Getting up in Siri’s grill

Scotty trying to have a conversation with a Mac Classic. Image: still from "The Voyage Home"

Scotty trying to have a conversation with a Mac Classic. Image: still from “The Voyage Home”

There’s a lot of talk about artificial intelligence lately, some of it kind of scary. Myself, I worry more about the decline of human intelligence than the rise of the machines. Recent news that Facebook AI networks were beginning to converse in a language they invented themselves was not a problem for me. Actually, any evidence of intelligence in my Facebook feed would be welcome.

I’m much more annoyed by machines that speak English. It may be protoplasmic chauvinism, but I don’t like to talk to machines, and I really don’t like it when machines talk back to me. Siri, smart speakers, talking cars, chatbots – no thanks. To misquote the Most Interesting Man in the World. “I don’t always talk, but when I do talk, I prefer to talk with people.” And yelling at the radio doesn’t count; if it ever starts talking back directly to me, it’s time to change my meds.

Moreover, with people, I prefer not to talk through machines. I don’t like the phone; I don’t like Skype – and don’t get me started on webinars. I want to be in the room, even if the other person had garlic for lunch. To put it in machine terms, I want the thickest data feed possible: body language, body odor and all.

There’s no substitute for being present, and a chat is more than stringing words together in the air. The only non-human intelligence I would really enjoy having a conversation with would be a porpoise. Flipper might have something really interesting to say.


6 Comments on “Getting up in Siri’s grill”

  1. Pete Klein says:

    Okay. I’ll agree with everything you say and will add one more.
    Self-driving cars. Reasons why I would never buy one.
    They will probably cost way too much for what you get.
    I get car sick when a passenger for more than a half hour.
    I don’t want to argue with a self-driving car when I want to do something it doesn’t want to do.
    What fun would it be to always be a passenger and never the driver?

  2. Larry Vanderburgh says:

    Bravo! Reminds me of Tom Lehrer’s comment, “I feel that if a person can’t communicate, the least s/he can do is to shut up.”

  3. David Duff says:

    I too suffer from the particular ailment you describe. It appears to me, that while the ACA doesn’t’ specificaly reference it, this particular ailment seems to strike, as my wife proclaims, “at a certain age.” Rest assured, your efforts to locate those helping with intervention have been rewarded. And on a positive note, you of course realize that the number of us “at a certain age” grows daily by geriatric leaps and bounds.

  4. Claudia says:

    Ah, Dale, I thought I was the only Luddite in the NoCo! Good to know I’m not alone when I’m alone.
    Living in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado before moving to the NoCo, I lived in a tiny town, Allenspark. No internet, no phone, no cable/tv. Just me and my radio, my books, my thoughts and some friends to share an occasional beer with. Heaven! Just like John Denver said. Every time I hear of local efforts to promote tourism, I get a little sick in my stomach and my immediate thoughts are: You don’t know what you’re wishing for! I’m moving to N. Dakota! Here’s to face to face conversations and a hell of a lot less noise.

  5. Lois says:

    I do agree in general — would not like my car talking to me, for instance, but do have to make an exception for many of NPR’s programs — All Things Considered, the weather, A Way With Words, Terry Gross, etc etc.

  6. Virginia Glover says:

    Dale, you always write thoughtfully; this week you took the words out of my mouth! Thank you.

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