, you see that it's not personified at all. We refer to using it as performing a Google search, and we call the tool a search engine. I never find myself wishing that Google somehow related to me as a persona. And I know some people might say that Google doesn't do what Siri does. I would beg to differ and say that if you zoom out a bit, they are dramatically similar. Each of them takes human language (one spoken, one written) and tries to return relevant information. You could say that Google just uses keywords and that Siri actually "understands," but there's a level of intelligent programming with Google. Try using the same type of phrasing you use in Google's search engine in Apple's Knowledge Base search engine (kbase.info.apple.com), and you'll see that one is much more intelligent than the other in terms of how relevant the results are. So say natural language understanding gets really good at knowing what you mean, and it can as a result find exactly what you need, and it can perform all sorts of tasks for you hands-free, do you want it to be a big personality like Siri or do you want it to disappear in the way Google does when you search? Do you want to spend time with it like the ads, or be in and out like I assume most people are with Google search?