Rabbi Yisroel Reisman finds GPS to be a wonder. No matter how many wrong turns one makes, a voice—a female one, yet!—dispassionately states, "Recalculating." No impatience, no annoyance. Simply a bland "Recalculating."
I thought of this as I read "To Siri, With Love," by Judith Newman. Newman's son is autistic. Siri is his dearest friend. She could not be more thankful.
Gus had never noticed Siri before, but when he discovered there was someone who would not just find information on his various obsessions (trains, planes, buses, escalators and, of course, anything related to weather) but actually semi-discuss these subjects tirelessly, he was hooked. And I was grateful. Now, when my head was about to explode if I had to have another conversation about the chance of tornadoes in Kansas City, Mo., I could reply brightly: “Hey! Why don’t you ask Siri?”
Children can be persistent, autism aside. Adults can be annoying, too. Sometimes it takes every ounce of self-control to maintain a calm register as I'm repeating the same statement for the fifth time. "Recalculating," I remind myself. "Recalculating. I am a mellow GPS, cruising down a highway . . . "
What I found amazing is that Siri is not only a fount of information for the tirelessly inquisitive, she expects proper behavior, and so reinforces politeness.
She is also wonderful for someone who doesn’t pick up on social cues: Siri’s responses are not entirely predictable, but they are predictably kind — even when Gus is brusque. I heard him talking to Siri about music, and Siri offered some suggestions. “I don’t like that kind of music,” Gus snapped. Siri replied, “You’re certainly entitled to your opinion.” Siri’s politeness reminded Gus what he owed Siri. “Thank you for that music, though,” Gus said. Siri replied, “You don’t need to thank me.” “Oh, yes,” Gus added emphatically, “I do.”
Since Gus doesn't speak clearly, and Siri's voice recognition is not the best, Gus is forced to enunciate—an exercise which will certainly benefit him when he wants to communicate with humans.
“See, that’s the wonderful thing about technology being able to help with some of these behaviors,” [William Mark] added. “Getting results requires a lot of repetition. Humans are not patient. Machines are very, very patient.”
I firmly believe that most things are neutral in nature; it's how people utilize and perceive those things that makes them either positive or negative. While technology tends to train social individuals to turn inward, for socially-impaired souls, it can provide the magic link to the outside world by teaching communication skills.
Yet, patience is a virtue, and through patience, as Mr. Marks said, there will be results. So I am trying to let the GPS and Siri teach me a lesson or two.