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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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald