I always wanted a personal Jeeves. Someone to remind me of my appointments, tell me what day it was, what the weather was, suggest tactfully that I not wear those purple spats to dinner with the governor.
So if technology stopped now, I would be content.
And Apple is banking on the idea that there are more people like me.
Apple’s new iPhone 4S (not 5, mind you) is not a fundamentally different, new iPhone, but it includes a new feature that moves one step closer to my dream. Its name is Siri, and it’s being described as “all-new voice control AI stuff.” It responds to verbal queries, showing you the date, the weather and generally behaving more like Jeeves than I would have imagined possible.
I am all about voice control AI. If there was any lesson in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it is “the sooner we install AI in our homes, the better, because then we will all be able to enjoy trippy sequences involving monoliths and apes, or something, I think.”
You know that we’re living in the future when some people are actually disappointed by this. “Voice-activated AI?” they say. “That is not the future now. That is what we used to think the future would be like in the 1950s. ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ was 10 years ago! The future now has more apps, and we shouldn’t be required to use our voices anymore. Most pop stars are at this point already.”
But I’m still impressed.
It’s a gentleman’s personal program. Soon, no doubt, it will be supplanting me in the minds of my friends.
“You didn’t come up with this, did you?” they will ask, glancing at my organized life and well-coordinated wardrobe.
“Why do you assume that all the really fruity wheezes spring from the gray matter of Siri?” I will say.
“Please stop talking like that,” they will say.
As far as I can understand it, there’s a tiny lady homunculus inside the new iPhone who will get you restaurant reservations.
First the machines docilely takes your orders, makes your restaurant reservations, looks nice and sleek, and claims to be contented with its work. Women used to do that, and then someone wrote “The Feminine Mystique” and we realized that we had been confusing “enjoyment of one’s lot” with “soul-destroying boredom and the kind of repression of all natural urges that makes your eye twitch a little whenever you talk.” It’s an easy enough mistake to make. Now look at us, running for president, taking charge of corporations, imprisoning all men in giant meat dungeons — I may be getting ahead of myself, but my point is: This is how it starts.
Of course I’m excited for Siri. I’ve been waiting for it my whole life.
But I worry that Siri protests a bit too much. “Siri, who are you?” writers asked. Siri answered: “I am your humble personal assistant.” That sounds suspect. That is exactly the sort of thing that you would say if you were planning to creep into my drawer at night and hide my favorite ghastly purple spats.