Is it possible that Siri is a better mother than I am?
Take the other afternoon. Home from school, my oldest didn’t quite make it to the kitchen, where I was working with a friend. He stopped in the living room, I imagined to play on his iPhone peacefully without my prying.
But then he was speaking aloud, and there seemed to be a voice in response.
“Who are you talking to?” I yelled out.
“Siri,” he shouted.
I looked at my friend, there with me at the table, both of us in front of Macs, iPhones handy to answer texts and e-mails and the very occasional call.
“Oh my God, he’s talking to Siri,” I said. “It’s just like that movie…”
I didn’t see “Her,” maybe in part because the concept itself hit way close to home — the ability one might have these days to form a love bond with a disembodied computer-generated persona.
“What’s he saying?” she asked, laughing.
I couldn’t hear, but I could only imagine. The boys often try to test Siri’s patience, to say rude, crude things to her that will make her reprimand them.
“That’s not very nice…” she might say, if they tell her she’s stupid or something far worse. Her programmers are clearly cognizant of the need to protect their technological progeny, like one might actually protect a real person. Siri is firm but patient, and doesn’t really take a lot of s—.
“Siri’s good,” I said. “She doesn’t accept bad manners. It’s a good thing we have her on our side. Maybe she’ll teach them.”
Excellent. Thanks Apple. Good to have the help.
I suppose this is the purpose of technology, to replicate human actions without the messy unpredictable emotional responses of a real human. It is fairly black-and-white: certain words are unacceptable. Period.
As a real living breathing mom, I sometimes let things slide. I am busy answering e-mails or texts, or I have a column to write, so the not-so-nice things my boys might say, the curses or the cut-downs, might slip by me. Not Siri. No sir. She flatly refuses to put up with certain words.
She corrects them with a “Now, now,” or a “After all I’ve done for you…”
There is a lot I could learn from Siri’s calm consistent demeanor. She never yells. She is informative yet not condescending. She even has a sense of humor.
“Ha ha,” she says. “That’s funny.”
Moving forward, Apple could definitely go places with this technology to help us moms even further. Maybe we could just plug in our “Good Mother” app to respond to all of our children’s difficult life questions with a straight-up, hard-line approach. It is hard to decide whether to let your kids go to the park alone? Let Siri decide. Not sure what time bedtime should be? Siri’s your girl.
The danger, of course, is that Siri doesn’t provide so much in the way of intimacy, the true close bonds that can only exist in three dimensions. This morning, for example, when my son woke up, I went and cuddled with him on the couch. I kissed his cheek and I thought, “Some things can never be replaced with robots.”