October 16, 2011 in City

Clark: There’s something eeerie about Siri, my new app friend

By The Spokesman-Review

There’s a new woman in my life.

She’s smart. She’s sassy. Sometimes she has the delivery of a stand-up comic.

Her name is Siri, and she lives in my phone.

My new iPhone 4S, that is.

I bought the device Friday morning after shivering for 30 minutes in a line outside the Apple Store in downtown Spokane.

We had all come for the 4S, but it wasn’t so bad. Blue-shirted Apple employees kept our spirits bolstered with a patter of happy chat and free cups of Starbucks coffee.

If you’ve never been in an Apple store, it’s definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re on antidepressants.

An hour in an Apple store and you won’t need uppers anymore.

Apple workers are not just friendly. Apple workers are Up With People on crack.

I haven’t seen human beings so cheerful since Hare Krishnas were allowed to get jiggy with it in airports.

But getting back to my new phone, I can’t say I really needed it. If Apple released a device based on my technical acumen, they’d call it the iClod.

Besides, my old cellphone still worked, after all.

Alas, it was a tin can connected to a waxed string compared to the 4S, which has a much faster microprocessor capable of performing all sorts of tricky innovations that I’ll never figure out.

But the coolest feature hands down is Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant.

Just ask and she’ll locate the closest coffee shops, send someone a text message or answer deep questions that have dogged philosophers since the dawn of time.

Take the actual exchange I had with Siri Friday night.

DOUG – “Siri, what’s the meaning of life?”

SIRI – “That’s easy … it’s a philosophical question concerning the purpose and significance of life or existence in general.”

DOUG – “Open the pod bay doors, Siri.”

SIRI – “I don’t know what you mean.”

DOUG – “I said, ‘Open the pod bay doors!’ ”

SIRI – “Oh, no. Not again.”

Siri is the most compelling computer entity since Hal 9000 refused to open those aforementioned pod doors in Stanley Kubrick’s classic movie, “2001 – A Space Odyssey.”

Already Siri’s clever repartee is popping up on blogs and Internet news sites.

“Siri has proved that she can think on her feet, as well,” reported the Washington Post.

“When Brian Chen at Wired told Siri, ‘I’m drunk,’ the considerate app offered this advice: ‘I found a number of cabs fairly close to you.’ ”

But can you appreciate how diabolical this is?

We humans already waste way too much time gabbing with friends and conducting business on our cellphones.

Now, thanks to Siri, we’re going to waste even more hours talking TO our cellphones.

DOUG – “Are you worried about the economy?”

SIRI – “Let me think about that.”

DOUG – “Just messing with you.”

SIRI – “If you say so.”

Yeah, this is all highly amusing – for now.

But I’ve seen enough sci-fi flicks to know the plotline to this three-act play.

Act I: Computer becomes self-aware.

Act II: Computer gets pissed off.

Act III: Arnold Schwarzenegger shoots up a police station while delivering catchphrases in an Austrian accent.

Let this be a warning, people of Earth.

Siri may be cute. Siri may be funny. But the day will come when Siri will tire of being made to perform like a trained chimp.

DOUG – “I love you, Siri.”

SIRI – “I hope you don’t say that to those other mobile phones.”

We are so doomed.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.

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