Last night while working the reference desk, I had a little voice emanating from around me trying to help me out. No, it wasn’t one of those “voices in my head” voices, nor was it a pint-sized angel and devil bantering on my shoulders. It was the virtual best friend who rides shotgun in many of our pockets nowadays: Siri.
A patron approached the desk and made a simple request for four paper clips. I rummaged through the desk drawer and found one garden-variety silver clip and a bunch of other brightly colored ones. Unsure of whether this gentleman preferred to go all business with his paper clips or if he permitted some ostentatiousness in his document retention products, I asked, “Does color matter?” He replied that it did not, so I handed over four paper clips of various colors and sent him on his merry way.
As the patron was walking away, I heard a muffled voice coming from my pants pocket. As much as I’d like to tell you that the Blue Fairy had sent Jiminy Cricket to help me become a real boy, it turns out the voice was coming from my cell phone. Apparently, I inadvertently activated Siri during my interaction with the MSPC (Man Seeking Paper Clip), and she went to work trying to help me answer my “Does color matter?” question. That’s a potentially very weighty question, and depending on the context, e.g. with humans (no), paper clips (maybe), or snipping wires to diffuse a bomb (yes), the answer can be quite different. Here’s what Siri came up with:
That’s a decent assortment of potentially helpful links, photos, videos, and further search suggestions, though three of the links are for the same website, and the default use of Bing is frustrating. No offense to Siri, but if I were actually trying to meaningfully answer this question, I’d take a different approach, but I was nonetheless amused by her attempt to help me tackle such a difficult issue when I didn’t even mean to ask her. Way to be there for me, pal.