Letter to the editor: Don’t take the humanity out of progress
Updated: October 24, 2012 2:49PM
Like you, I’ve had some dreams come true: walking the white beaches of the Bahamas, strolling the crooked streets of New Orleans, climbing the Eiffel Tower, sipping Chianti in a Tuscany trattoria.
Then there was beholding both the Sistine Chapel and the Grand Canyon, struggling to explain either.
But now Apple has come up with Siri — my very own voice-activated pocket-assistant. The app is available on the iPhone45, and it’s been selling in town briskly. Just speak into it and Siri will tell me where I am, where’s the nearest Chinese restaurant, call a cab ... oh, and tell me what the traffic will be like on the way.
But I’m not sure I’m going to keep my Siri.
Speaking in clear, conversational English, it even has a saucy sense of humor. Ask her to “talk dirty,” she’ll cheerfully answer: “Silt. Gravel. Compost.” Call her a derogatory name and she’ll top you: “Why do you hate me? I don’t even exist!”
We all remember sci-fi encounters with E.T.s. Creatures with small bodies and enormous heads, for it is their brain not their brawn that counts. Given a few thousand years of evolution, is this how our distant descendants are likely to look? Abs on the beach and pumping iron in the gym will no longer seem very important. On the other hand, what will be left to physically experience on this phenomenally physical planet?
I still want to smell the rich Colombian coffee bubbling over my cup in the morning. I still want to sit down and tuck in my napkin as the spice of the antipasto and the Bolognese of the pasta collide in my nostrils. I still want to feel the smash of the cymbals during a Beethoven symphony, to tear up at the National Anthem, to feel a giggle in my throat watching the giggle of my grandchildren, to be overpowered by the jaunty yellow of the sunrise and the garish red of the sunset.
I don’t wish to know these things from my head. Or from Siri. Rather, I want to sense them right down to the pit of my tummy and to the tingle of my toes. Nothing against change. Or Siri. Or Apple. They represent human progress. Only we don’t need to take the human out of the progress!
Or do we? My fancy new Siri didn’t answer that.