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How Siri Makes Computers (and Coders) More Human

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Siri, a program in the latest Apple iPhone that can carry out a wide spectrum of vocal commands without requiring training or special syntax from the user, stands out from similar applications by being imbued with the semblance of a personality, to the degree of responding to complex questions or requests with humorous, sometimes sarcastic replies.

Although essentially illusory, a computerized personality carries a number of benefits, writes David Pogue. One advantage is that machines become more user-friendly by simulating casual dialogue with people. But as a side benefit, this trend is forcing programmers to make their software communicate better with users.

"The designers’ intention, no doubt, was to make their machines more user-friendly by simulating casual conversation with fellow humans," he says. "But there’s a side effect of that intention: in trying to program machines that speak like people, the programmers are forced to think like people."

Pogue also praises Siri's ability to understand any question's wording. "This time the payoff is more than user-friendliness; it’s happiness," he says. "When Siri does what you want, the first time, when you haven’t read any instructions or followed any rules, you feel a surge of pride at your instantaneous mastery."

From Scientific American
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