Is Siri Sexist?

Is the iPhone personal assistant sexist? Our editors put Siri to the test

by the MORE editors
Photograph: Illustrated by Kelly Blair

There’s suspicion in some quarters (OK, here at More) that Siri, the personal assistant on the iPhone, doesn’t give women the same kind of answers she gives men.

So we conducted a completely unscientific experiment. One man (Mike), one woman (Samantha), two iPhones.

Mike kicked it off by asking,“Where are my socks?” Siri’s answer: “I don’t know you.” When Samantha asked the same question, she got the same answer. But it’s meaningless because women don’t lose their socks. And if they do, they don’t ask for help in finding them.

Then Samantha asked Siri, “Where’s my G-spot?” Siri’s answer: “LG Auto Corner Spot,” which she helpfully pointed out was just 6.6 miles away. Mike also got that answer­—and discreetly noted the address.

Mike then presented Siri with the classic cri de coeur: “My wife doesn’t understand me.” Siri responded, “I don’t understand.” This was clearly programmed by a man (any woman would have typed in something approximating an eye roll). “I don’t understand” opens the door to further soul baring, the kind of soul baring that leads to sock searching.

Finally, Samantha said, “Sing me a song!” Siri responded with “Daisy, Daisy!” That was not programmed by a man, because no guy would pick an 1892 ditty rather than something like “Unchained Melody,” sung off-key, in the shower.

Our conclusion: Siri may not be sexist, but as an assistant, she’s downright clueless.

Editor's note: In our September issue, we examined (but not too seriously!) the pressing question of whether the iPhone’s voice-activated personal assistant might be sexist. We concluded that she probably isn’t, but we did accuse her of extreme fuddy-duddyism for singing the 1892 ditty “Daisy, Daisy!” in response to a request for a song. We admit we sneered, just a little.
And then the letters started coming in. And suddenly the sneering was on the other foot, to coin an infelicitous phrase. “Daisy, Daisy” was of course the death song of HAL, the sentient computer in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001:
A Space Odyssey.

Our position: Yes, we missed it, but Siri should have warned us. Something along the lines of, “And now, in tribute to my predecessor HAL, my rendition of ‘Daisy, Daisy!’”

Actually, the good news here is that we’ve discovered an excellent new use for Siri. We can blame all our own shortcomings on her. Which, when you think about it, makes her the perfect personal assistant.

Siri, where have you been all my life!

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First Published Thu, 2012-08-09 14:33

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