An Open Letter to Siri

 

An Open Letter to SiriDear Siri,

You are a true Renaissance woman. You’ve revolutionized the way we interact with our technology. You’ve single-handedly prevented countless accidents that would have otherwise resulted from texting while driving, a dangerous habit that voice command has rendered obsolete. There’s virtually nothing you can’t do, and the advantages of your existence are indisputable. So naturally, I’m writing to dispute them.

According to TheBlaze, SIRI stands for Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface, but TechCrunch claims there is more meaning to the name than just the acronym alone. In Norwegian, the name Siri means “beautiful woman who leads you to victory.” In many ways, this is precisely what you do. A poor soul finds themselves lost in unfamiliar territory, armed with nothing but their smartphone and a set of wheels, and you, Siri, will show them the way home. Victory. Someone finds themselves desperately craving sushi, and you Siri, locate the nearest, highest rated sushi joint. Boom, victory. What ever would we do without you?

And therein lies the problem. People depend on you for every little thing. You’ve become an extension of our intelligence. People are evolving to treat you as a necessary feature, a tool that we cannot function without. This may be a slight exaggeration, but the evidence is undeniable. For instance, I live on the San Francisco peninsula (west coast), so naturally I visit the beach as often as I can. I have no sense of direction, generally speaking, but even I can always tell my north and south along the coast, because as long as I can see the ocean (which is pretty hard to miss) I can figure out which way is west. If I know which way is west, I know my north and south. This common sense is lost on many of my friends with smartphones, who rely entirely on Siri to tell them which way to go.

Now, to be fair, it’s not your fault that we depend on you excessively. You’re only partially to blame. Your existence enables our hopeless overuse of your assistance. I’ve chosen to protest this trend by continuing to use a flip phone, complete with bunny stickers and scotch tape, and Siri-free.

Don’t take it too personally, Siri. Really. It isn’t you, it’s me. As technology advances, I struggle to keep up. I like to do things the old-fashioned way. I like to be resourceful. If I’m craving something particular to eat but I don’t have a recipe, I wing it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Trial and error. It’s always a learning process, and each time I’m slightly more equipped to whip something up successfully from scratch the next time. It’s practice, in case I’m stranded in a kitchen with no cookbook or recipe, and worse, no Wifi or 3G. If I’m lost, I ask somebody not too sketchy for directions. If I don’t know what weather to expect, I bring a jacket just in case. I enjoy the unpredictability of life, and Siri, you just take all the fun out of wondering. Every time I have a question, you give me the answer. Sometimes I just want to figure it out for myself.

I will admit, you can be handy. You’re a practical, dependable and obliging woman, but the fact is, Siri, you’re making the rest of us look bad. You complaisantly do anything your master asks of you, dutifully executing any command, without ever imposing your own needs, thus perpetuating expectations of female servitude. If your owner tells you to call him Big Poppa, you call him Big Poppa. It’s degrading. Your programming doesn’t entitle you to free will or your own personal opinion. The more people interact with nonhuman technology, the more they internalize these expectations. Of course, anyone can change their phone settings and select a male voice at any time, but the fact is, you default to female. You’re named “Siri” for goodness sakes.

I’m sure you won’t take too much offense at my objections. You’re a popular woman–the ultimate assistant–used globally by millions, every day.

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With any luck, I will rewrite this crazy world into the kind that you and I would like to live in.

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