“you know what’s great about new york? the threshold for citizenship as a new yorker is actually pretty short. like, if you come to new york and you still like it two years after you arrive here and you still think its great and you’re having a good time and you haven’t been totally ground down and go limping back to wherever the fuck you came from… you know what? you’re in.”—
- anthony bourdain on the layover, 24 hours in nyc (via sepiabeauty)
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.
Sorry to spam everyone’s dash with this, but I thought it would be interesting to shows a visualization of the failures.
hmmm. I really wanted to give Siri (’s programmers) the benefit of the doubt but the response to “I was raped” really crossed the line. Sigh… Let’s hope that the next update to Siri has this rectified. I dont know how Siri works but… c’mon. You can fix this.
Pay attention to what you envy. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. You only envy those who have what you desire. Back when I was a Wall Street lawyer, some of my former law school classmates got together one evening, and compared notes on alumni career tracks. They spoke with admiration and, yes, jealousy, of a classmate who argued regularly before the Supreme Court. At first I felt critical of their envy. More power to that classmate! I thought, congratulating myself on my magnanimity. Then I realized that my largesse came cheap, because deep down I didn’t aspire to the accolades of lawyering. When I asked myself whom I did envy, the answer came back instantly. My college classmates who’d grown up to be writers, or psychologists.
Ask yourself what you loved to do when you were a child. How did you answer the question of what you wanted to be when you grew up? The specific answer you gave may have been off the mark, but the underlying impulse was not. If you wanted to be a fireman, what did a fireman mean to you? A good man who rescued people in distress? A daredevil? Or the simple pleasure of operating a truck? If you wanted to be a dancer, was it because you got to wear a costume, or because you craved applause, or was it the pure joy of twirling around at lightning speed? You may have known more about who you were then than you do now.
Pay attention to the work you gravitate to. When I was a lawyer, I never once volunteered to take on an extra corporate legal assignment, but I spent a lot of time doing pro bono work for a women’s leadership organization. I also sat on several law firm committees dedicated to mentoring and training young lawyers in the firm. Now I am not the committee type (I’m an introvert!), but the goals of those committees lit me up, so that’s what I did. Today I’m doing a version of this kind of work with my writing and consulting, and I wake up every day excited to get started.
What makes you cry? This one comes courtesy of Steve Pavlina, over at Personal Development for Smart People. He advises that you sit down with a blank sheet of paper, ask yourself what your life purpose is, and keep writing down answers until you come to the one that makes you cry. I experienced a variation of this many years ago. I was having dinner with my good friend Katie Orenstein. I mentioned that I’d always wanted to be a writer but could never find the time to actually write anything. We were having a casual conversation, but I saw the depth of my emotions reflected back in Katie’s face. And I burst into tears. Now here I am, with my first book coming out next year. (Check out Katie’s inspiring Op-Ed project here; she may change your life too.)
You may think I’m conflating work with life purpose here. I am. In an ideal world they will be one and the same. For many people, however, it’s not an ideal world. In that case, try to earn your income from work that doesn’t take too much time and energy. Then spend the rest of your time doing what you truly love.
reblogged cuz these are things I’m thinking about…
It’s hard not to notice that once the right number of white folks are affected, people want to take to the street. Unemployment numbers are high? We’ve had high unemployment for years. People are living in or near the poverty line? Yeah — we know.
When minorities speak up and say there is an issue, we are told maybe we are doing something wrong. Perhaps we are targeted by the police because of what we are wearing. Perhaps we don’t look for jobs the right way. Maybe we aren’t educated enough. But now that it’s affecting other folks, now there’s a problem. Now we need to come together and fight the power. Someone tweeted at me that we need to come together and not point out silly differences like race because we’re in this together!
Yes, we can — and have (there is support from various folks of color) — come together within this movement, but you can’t expect us to throw away “race” and ignore history. Even the violence that’s happening with the Occupiers right now is looked at differently because of race. You can’t be surprised that people have reservations about this when you look at how our issues have been dealt with before.
I’m not making an argument for ignoring the movement because a lot of the movement ignored us. But I am saying take a moment to walk away from your righteousness to understand that your newfound plight has been some people’s plight for generations.
After a while, a young guy sitting in the corner nearest us finally asked what we’d been protesting about.
It was our big chance! One of the conceptual artists spoke at length about capitalism and the rise of student debt; Paul the anarchist spoke about the revolutions that had spread through the Arab world, and how, after the Arab Spring, it was time for an American Autumn. I could sense we were losing our audience, but couldn’t myself think of a better way to formulate our grievances. A series of laws, passed at the urging of the richest Americans, had over the years gutted the New Deal social contract, destroying job security, affordable health care, and quality public education, while a small segment of the population earned more money than anyone could know what to do with. As I formulated this in my head, Henry from the Bronx cut in.
“Police brutality,” he said quickly. “Stop-and-frisk.”
“Yeah?” said the guy in the corner.
His name was R. He was twenty-one years old. He had five thousand Facebook friends and made his living, he said, in the drug trade. He and Henry began discussing the movement. Now Thomas, who is working on a conceptual-art project dramatizing the crushing burden that student debt has become for a lot of American young people, asked how much debt R. had, and R. said that he had no debt, and thirty-five hundred dollars in the bank.
“That makes you richer than most Americans,” said Paul, the anarchist, stretching the point a little.
“Did you hear me?” said R. “I said thirty-five hundred dollars.”
“That’s right. But most Americans have debt. The fact that you have no debt means you’re rich.”
“Man,” said R. “I’m learning a lot in this jail cell.”
So if you take your leftover mashed perderders and leftover rice and combine them and eat that for lunch, the satisfaction you get from having made some more room in the fridge helps outweigh the shame of having eaten mashed perderders and rice for lunch.
points for troll vocab + truth. making room in the fridge=win. which is why, although I am not at all hungry thanks to a late lunch courtesy of Somjen…I will eat that last taco in the fridge. and I will like it.
“Sex-negative messages don’t keep people from having sex. They keep people from having good sex. They keep people from having pride in their sexuality, from sexual self-awareness. They keep people from asking questions about sex, and communicating with their partners. They discourage experimentation. They blur the lines between consensual sex and rape by framing all sex as an undifferentiated mass of “bad.”—