David Pogue is the personal-technology columnist for the New York Times.  He recently shared his interesting experiments with the iPhone’s virtual assistant, “Siri” (“Silicon Superego”, Scientific American, January 2012, p. 31).

For those not familiar with Siri, she is a personal servant programmed into the iPhone OS.  She responds to spoken commands such as “make an appointment,” “call Theresa,” “play Lady Gaga,” “remind me to revamp the home theater on Saturday,” or “how do I get to the hospital from here?”

Pogue points out the interesting results when the user amusingly tries to overload Siri’s capacities.  Here are some of the more interesting examples:

User:  Siri, I love you.  Siri:  That’s sweet, David.  Now can we get back to work?

User:  Open the pod bay doors, Siri.  Siri:  I’m sorry, David.  I’m afraid I can’t do that.  (Pause)  Are you happy now?

User:  Siri, what’s the meaning of life?  Siri:  I can’t answer that now, but give me some time to write a very long play in which nothing happens.

Some of us like to make our evolving technology more personable, in spite of the fact we know it is not a person and can never be personable.  But let’s face it; Siri is at least more personable than my favorite error message from Internet Explorer:  “Internet Explorer has experienced a problem and needs to close.”  That one is always about as strange as talking about yourself in the third person.

A few years ago, my wife and I had to replace our microwave.  We were rather astounded when we zapped our first snack and the display screen began scrolling a large message: “Enjoy your meal!”

That’s the first time a microwave oven ever told me to enjoy my food.  I didn’t know whether to feel loved, obligated, or amused.

And the strange thing is . . . it does this EVERY time.

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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Tyco Integrated Security at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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