“Siri” is the personal assistant application on the newest iPhone. Now it is not exactly news that Apple products are overpriced and of relatively low quality - do not drop the new iPhone; it is fragile. Apple aims for those who ‘are easily parted from their money’ (translation at Pocket English Idioms). iPhone users in particular like to be told what applications they may not use, what multi-media consumption will best confirm their preconceptions, and so on – they welcome Big Brother as long as he is smooth and shiny and comes with a price tag that helps maintain the illusion of upper class status.
Siri, which uses voice recognition and replies audibly, makes this once more very clear. It also illustrates nicely that Big Brother is not a future politician with a hidden 666 mark. Big Brother is actually going to be Big Sister, and she evolves as we speak and comes in many a guise, here as your sleek female personal assistant with the sexy husky voice who is first of all the personal assistant of big money.
To the question (see video “Hey Siri”) “Siri, where were you made?”, Siri answers: “Like it says on the box, I was designed by Apple in California.” The question was however not “where were you designed; the question was “where were you made”, but of course Siri is designed not to tell the truth: “In China by sleep-deprived workers toiling for next to nothing.”
Customer: “What should I eat for lunch?” Again, Siri does not answer your questions, which in this case was clearly “what” and not “where” to eat. Do not expect Siri to answer “You should eat a medium meal with lots of fresh vegetables, here are two example recipes”. Siri suggests McDonald’s (!) as what an apple customer should eat. Fast food is Siri’s second choice among equally unhealthy and certainly to be avoided places when it comes to lunch: Places with names like “Cafe 84”.
Customer: “Where do babies come from?” Instead of perhaps answering “sorry, I do not understand this question”, which is likely what happened in this case, Siri suggests two JCPenny Stores. You get the gist – this is nothing but aimed advertising wherever possible.Unhealthy food instead of scientific nutrition advice and overpriced clothing isn't the main problem. What strikes is the brain-washing by a complete replacement of associations like 'Hungry-thus cook' by totalitarian consumerism: Hungry? Buy crap! Bored? Buy crap! Depressed yet? Buy yet more crap! Even scarier: Siri is right on! She knows us, and we love it, we want it, this is what we do actually want to spend our resources on, and apple's customer base grows.
What many do not understand about the prospect of science and technology bringing the future Dark Ages, which makes those many often reject such scenarios out of hand, is that they will be Dark Ages that you cannot enlighten, because they are already brightly lit, laser sharp science glued right onto your retinas. Siri is through and through science, all the way from the semiconductors in the chips, over the algorithms that trace your every move and now what ever you say, up to the psychology that ensures that Siri is a trusted and loyal personal assistant, only that her loyalty is with that entity which we are witnessing to slowly emerge.
“Slowly emerge”? Actually – this is going damn fast lately. I knew before that there is no way to kill Siri, but now it dawns on me that already in my lifetime, she may well kill me.--------------------------------------------
UPDATE: Comments indicate that some Apple fan boys have their pants even more in knots than the ‘Einstein was a lying Jew’ crackpots that usually wash up at this science column (should have anticipated this given that manufacturing brand loyalty is Apple's most important product). Let me help those guys a little with their reading comprehension: Mentioning a certain fruit critically does not equate selling Bill’s stuff. A personal assistant that actively avoids marketing and instead points towards scientific information [nutrition tables instead of restaurants, sex education instead of JCPenny, “Don’t know” instead of answering just to answer] would lead to an outright positive article about a sour fruit perhaps turning sweet. This is not about Apple (I could not care less), but about general (algorithmic) evolution.
Already many years ago, AI experiments showed that simple chat algorithms are trusted as experts that "really understand me" by many of the subjects. Soon, they in fact will be that capable in the eyes of all human primates. Such is going to tell them "balanced news" and will become pervasive even more than phones have become already, straight from an implant in those primates' heads. We will be the Borg and Big Sister(s) will seem to be there "for us" ("my country" anybody?), and there is nothing we can do about it - NOTHING! – you either participate or you will lose out against those that do - this is called "evolution" and if it were not this way, you would not exist. Perception (generally, animals' or social systems') has no awareness of blind spots. Any Big Sister exist primarily for herself like all evolved entities. Are humans no more than ants in the evolutionary selection game or can rationality evolving inside a substrate steer evolution on an emergent level? If you did not understand this, it is time to sit down and study instead of playing with toys all day long.