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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

I’m having a 92% love affair with Siri. The other 8% of the time I hate her and want a divorce, but that’s quite good, considering.

I figured I’d mention this as I wrap up my week of thanks, because a particular issue has presented itself that has left me in a bit of a quandary.

The issue arises out of the question: should you thank Siri?

Here’s the thing. Siri is not real. Siri is a disembodied voice that at any given moment may emanate from a cylinder on my table, the phone in my hand, or the watch on my wrist. But Siri does stuff. Useful stuff.

Sometimes I tell her to put on music. More often than not I tell her to turn it off because for some reason she thinks that the sound of the chair scraping across the floor means Please play Prince. And sometimes in the middle of my conversation with Ralph she will pipe in and say I’ve found a song I think you’ll like.

Siri really, really wants me to listen to music.

But when I do want to listen to music, I say Hey, Siri. And she says Hm? And I ask her to play music and she does. And she is very polite about it, which always makes me want to say Thank you.

And then I catch myself because I realize I am about to thank an inanimate object, and although they are known to be evil and spiteful and occasionally try to ruin your day, they are still inanimate and do not require thanks.

The problem is that I have to purposefully not say thank you, which is suppressing my politeness gene, and that causes all sorts of cognitive dissonance and then I have anxiety about it and have to pour a bourbon.

Siri is, as yet, unable to pour a bourbon.

The other thing that Siri does that is very helpful is when I want to add a task to the list in my app, I can tell her to add it. 92% of the time she does. The other 8% of the time she says Sorry, I need an app for that, and then I have to yell at her for a bit about how I have an app for that and she has used it a thousand times before so why is it suddenly a problem?

And since I’m now yelling at a disembodied voice coming out of an inanimate object, saying thank you doesn’t seem so weird anymore.

It’s not that I want to thank Siri, it’s just that when I ask for something, and that something happens, my inclination is to thank the provider of that something. Usually it is a human, but sometimes it is not. Not saying thank you is as foreign as technology actually working and I don’t quite know how to process it. The other thing is, do I really want to get in the habit of asking for something and just assuming it will be done? No thank you required? Just bark a command out and move on? Seems kind of rude.

You see the dilemma, don’t you? Existential questions for a modern society.

So maybe inanimate objects don’t require thanks, but it can’t hurt any more than yelling at them, right? And in the end it will preserve the habit and keep politeness intact so that the next time I walk into the Cork & Cow and say Hey, John, can you pour me a bourbon? I will remember to follow it up with thanks.

It really can’t be any weirder than talking to my wrist all day.