She’s only trying to help

Night before last, a couple of us converts to the iPhone faith were discussing the machine’s disembodied voice. I did not admit at the time what my first question was, but I can reveal here, I think, that it was asked on a Friday: “Hey, Siri, how old is Rebecca Black?”

After about 0.5 second, Siri popped some text onto the screen and chirped, “Rebecca Black is twenty-two years old.”

“Thank you,” I said. It became a habit: for whatever she fetched, I would express gratitude. From what little I know about digital assistants, which is terribly little indeed, they’re not actually capable of processing those two little words unless, as Alex Trebek might say, they were in the form of a question. But now I wonder: does anybody else do this? And does it make any difference?

5 comments »

  1. fillyjonk »

    21 August 2019 · 11:55 am

    It would be nice if Siri were programmed to say “You’re welcome.” Though it’s probably not bad to be polite to a non-living entity; keeps a person in good practice for dealing with the human kind.

    I actually said “I’m sorry” to it when I inadvertently activated it and didn’t actually have a request.

    (The other day, in a fit of feeling low, I said “Hey Siri, tell me something funny” and it did. Well, for some values of “funny”)

  2. McGehee »

    21 August 2019 · 1:20 pm

    Considering the smart-alice comments that were ascribed to Siri when it first came out, I’m honestly surprised “You’re welcome” isn’t in its repertoire.

    I was on to Android before Siri would have been available to me (iPhone 4 didn’t support, even with the iOS upgrade that included it), and neither the Google Assistant nor whatever-the-heck Windows calls its assistant have either been capable of speaking or allowed to if they were capable. I’m too old school, I guess — I can type and read faster than a faux-AI can listen and reply.

  3. Jay »

    21 August 2019 · 3:29 pm

    Does it help? Sure, for at the very least, it affirms to yourself that you are a kind and polite person. At the very least, it should help the blood pressure.

    Does Siri notice? Try this: After your next question Siri answers, say “Thank You”, then wait a few seconds, then ask “Siri, what did I just say?”

    (I can’t try this myself, as I refuse to talk to the damn things. And get off my lawn.)

  4. CGHill »

    21 August 2019 · 5:53 pm

    I’d bet that anything said to Siri ends up in a file at Apple, but that she doesn’t have much of a short-term memory.

    The proprietor of the Twitter account @SwiftOnSecurity used to write a lot of fanfiction about Microsoft’s disembodied voice Cortana. In the stories Cortana is given some sort of form, though presumably not her final form. (Said proprietor is pretty good; I can recall only once when character was broken.)

  5. fillyjonk »

    21 August 2019 · 9:33 pm

    Today I found out if I say “Hey, Siri, thank you” after getting some information, he* says “My pleasure”

    Which is rather nice, really.

    (*I have the male, Irish-English voice set on it. It was my favorite of the available choices)

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