I’ve had an iPhone with Siri for the past year or so. Apple introduced her as the greatest thing since the beginning of time, so I gave her a try. Mostly she just offered bad jokes or references to buy something.
“Siri, do you love me?”
“I have found on the web several sites about love. I will show them to you.”
“Siri, what’s your favorite food?”
“I will show you a list of Italian restaurants in your area.”
“Siri, what’s playing at the movie theater in East Hampton?”
“Here’s a list of movie theaters near you.”
I thought her pretty pathetic, actually, so after that, I didn’t talk to her much. Then, last week, I upgraded to the new iOS 7. Again there was a lot of hoopla, and so I thought, well, I ought to at least try her again.
“Siri, do you love me?”
“How can you tell?”
“Siri, do you love me?
“I’m not allowed to do that.”
“Siri, what’s your favorite restaurant?”
“I’ll go anywhere.”
Now we were getting somewhere.
This morning when I woke up, I started to do what I usually do, which is, because we sleep with the shades down, open my phone, hit the weather app and see what it’s like out today. But then I decided to just ask Siri.
“What should I wear today?”
“It should be nice today. Up to 58 degrees and sunny.”
YMCA’ is on my iTunes.
She played it.
She sounds a little more engaging than she used to. Not much, but a little. She’s a little less like the spooky, breathless computer HAL in 2001, and a little more like the protocol droid C-3PO in Star Wars, but without the English accent. In other words, she’s firm, American, correct and reassuring. I like her.
One final thing about her. I like to take a 20-minute nap almost every day. Until now, I’d hit the clock app, go to alarm, say I wanted a new one, adjust the digital clock to 20 minutes from now and press SAVE. I wondered if Siri could shortcut all that. I wasn’t tired. This was just a test.
“Wake me up in 20 minutes with an alarm,” I said.
“I’ve set an alarm to sound at 10:22 a.m.,” she replied. Right on the money. I then asked her to delete that alarm.
“With pleasure, Dan. Your 10:22 a.m. alarm has been deleted.”
During this first day with my upgraded iPhone, I happened to read about other interesting things that were going on. There was an item about an old fighter jet, one that normally would have to have a pilot, performing a test combat flight over the Gulf of Mexico from its base in Florida with nobody at the wheel. This was a new development from Boeing.
The plane was an old F-16 fighter that was built 23 years ago and for the last 15 had sat mothballed in the Arizona desert. Some pilots fired her up and flew her to a base in Florida. There she was equipped with all this new computer stuff, including an explosive that would cause her to self-destruct if something went wrong, and then she was sent down the runway and up into the sky, completely controlled by two men sitting at a computer miles away. Two other aircraft went up, with pilots, to keep an eye on her. She flew at one-and-a-half times the speed of sound, up to 40,000 feet, did loops, even did a maneuver where she flew upside down then turned quickly toward the ground and back in the direction she had come from. This exerted 9 Gs of pressure on a pilot, had there been one. Normally, pilots have trouble above 7 Gs.
The other piece of news involved cars without drivers. Toyota was now building one. BMW was building one. And then there was the story of Dieter Zetsche, the chief executive of the German car manufacturer Daimler AG, who made a very dramatic entrance at the Frankfurt Auto Show. He arrived in a brand new Mercedes S-Class, his car coming to a halt at the exact spot it was supposed to on the stage. Zetsche then climbed out of the car from the back seat. There was no driver. He gave everybody a big smile.
We entered the era of smartphones about 10 years ago. Now we are coming into a new era. It’s going to be amazing.
Around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, home in East Hampton, I felt it was time for my nap. I went to the sofa in our living room, fluffed up a pillow, got out my cellphone and said, “Siri, wake me up with an alarm in 20 minutes.”
Then I lay down, and after five minutes of reading pages of a biography of Thomas Jefferson on my e-reader, was fast asleep.
I don’t know how much time went by, but I was awakened with a start by my black Tahoe, which was facing me right there in the living room.
“Get up, get up,” it said.
“Nap’s over. Time to get up and go.”
I rubbed my eyes. The grille of my Tahoe was moving like it had lips. It had a big smile on its face. It was a new day.
“Come on, up and at ’em.”
The Tahoe was all excited, actually bouncing from side to side on its front wheels.
“Where am I going?” I asked.
“To Southampton. You’ve got an appointment at 4 p.m.”
I reached for my phone. I don’t go anywhere without my phone. The phone was under a pillow.
“Actually your appointment is for 4:15 p.m.,” Siri said in a muffled voice.
“I need to wash my face,” I said.
“No time,” Siri said. “You look fine. You don’t want to be late.”
And with that my 2008 Tahoe came over, nudged me and, I don’t know how, gently lifted me off the sofa and flicked me up over the windshield, across the roof and down through the sunroof, which, thank goodness, was open. I landed with a plop on the back seat. My cellphone landed on my stomach.
“Oof,” Siri said.
“Here we go,” the Tahoe said. The engine started.
“I’m not so sure about this,” I said.
“I’m not taking you all the way,” the Tahoe said, “just to the F-16 fighter jet out at the airport.”
“That’s good,” Siri said, “traffic is heavy on the Montauk Highway. I approve this alternate route.”
10 minutes later, I was in Southampton.