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A few weeks ago, I was on my way to visit a friend in a neighboring town. It was my first time in the area, so, although his house would have been easy to find off the main highway I was traveling, I punched in the address on my phone’s maps feature and blindly began following its suggested course.
Really, all I had to do was watch the house numbers as I passed and I would’ve arrived easily and on time. Instead, I paid no attention and focused only on the flashing blue pin on the GPS screen. “In 5.3 miles, your destination is on the left,” said Siri, in her usual confident tone. I continued north.
I rely a lot on Siri, the personal assistant application for Apple iOS. Though she doesn’t speak with a Norwegian accent, her name is Scandinavian, Old Norse meaning “beautiful victory.”
She’s faceless, of course, but increasingly familiar and addresses me by name, some-times even when I haven’t intentionally asked her a question. I’ll accidently bump Siri’s button and, from the depths of my purse or coat pocket, hear “I’m not sure what you said there, Trina.” She’s so attentive she’s there even when I haven’t reached out to her.
I’ve yet to see the movie “Her,” starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson, a recent release about Theodore, an introverted writer who develops an emotional relationship with Samantha, his Siri-like personal operating system.
Unlike Theodore, I have no strong feelings about Siri and I’m fully aware I am interacting with a computer, but she certainly has made my life easier in certain ways.
I can ask her anything and she will, within mere seconds, find the answer. I ask her to play a certain song or artist from my iTunes collection and, poof, the music starts. She makes calls when I ask. My smart phone stores all of my favorite photos, music, notes and contacts. I no longer need to tote around a wallet full of photos, a GPS unit, an mp3 player, a dictionary, calendar, address book, notebooks and paperbacks, a voice recorder for interviews, a fitness log, games to occupy restless kids, a point-and-shoot camera, my collection of magazine articles I wish to read someday, a compass, a video recorder, or even wear a watch. Nope. I just need my smart phone and Siri.
Yes, my life is easier and I’m “smarter” because of Siri. Or am I?
On days my phone’s battery has died or I’ve absent-mindedly left it behind and can’t access Internet, please don’t ask me for the time. I won’t know. Don’t ask what the weather will be tomorrow, I’ve no idea. What is the capital of Assyria? No clue. Stuck in a traffic jam? Sorry, kiddos, no Minion Rush today. No, I can’t play Hotel California.
Or take a pic of that really amazing buck that just walked out and posed perfectly at the edge of the field. Are we heading north, I think so but I can’t be certain. Please don’t ask to see photos of my kids, they are all on my phone…as is the book I’m reading, the files I’ve saved, the interviews and stories I’m working on. And I really hope I don’t need to call my husband from a landline. I’ve yet to memorize his new phone number (sorry, honey).
So, is my life easier, or better, because Siri is in it? Has my smart phone made me smarter?
Back to that visit to my friend’s place in New Boston. I followed Siri’s advice and kept going, past the New Boston Tavern, past wide open fields and wooded tracts, through the little town of Fulda and the little corner store, until finally, Siri announced, “The destination is on your left.” Um, no, Siri, it’s not. I looked at the house address. A few thousand higher than my friend’s, several miles south. I made a U-turn and headed back toward New Boston, feeling more foolish with each passing mile.
My knee-jerk reaction was to blame technology. But really, I’d been lazy and distracted and taken the short cut to thinking.
So for those keeping score, I’d come out the loser. For Siri, it had been, once again, a beautiful victory.