Be Nice To Your iPhones

Have you ever taken your frustrations out on Siri?

“That’s not what I said!”
“No, not that one!”
“You stupid —phone!”

While I wouldn’t take such a tone with a real person, it’s easy to get annoyed with the voice inside the iPhone. Siri, as she’s better known to iPhone users, is someone we’ve talked about before. She’s not a human being, but rather the name of the voice-activated digital assistant that iPhone users can talk to when asking for directions, food delivery options, facts that need Googling, and more.

The programmers behind the app added in some fun features to make her seem a bit more human. But when I was frustrated? It felt a little therapeutic to talk back to a chunk of metal and glass. That was, until I discovered the nice woman behind the voice.  Now that I’ve seen her face, I’ll never be able to let off steam with Siri again….

CNN (and a host of other television channels) have now revealed that the voice behind Siri is voice actress Susan Bennett. Interestingly enough, Siri is not Susan Bennett’s first time voicing a potentially-frustrating machine. She was also the voice of Tillie, the character behind the first ATM machine.  And, if you’re a frequent flyer, you’ll definitely want to watch the video – she’s also the familiar voice of a major airline.

siri's voice

According to an article in The Guardian, for an entire month, Susan spent four hours a day, five days a week bringing Siri to life. The result was iconic – in 2005, Siri became the first digital voice that was said to seem truly human.

Does knowing that there’s a real face behind Siri’s voice make you want to be a little nicer to your iPhone? If not – it could cost you your job!

Researchers at the Harvard Business School study the evolution of workplace interactions – including user interactions with digital assistants and other forms of artificial intelligence. Because some of these technologies learn the rules of interaction from the environment around them (just like an intern!), being rude to them can make for a surly digital coworker. Says the Harvard Business Review, “Just as one wouldn’t kick the office cat or ridicule a subordinate, the very idea of mistreating ever-more-intelligent devices becomes unacceptable.”  Can you imagine getting fired for talking back to a computer?

With that in mind, be nice to your iPhone today. Not only has it had a hard day being shoved in your back pocket and left on the dashboard in the sun, it does a lot of work for you!  What’s next? Artificial Intelligence Appreciation Day?

Fuel for Thought,