Sunday, October 23, 2011

Siri says...

This past week, I spent quite a bit of time writing one of my longest articles yet on the future of technology (2,000 words biatches! But, more on that soon). In it, I talked about how exciting change is, and what a positive force it can be. On Wednesday, at a trend briefing by LS:N Global, I sat there shaking my head as they used the word "scary" over and over in the context of social networks and our digital lives online. In fearing the pace of change, we are no different to the Victorians opposed to the speed of steam engines. Technology and the progression of mankind are intertwined - each driving the other forward.

That said, however, the new ad from Apple (released on Friday) showcasing the Siri feature sent a chill down my spine. Compared to the warm, sentimental, intimate even, nature of the FaceTime ad of June 2010, this spot left me cold. And I had to ask, are we really getting to the point where we no longer talk to people on the phone, we just talk to the phone?


To be fair, I'm not condemning the technology. Intuitive, voice activated interfaces make perfect sense and I can imagine a number of situations in which Siri would be incredibly useful. It is Apple's depiction of user behaviour - the highlighted "consumer benefit" for which they are known to lead with - which I object to. Unlike the iMac, or iPod or iPad, Siri isn't positioned as being about freedom, fun, beauty or utility. What the ad, and copy like "Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back", suggests is that we are all ultimately alone in the world, attempting to communicate with computers.


I may argue that the evolution of human behaviour in line with technology is progress, but Apple's idea that a phone can replace some of the few people in your life who are there for you when you've locked yourself out, or need to get to a hospital, who listen to you and understand you, and who know how to help you with all the little things like packing for a trip and tying a bow tie... now that really is scary.