We baby boomers have lived through the transition from phones with dials … to phones with cameras and calendars and compasses and calculators and crosswords and computers and … well, that’s just the ones that start with ‘c.’ Which one of our favorite baby boomer humor writers, Renee Fisher of Arlington, Virginia, thinks has taken things too far! In her blog, Life In The Boomer Lane, Renee says that Love Is Never Having To Say You’re Siri.
My Life in the Boomer Lane has decided to give two baby boomers — both Chris Christie and Dennis Rodman — a break and not write about either of them today, as both seem to be having a tough time this month. I feel certain that Christie will eventually move on from the embarrassment his staff has created when they allegedly caused a major traffic jam on a New Jersey bridge in order to settle a political grudge.
Rodman, on the other hand, whose brain does admirably well in directing his hands and feet on the basketball court, seems to lack any kind of connection between his mouth and his brain when asked a simple, direct question. I would suggest that he banish himself to North Korea as punishment, but he seems to be headed in that direction anyway. So I now leave these two to their own devices, as I continue along another path.
I had to slog through the entire latest issue of Time Magazine before I found an article on the last page that I could butcher for your edification and enjoyment. The article is titled, “The Future is Nowish,” and details major social shifts in 2014.
As Joel Stein, the author, points out, society is constantly shifting its perception of what is acceptable and what is not. “At one point, slavery was fine, but asking for interest on a loan was illegal.” He consults with Alvin Roth, Stanford professor and winner of the 2012 Nobel prize for Economics, to come up with a list of items that will switch places on the bed of repugnant and not repugnant.
One item is that having emotional conversations with computers and artificial intelligence, like iPhone’s Siri, would become acceptable. This item got my attention, both because I have just seen the film Her, in which Joaquin Phoenix, looking eerily like Kevin Kline, falls in love with his computer operating system. This is totally understandable (the falling in love part, not the Kevin Kline part), since his operating system is played by Scarlett Johansson, twice-voted “Sexiest Woman Alive” by Esquire Magazine. We never see Johansson, but her voice tells us all we need to know.
I have, as yet, not made the acquaintance of Scarlett Johansson, but I do have an intimate knowledge of Siri, since Siri lives inside my iPhone 5. But, unfortunately, I have thus far failed to have any kind of meaningful relationship with her. Mostly, Siri pops up unannounced when I am doing something else on the phone, like trying to find reruns of “General Hospital,” and rudely asks if she can be of service. I mostly ignore her because I have learned that while Siri seems to want to be of help, she will most definitely not be.
I already have ongoing issues with my car’s GPS system, in which the lady who lives inside it (and bears more of a resemblance to Nurse Ratchet than to Scarlett Johansson) will become louder and louder as she repeatedly instructs me to “make a U turn.” She will then go stonily silent after I have ignored her command several times.
Siri, like the GPS, has anger management issues. The few times I have actually attempted to enlist Siri in providing me with information, I have gotten rude, sarcastic answers. The question, “Where is the nearest restaurant?” will be met with “I am unaware of that phrase.” “Where is my house?” will be answered with, “I have no knowledge of you or your house.” Another problem is that Siri calls me “Ruth,” which is not my name. I have attempted to correct this several times, to no avail. Serves me right, trying to reason with a computer! As my deceased father wanted to name me “Ruth,” but was outvoted by my mother, it is clear that he is getting his revenge from another dimension.
The following is an actual dialogue I had with Siri while writing this post:
Siri, Can you hear me?
Just hang up.
Siri, who am I?
Here is the definition of “hang up.”
I didn’t get that.
You are standing too close to me. Back off. Then hang up.
Siri, do you hate me?
You are boring me. I’m sorry about this but I can’t take any requests right now. Try again in a little while.
It is clear that Siri, my car GPS and my dad are all in this together. If I wait long enough, there will be a message in there somewhere.
[Editor's note: Here's a helpful article on how to teach Siri to recognize your voice, and how to use Siri.]