Met Siri for the first time – and I’m intrigued and fascinated

Don’t laugh. I’m excited over meeting Siri for the first time, on my grandson’s new iPad, while we were facetiming. Kind of behind, you think?

Two years of saving for his own iPad, my eight-year-old grandson finally came up with the dollars and recently purchased his own, the latest in the series. When I facetimed over a week ago, he was playing a game on it. Quite engrossed as usual, he wouldn’t take his eyes off the screen. As I admitted in an early blog, this Lola finds it a challenge to compete for attention whenever the boy is busy on the computer. His Dad, however, interrupted his game and suggested that he introduce me to Siri. I blanked out – Siri, who’s that? At first, I didn’t get it. Then I remembered — ah, the talking lady on the computer. She has no face, but projects a pleasant voice. I never spoke with her before, so she intrigued me.

Grandson looked up from his iPad, faced me squarely and smiled handsomely as though to impress a VIP that just entered the room. Focusing back on his computer screen, he greeted the visitor who spoke in soothing, modulated tones. The faceless voice was calm and made me feel comfortable. Never met the likes of her before. I was struck with awe. Go on, ask her anything, my son urged grandson. I knew they wanted to showcase Siri – like introducing a favorite contestant in a beauty contest, I thought. It felt strange to me though: she has no body – just an artificial mind that can pop answers to questions. This is a different world, I realized; far from the one of my youth. But where and when did the transition begin, I started to wonder.

I listened carefully to grandson engaging her in a quick Q & A, and it, um … she responded. He inquired about the weather. She replied, pleasant at 62 degrees. Another question – how deep is the ocean. She said, 4,200 feet. My son didn’t seem satisfied with the answer – so he asked Siri on his iPhone. That Siri said around 35,000 feet. Hmmm … another Siri with a different mind? Or, was the first question without qualification to narrow down the answer. Oh, wait a minute – why am I giving excuses for the first Siri? Have we become friends?

I’m still awed. A talking computer! When I was a little girl, I whispered to my raggedy doll, but it didn’t react. When my son and daughter were little, they talked to their stuffed animals and cabbage patch doll – but those didn’t respond either. Now, my grandson has Siri on his iPad and she speaks! What has this world come to? This Lola is stunned. As technology progresses, when will it devise gadgets we may not be able to control? Perhaps, when my grandson has kids of his own, or before that. Maybe, that time is just around the corner. So very exciting and yet, somewhat perplexing.

So back to Siri. My grandson asked her to laugh – she sarcastically quipped, why, there’s nothing funny. I wanted to request her to sing, but didn’t. I was afraid she might retort, what song – and that would be eerie.

I’ve heard about Alexa. She’s like Siri, I’m told. Of course, I cannot compare the two. Not familiar enough with either one. My curiosity and bewilderment — if machines can talk, how far before these machines can take the form of woman or man or child? Will they take work away from humans? Then I wouldn’t like them. Will they be able to cook and serve delicious meals? Then I would welcome them in my home. What if they can take care of humans? Then that wouldn’t be bad at all … except, they can’t feel nor portion out love and affection like humans can. Really, I don’t know if they can, at some distant future … or not so distant future … in my baby boomer years?

I better get acquainted with Siri.

Linda P. Jacob