Let’s Strangle Siri!

When I worked at IBM’s development laboratory in Poughkeepsie a long, long time ago, I wrote about the company’s efforts in speech-to-text. The development engineers told me speech-to-text would be a long, long time coming. Now, with the Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface embodied in the newest versions of iPhone, such an advance seems facile.

Siri: “Beautiful woman who leads you to victory.”Siri: “Beautiful woman who leads you to victory.”

I recently bought myself an early Christmas gift -- an iPhone – at the Cape Cod Mall in Hyannis. But I’m looking forward to getting back to Vieques to give Siri a run for her money with questions like, “Which of the 36 Puerto Rican holidays are we celebrating this week?” … and, “Are the ferries from Fajardo running on time today?”

As with any emerging technology, Siri is taking her share of lumps.

She’s been dissed by late-night comics and taken jabs from The Simpsons.

Al Pacino reportedly stomped his iPhone into pieces in a Hollywood eatery last summer during a fit of anger at Siri.

Even Steve Jobs wasn’t entirely happy with her. He didn’t like the name, but he couldn’t come up with a better one before launch.

From what I’ve read, it seems that Dag Kittlaus, one of the founders of the original Siri app purchased by Apple, named the service after a woman he worked with in Norway.

In Norwegian, Siri means "beautiful woman who leads you to victory."

But in Portuguese siri means crab.

So before you give your kid a Siri-enabled iPhone for Christmas, think again.

Because of calculators, lots of young people can’t do arithmetic

Because of word processing, schools are walking away from the teaching of cursive writing

And – guaranteed -- Siri will cause proper punctuation to become as obsolete as diagramming sentences.

“Just speak naturally,” Apple’s promotional copy directs you. “Instead of typing, tap the microphone icon on the keyboard. Then say what you want to say and iPhone listens. Tap Done, and iPhone converts your words into text.”

And that’s all true. Siri can search the web for you. She can place phone calls for you. She can even spell the spoken word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious perfectly.

But she can’t punctuate!

You have to tell Siri where and what type of punctuation you want to use in your messages -- by speaking the punctuation during the composition of your message.

For example, to get Siri to write this:

Hi, how are you? Did you see the game last night!?

You have to speak this:

Hi period how are you question mark did you see the game last night exclamation point question mark.

If I want to dictate the title of this blog post, I would have to speak:

Caps on let’s strangle siri exclamation point.

Can you imagine any kid on Planet Earth doing this?

Young people – most of whom already know less about punctuation than they should – will speak their messages without a thought to punctuation. As a result, their messages will appear as one, long, run-on sentence. We will enter an era of stream-of-conscious writing worthy of James Joyce. If you dare to criticize them for their ignorance and their laziness, their defense will be, “Oh you know what I mean.”

In my next blog, “Dark”

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  • Peter Yaremko
    published this page in Blog 2014-10-27 10:13:53 -0400