The sadness of Siri - thoughts?

swingerofbirch

macrumors 68040
Original poster
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?
 

Ecoh

macrumors 6502a
Oct 30, 2009
651
23
USA
A theme throughout science fiction literature has been machines that are so intelligent they have a personality or soul. There has always been stories of computers, cars ,houses, robots, spaceships, that can talk and respond in a human way.

Something like Siri might appeal to someone who is a fan science fiction literature a lot more than others.
 

ixodes

macrumors 601
Jan 11, 2012
4,430
2
Pacific Coast, USA
Siri offers many advantages for some people of different personality types.

Big ego types, envision Siri as their personal assistant, fulfilling their need to have their self esteem stroked constantly.

Siri is the surrogate that keeps many reclusive & introvert types company.

Those who are socially shy, awkward, and tend to avoid face to face events, friendships and such, rely on Siri as a way to escape those very uncomfortable circumstances.

As a happy and active extrovert, I'd much rather talk to friends and associates as opposed to talking "to a phone". Even though I find Siri annoying, it's easy to deal with, I simply avoid using it.
 

macingman

macrumors 68020
Jan 2, 2011
2,147
3
Those who are socially shy, awkward, and tend to avoid face to face events, friendships and such, rely on Siri as a way to escape those very uncomfortable circumstances.
I'm a self confessed introvert and have chronic social anxiety And I can tell you that is 110% not true.
 

Small White Car

macrumors G4
Aug 29, 2006
10,901
1,159
Washington DC
Some people have very close relationships with stuffed animals, toasters, or TV actors.

Is any of this sad? As Tim said, I'm not one to judge.

But I can say that I see no reason to start asking toy-makers or TV stars about it.
 

cms2

macrumors 6502
Aug 4, 2007
457
0
Texas
It seems to me that Siri is the natural next step in what Apple set out to do years ago, which is to take something foreign (to some people even a bit scary) like the computer, and make it accessible, personable... even friendly. I'm reminded of the debut of the Macintosh displaying the word "hello" written not in some seventies computer font, but rather in what is meant to look like handwritten cursive.
 

scaredpoet

macrumors 604
Apr 6, 2007
6,627
342
Some people have very close relationships with stuffed animals, toasters, or TV actors.
Or pets for that matter. Some of us have pets. We care for them, talk to them, pet them, walk them, make them feel happy and safe. Sometimes all we get in return are some torn up shoes or furniture, and a mess to clean.

I do all of these things, and yet my cat can't tell jokes, or rearrange my schedule, or read texts to me while I'm jogging or driving. Yet most don't' consider that to be "sad."

I have to wonder why anyone would think that interacting with Siri is sad. If it's sad to you, don't do it.
 
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psac

macrumors 6502a
Jul 6, 2009
760
484
It seems to me that Siri is the natural next step in what Apple set out to do years ago, which is to take something foreign (to some people even a bit scary) like the computer, and make it accessible, personable... even friendly. I'm reminded of the debut of the Macintosh displaying the word "hello" written not in some seventies computer font, but rather in what is meant to look like handwritten cursive.
I agree, it's all about breaking down barriers. To some non-techie, using a reminder app could be frustrating. But talking to your new computerized friend and asking her (or him in the UK) to set a reminder for you, that's easy. Or it looks easy when Zooey Deschanel is doing it while batting her cute eyelashes.
 

jackc

macrumors 65816
Oct 19, 2003
1,490
0
As a happy and active extrovert, I'd much rather talk to friends and associates as opposed to talking "to a phone". Even though I find Siri annoying, it's easy to deal with, I simply avoid using it.
Wow, you talk to people instead of Siri. Congrats.

I must have missed the epidemic of people retreating from life to be with Siri.
 

RoboCop001

macrumors 65816
Oct 4, 2005
1,399
197
Toronto, Canada
Siri is the surrogate that keeps many reclusive & introvert types company.

Those who are socially shy, awkward, and tend to avoid face to face events, friendships and such, rely on Siri as a way to escape those very uncomfortable circumstances.
Are you saying that someone shy will consciously decide to stay home and "hang out" with Siri instead of going out with friends?

Ridiculous.
 

Sedrick

macrumors 68030
Nov 10, 2010
2,596
26
Interesting concept. And yes, if Siri gets you excited, it is sad. But sadder if you actually bought your phone because of it.
 

isoft7

macrumors 6502a
Oct 3, 2011
757
15
Hah... all I remember is last year I got such a belly ache laughing at all the hopeless virgin teenagers posting here about how "Sexy" "she" sounded, and how they couldn't wait to get their iPhone 4s so they could talk "dirty" to "her".

How ***** pathetic.
 

leon44

macrumors 6502
Jun 17, 2010
340
147
Newcastle upon Tyne, England
I think Siri is just a cool impressive feature, no one really thinks of it as a 'friend' and it's definitely not a tool for introverts to avoid real interactions.

I think for Apple/Tim to call it a friend is just a kinda cool fun throwaway comment and it shows once again Apple's lack of cynicism and makes them sound kind of more sincere and friendly.
 

ixodes

macrumors 601
Jan 11, 2012
4,430
2
Pacific Coast, USA
That was sarcasm? lol damn, at least throw in a wink or something!
I can't help it, I've got a very vivid sense of humor. Upon reading the title of the thread, I began laughing so hard I was compelled to post a sarcastic reply.

The mere thought of a cold inanimate object being sad, was too much to resist :)
 
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