I recently saw a trailer for the movie “Her,” starring Joaquin Phoenix. In it, Phoenix’s character decides to purchase an OS1 which is advertised as the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system. The OS1 is named Samantha, and the main character falls in love with her, hence the movie’s title.
Now, I’ve not seen the movie, the IMDB synopsis goes on to say that “Samantha has powerful intelligence that she uses to help Theodore in ways others hadn’t.” This made me laugh, thinking about my own “relationship” with Siri, my artificially intelligent operator on my iPhone (and I use the term “intelligent” loosely).
Siri and I have been in a relationship now for three years, and contrary to this movie’s theme of falling in love, I can barely stand her. One of the first times I ever called on Siri to “”help me in ways others hadn’t” was when I was in search of vodka. Let me explain.
I had never in my life had a need to buy vodka, but after ordering vodka penne pasta while in Portland, I decided to try it on my own. I went to Fred Meyer and asked someone in the produce section where I could find vodka. He answered, “At a liquor store.” Turns out Fred Meyer doesn’t sell hard liquor. Who knew?
So I got to my car and had to admit that after 17 years of living in Roseburg I had no idea where a liquor store was. I picked up my iPhone and hit the Siri button. “Siri, where is the closest liquor store?” I asked.
She answered, “Let me check … it looks like the closest liquor store is 1 mile away, would you like me to get directions?”
“Yes,” I answered, smug in my mastery over my circumstances, with Siri’s help of course.
After a minute, she said, “Follow these directions to 2152 NE Vine Street.”
Easy peasy, I thought, as I started following her verbal instructions. As I turned past Coastal Farms and Ranch, I thought, “This doesn’t seem right” but I soldiered on, trusting Siri’s intelligence over mine. Big mistake.
As I pulled up to 2152 NE Vine the sign read “Vine Street Baptist Church.” Ummmm, what are these people using for communion?
I picked up my phone again and started yelling at Siri this time “WHERE IS ANOTHER LIQUOR STORE?” Had someone been outside my window listening, I wouldn’t have blamed them for calling the police.
This time she directed me to an actual liquor store in the strip mall at the corner of Garden Valley Boulevard and NE Stephens, you know, a location I had PASSED ON THE WAY TO A BAPTIST CHURCH.
“Idiot,” I mumbled … to my phone.
It was not one of my best moments. But it wasn’t Siri’s either.
Next up, I needed to call our son. His name is Nathaniel, but he goes by Natty, and I have him programmed as such.
“Call Natty,” I said to Siri.
“What is your daddy’s name?” she asked.
“No, Siri, Natty!” I said louder, as if she was just hard of hearing.
“Why don’t you just tell me who your daddy is.” She chirped, as if nothing was wrong and she wasn’t actually an imbecile.
“N-A-T-T-Y!” I screeched while at a red light, averting my eyes from the person stopped next to me, gawking at the lady in full meltdown mode next to him.
“Who would you like to call?”
Seriously? And they call this INTELLIGENT.
Finally, I pulled over into a parking lot and dialed Natty’s number the good old fashioned way. I guess I sounded edgy because he asked, “Are you all right?”
“Yes, it’s just that Siri is stupid,” I answered, them immediately realized how ridiculous I sounded, even to myself.
“Okay…” he said, checking his own smart phone for a good therapist for his mother, I’m sure.
So, if I do happen to go see “Her” at the theater, I’ll be the one scoffing at the screen, intermittently yelling, “Yeah, right!” when Samantha actually gets something right.
As William Congreve wrote in 1697, “Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned by her OS1.” Or something like that.
Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.