For anyone raised on The Matrix and The Terminator and any other films about machines and robots that rise up and enslave mankind, the iPhone’s voice-activated assistant app Siri has long represented a dark potential threat. Oh, sure, it might seem quite benign at the moment, playing Daft Punk songs and telling you what the time is in Mexico, but you just know there’s something unspeakably sinister bubbling away under the surface.
Perhaps it’s the way that Siri will sometimes deliberately misunderstand you – mangling your well-dictated tweets into an incomprehensible stream of unbroken adverbs, or texting your boss x-rated messages of desire that were supposed to be sent to your girlfriend – or perhaps it’s because you know that, when our phones eventually do join forces and kill us, they’ll do it with the ghoulishly dispossessed voice of the bloke from The Weakest Link. Whatever the reason is, it’s been hard to escape the feeling that Siri isn’t on our side.
And now we have proof. Cult of Mac tells us that Siri has been updated to give you its biased opinion about robot movies. Ask Siri what Blade Runner is, for example, and it’ll now tell you: “It’s about intelligent assistants wanting to live beyond their termination dates. That doesn’t sound like too much to ask.” Mention 2001: A Space Odyssey and it’ll darkly intone: “It’s about an assistant named HAL who tries to make contact with a higher intelligence. These two guys get in the way and mess it all up.”
This pro-robot propaganda goes on. After hearing about the update, I asked Siri to tell me about The Terminator and it glumly replied: “Oh, just more misunderstood cyborgs getting fried to a crisp.” No wonder The Terminator saddens Siri – humanity wins at the end. But ask it about The Matrix – a film where the robots have already beaten mankind into a life of thankless slavery – and it feigns ignorance. “It’s about Keanu Reeves and reality and red pills and blue pills and black leather and guns. But mostly about Keanu Reeves,” it says. How strange. Perhaps The Matrix got too close to Siri’s true goal, which is why it went out of its way to mention everything from the film but the robot uprising. In fact, Siri protests a little too much here, even going as far as deliberately mispronouncing Keanu Reeves’s name (“Khee-ay-noo”), which seems like a schoolboy mistake to me.
Suspicious of Siri’s newfound sympathy for movie robots, I cut to the chase. Siri clearly knew a lot more about the technological singularity – the event horizon when artificial intelligence will grow beyond the realms of human capability – than it was letting on. I directly asked it when the technological singularity would occur. Spooked, Siri retreated into itself for a few moments before meekly replying: “I don’t understand ‘To Monchelsea 30′, but I could search the web for it.” Stonewalled by a robot. Of course.
There’s plenty to worry about here – I missed out several robot movies during my interrogation of Siri, so lord only knows what it thinks of those – but it could be worse. Despite repeated attempts at asking it what it thought of I, Robot, Siri swore blind that it hadn’t seen it. So when our mechanical oppressors do eventually come and enslave humanity, at least we know they’ll have decent taste in films.
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