I think I saw it coming. I’ve got a smart phone, a smart card and a really smart hybrid car. My ‘things’ can do things I never dreamed of.
My stuff is smarter than me! I’ve crossed the technical Rubicon and there’s no return! Of course I never opened the book that came with any of those devices. It’s like trying to decipher all the taxes and charges on your phone bill.
The problem here is that my smart phone is now linked to my smart car and they’re talking about me not just to me. It started with Siri.
Siri is the intelligent personal assistant on the Apple operating system that helps you get things done just by asking in natural conversational language. In other words you ask, ‘she’ answers. It’s the perfect application for people who don’t have friends and are so immersed in smart phone culture that they have forgotten how to talk to real people. The key is that you don’t have to make ‘eye contact’ with a machine. She has been programmed to answer ‘trick’ questions like ‘Do you love me’? with “I’m just an electronic voice with a body in the clouds, but are you single”?
Then my car got into the act. When I entered an address in the GPS I inadvertently transposed a couple of numbers. Running a little late, I didn’t have the time to fix the error. I hoped the GPS would know what I meant and do an automatic correction.
We’re happily tooling along trying to catch a glimpse of the displays that show tire pressure, how good my mileage is compared to the last fill-up and how many kilometers to the next Duncan Donuts. (Technology can sometimes be a help) The pleasant female voice says ‘Coming up in 100 yards, turn left’. I knew the directions were wrong so I continued after the prompt and didn’t turn. The voice came back, ‘In a quarter mile turn left’. I didn’t. Soon after, another prompt, this time with an edge to it, ‘I’d really like you to turn left as soon as possible for your course correction’. I guess the GPS didn’t really know where I was going despite all its intelligence. I made a right. ‘What are you doing’ it said. ‘Didn’t I tell you where to go?’ I felt the type of ‘twinge’ that I used to get while watching the old Rod Serling TV show ‘Twilight Zone’ when inanimate objects suddenly ‘came alive’ and tried to ‘take over’ or people with an extra eye appeared and just stared at you.
I dismissed the thought and kept driving. Maybe a technician at the smart phone factory decided to play with the purchaser’s head by adding an ‘attitude’ to the voice. They can do that you know. The voice came back “If you don’t turn left in 100 yards I’ll disconnect myself.” She was talking about ‘cellicide’. I didn’t want her bloody digits on my hands. I made a left. A moment later there was a sigh of relief, the sound of a lighter and I think I smelled cigarette smoke in the car. “Ahhh, that’s better” she said, “now let’s go shopping!”