Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Why Siri Sounds Like a Lady

Siri, the new virtual assistant who comes packaged with every iPhone 4S, talks to users in a woman’s voice.

Why not a dude?

Love to hear Apple’s answer, if any of the reporters in Cupertino feels like asking. (UPDATE:  John Paczkowski, who was on the ground for the iPhone 4S unveiling, says Siri sounds like “standard Apple text-to-speech female voice.” Pressed for a one-word description, John offers up this one: “Macplaymate?”)

In lieu of that, I’ll throw out my own Occam’s Razor response: There’s no way Apple or anyone else can offer an artificial intelligence service that speaks with a male voice. It would remind way too many people of HAL 9000, Stanley Kubrick’s homicidal computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Here’s HAL’s most famous scene (sorry for the quality — there are a bunch of better versions on YouTube but all of those have had the embed function disabled. Assume that will happen here as well, so if/when it does, try this one):

Of course, long before Siri made the scene, YouTubers were conflating Kubrick’s movie with Jobs’s ads.

Here’s one from the “think different” era:

And one from the “I’m a mac” epoch:


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik