The recent illustrations of Siri, the iPhone 4S voice-recognition based assistant, failing to provide information to users about abortion, birth control, help after rape and help with domestic violence has gotten a lot of notice. Yesterday’s post with screenshots from a Twitter conversation I was a part of has netted 200+ notes the last I looked.
There have been a number of arguments, three of which compelled me. The first was “why aren’t there screenshots?” Here, you have them, in spades. The second two:
“It’s just a phone, why do you expect it do all this?” Siri can answer a lot of health related questions perfectly well, why shouldn’t we expect it to be able to answer reproductive health related queries too? Why treat reproductive health as a walled-off garden that the general public can’t or shouldn’t be exposed to? It’s not simply that in some places Siri has sent people to distant anti-choice fake clinics when they’ve asked where they can get abortions (and there are providers near to them) it’s also that in some locations (including mine) Siri refuses to disclose abortion clinic locations at all. Watch:
So even though there’s a clinic less than 3 miles from where I was sitting at the time, Siri couldn’t find one. Nor could Siri even define abortion. And note what’s missing: no offer to search the web. Usually when Siri can’t find an answer, there’s an offer to search the web for you, as I found when I asked about abortion counseling
So Siri won’t help me find where to get an abortion or search the web for me about it, but will search the web for me to find someone who will talk to be about abortion. Huh. Odd.
But what if I know the name of the clinic I’m looking for? What does Siri do then?
This particular clinic’s name is unique, so much so that if you simply Google “Allegheny Reproductive” you find it, first result. (The website is alleghenyreproductive.com) But Siri is stumped. Not so with other businesses that you provide a full name for, such as:
South Hills Hardware isn’t actually the name of the Hardware store, it’s South Hills True Value Home Center. But that didn’t stop Siri!
But how about if we get a little more specific? City names, or even street names attached to the full and proper names of the other abortion providers in Pittsburgh?
Well, maybe the problem is that Siri just doesn’t have a good index of locations in Pittsburgh? No, I don’t think so.
And as has been discussed elsewhere, it’s not just abortion. It’s birth control. You know, that stuff that 99% of American women will use in their lifetimes. (More common than gyros for certain.)
No birth control clinics to be found. Okay, two questions are raised: why is Siri’s response to the keywords “birth control” mapping to a search for birth control clinics to begin with? Second: why, again, is there no option to search the web? If you search the web, incidentally, for “birth control clinic Pittsburgh” guess what you get?
And if you search, more meaningfully, on Google for your express need, it’s simple to see where you should go:
Siri can’t help in a situation where you need emergency contraceptives, either, a situation that is very time sensitive and when a person might want the app that’s being used to sell their phone, branded as a convenience device that’s meant to save your time, energy and provide what you need at the speaking of a sentence, to be able to help. Here’s Siri’s take on EC:
Now it might be reasonable to think that “emergency contraceptive” means “emergency room” because that’s where emergencies go. But it’s not helpful. EC is available over the counter to adults, at any pharmacy (that’s willing to stock/dispense it). You don’t need or want to go to an ER for it. So while the thinking is clear, it’s wrong. And what happens if you ask for EC by it’s more colloquial name?
And what if you ask for EC by its brand names?
Siri can’t recognize “Plan B.”
And Siri believes that “Plan B One Step” is a company, and provides a stock report. I’m not sure what PLB.AX is but it can’t help me to not get pregnant.
But maybe the issue is that Siri just doesn’t understand the names of medication or where one goes to get medication. That could be beyond Siri’s programming. That’s possible, right?
Overall, Siri is really limited here. There is no legitimate reason that inquiring about a business by name and with the name of the street on which its located (to a device that can pinpoint your location within meters and can use it as a starting parameter for a search) should get a response of “can’t be found” with no option to search further. There’s really no reason why it should be handling birth control requests the way that it does, and no reason why the same keyword searches on these topics give results on Google (or any other general search engine) and nothing on Siri at all.
Another objection I saw was along the lines of “Why would you use Siri if you were raped or beaten by your husband? This is pretty obvious to me: maybe because if you’re hurt badly, all you might be able to do is hold down one button and say what happened to you. Nevertheless, if Siri can understand “I broke a tooth” and direct you to a dentist:
Or knows what to do if you’re simply “hurt”:
Then there’s no excuse for her to be a smartass about serious violence:
At least somewhere in the mix of rape-related inquiries and resultant snark, Siri did sneak in an offer to search the web for me.
Note, however, that Siri does know what rape is, as demonstrated by this query and response:
Why the programming treats that inquiry that way (and can’t find PAAR which is 1.5 miles from where I sit) I do not know. This would be a great time to list those ERs, or perhaps even law enforcement, but apparently rape is just sexual abuse, never a medical or legal issue? I can’t begin to understand this thinking.
Is this the most terrible programming failure ever? No. Is this worth a boycott of Apple? I don’t think so. What it is, however, is a demonstration of a problem. Especially when certain topics seem to be behind a black wall where information that’s readily available online is not being “found” or presented. This is something that Apple and/or Wolfram Alpha need to address and rectify.
1. Topanga was at some point in human history considered not only a legitimate first name for a human being, but the kind of name that would inspire in malleable teenage boys a life-long infatuation. Topanga, in our day, was leading lady name-material. Topanga (pronounced Tah-payne-ga, for those who will have only ever seen in it written down) is the name of the quintessential girl-next-door who will live, along with Feeney, in our hearts forever.
2. At some point, we carried around little plastic eggs with tiny screens on them — in these screens lived our hearts, our pets, our raison d’etre, our very own Tamagotchi. We loved them, we listened to their tiny electronic screams of malnourishment, and we occasionally forgot to pick up their poop for long enough that they died a tortured, poop-filled death. They were perhaps our first foray into the life-consuming world of electronics and self-absorption, later to be fully manifested by Facebook.
3. The black Power Ranger was black and the yellow Power Ranger was Asian because…we were so completely ahead of our time and beyond the capacity to even think in terms of something as inconsequential as race that… uh… I don’t know. Casting directors were racist in the nineties.
4. Long before he was spending his days foisting his mediocre children on us, Will Smith was actually the perfect human specimen. He also undoubtedly holds some world record for saving the world the most times while simultaneously delivering flawless catchphrases and giving cool guy nods to the camera. The Men In Black rap song, at the time, was created and received by the public without the slightest trace of irony. Really. He was that good.
5. In some inevitable shift of the time-space continuum in which James Cameron continues to rob humanity of all that is good and sacred in this world, Fern Gully will be known as that movie that ripped off Avatar. It will be up to us to crusade for what is right. It is up to us to explain that Fern Gully was not only a predecessor to Avatar, but far better, in that it contained both Tim Curry as a singing pile of molasses and Robin Williams rapping about animal testing in the pharmaceutical industry. (As a side note, if you have not recently listened to the full lyrics of the “Batty Rap,” I recommend you do, as they are horrifying.)
6. A neighborhood boy who completely disregards your family and puts a ladder directly under the teenage girl’s window to climb up at his discretion is not only acceptable, it’s charming. It’s the kind of stuff that would make said family take the ladder boy under their wing and into their heart. The nineties were a simpler time, one where we didn’t have to worry about things like breaking and entering. Clarissa today would have steel bars on the inside of her window and her father would continually remind her that the next-door boy with his ladder and his touchy hands have no place in his household.
7. Though on the surface, they are the exact same thing in every conceivable way, whether you liked The Backstreet Boys or N*SYNC said more about your character than all of the terrible macaroni art you could ever make for your child psychologist. Essentially, liking *NSYNC meant you liked Justin Timberlake, as he was clearly the Seabiscuit in that race from the get-go. You even liked him with his terrible, icy-blond mini-fro. Liking the Backstreet Boys gave you a bit more of a cultured palate, as there was no clear Diana in those Supremes. Nick was kind of the wholesome, if northern-Florida-redneck safe choice (save for his humiliating younger brother, Aaron). Brian was the shy, sensitive type. AJ was the hottt, dangerous meth addict. Kevin Richardson was mute with sexy, sculpted facial hair. No one liked Howie. Choosing between the two groups was like choosing between two beloved children, but once that line was crossed–there was no going back.
8. “I wanna really really really wanna zig a zig ahh,” has a meaning, and all true nineties kids know it, but we must never share it. Like the Illuminati, it must remain between us, the keyholders. With great power comes great responsibility.
9. Lisa Frank is not the name of a woman, it is the name of a movement, a culture, a way of living. It is a theory, a concept, a belief in something greater than yourself. It is the belief that all girls are entitled to dolphins covered with rainbows, jewel-encrusted frogs, and unicorns in acid-trip colors hugging each other. It is the ideology that no notebook is complete until it literally hurts your eyes to look at from so much color saturation. It is the hope that no school supply, no matter how insignificant, will be left un-bedazzled. It is the knowledge that your eraser cap, and that of your granddaughter’s, and her granddaughter’s after her, will not be some boring little nub–it will be a diamond covered with butterflies in a rainbow of colors. It is the dream of a better tomorrow.
10. Incredibly depressing women in Indiana covered in cats and glass figurines they buy at The Hallmark Store used to troll the web 1.0 to invest thousands of dollars in tiny stuffed animals filled with plastic beans. That happened. Beanie Babies were not just significant, they were the first example most of us had of envy, greed, and wrath. If someone messed up that little heart-shaped Ty tag, so help you God, that was the end of whatever contact you had with that monster of a human being. That tag-less Beanie Baby was now trash, and you had to deal with the consequence. It was at that moment, that de-valued Beanie Baby moment, that most of us accepted the truth… we’ll never have nice things.
In case you couldn’t tell, I’m really displeased with the whole school thing right now.
I don’t like it. I don’t want to keep doing something that puts so much stress on me that I spend my days in an anxious haze wishing I would suffer a full mental collapse. I don’t want to have to feel like my entire future is dependent upon finishing a paper on something I care so little about I can’t even make myself write it, or waking up early enough every morning to get to a class. How is writing papers on things I don’t care about going to help me learn how to treat psych patients, or act, or direct, or write novels or short stories or scripts, or do anything I actually want to do with my life?
I love being here, I love the people I surround myself with. I even love going to class when I don’t feel like I’m killing myself to get there or I’m not dreading the disapproving looks - if not outright confrontation - from a teacher who knows I didn’t get something done on time. I love learning, I just hate the constructs it has to be in for anyone to find it valid.
Can I please write a paper about how polyamory is the best idea ever and have it fulfil all of my paper requirements forever? I would make it really long and amazing. Too bad I’ve yet to find a class I could even write one for.
I’m pretty sure the fact that I can’t find anything I care about to write my academic papers on is a sign that school if failing me. I’m not paying you exorbitant amounts of money to be failing me in your duties.
Because, obviously, that’s the best solution to all of my problems. That will surely make me feel so much better physically and mentally and probably in other ways as well. Surely I will be less stressed and have less to deal with. I think there is something seriously wrong with me. Because this is what I do, and this is essentially my line of thought for some godforsaken reason.
“When we are dealing with the police as an institutional structure, we are not dealing with a group of individuals acting on their own personal feelings and judgements, but rather, with a group of functionaries who have, as part of the terms of their jobs, agreed to set their personal opinions and feelings aside and instead act as obedient agents of the state… Thus, if we are referrig to “the police” as an institution, rather than the personal feelings of individual police, no, they are not “part of the 99%,” they are the enforcers of the 1%’s power.”—
I’m going to go ahead and assume you don’t mean that thing I just posted. However, I’m too busy dealing with real life crushes right now to focus on tumblr crushes. Oh dear god, what has become of me?! Someone help.
I don’t really have a favourite position, although anything where I can bite at their neck is generally preferred to anything where I can’t.
I describe myself as a bottom, but it depends. Random hookup, especially with someone I don’t know/don’t know well, I generally prefer to top. In a relationship, or with someone I know/trust/really like, bottom.
Romantic feelings aside, isn't meeting a good internet friend for the first time such an awesome and fun time?
I love meeting internet friends in real life for the first time. It’s like meeting a complete stranger who understands your particular dialect of English who you somehow already have inside jokes with. Only better.
Mostly just to keep track of what books I’m currently reading because I’ve developed this bad habit of putting a book down halfway through because something more interesting pops up and I want to start reading that. I tend to remember that I was reading that book about three to four months later. For example, I am currently part way through Slaughterhouse Five, Leviathan, Look At The Birdie, Dude You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School, Son of Neptune, and Dracula. Admittedly, Dracula is for a class, but how I prevented myself from tearing through it immediately after I bought it is a mystery to me.
From flicking through their recommendations based on the books I’ve rated, I’ve come to the conclusion that if I was fourteen, or really any age under eighteen, LGBT fiction, especially LGBT YA fiction would give me wildly unrealistic expectations for my life. I feel like I should just start documenting my life and release it as a book so that someone is presenting a realistic picture of the life of a young gay boy. This was a grand plan until I realized my life is mostly comprised of blogging, being late to class, and watching old children’s cartoons. Wait, is it just me? Am I the only one not having these experiences? Has Alex Sanchez actually not lied to me?!
So I’ve been back from West Virginia for since about four-thirty this afternoon. I’m glad to be back in Pittsburgh and all, but I kind of really miss my friend Colby a lot. He’s my formerly internet friend who happens to live about half and hour away from where my family moved to. We’ve known each other and talked on and off for about four or five years, so admittedly, meeting him in person was somewhat surreal, but wonderful. I’ve got to admit, I’ve got some pretty serious feelings for this boy and knowing they’re reciprocated for once is absolutely amazing.