Hold your breath I may have pulled it off. At very least I have him rattled. I’m talking about Siri; that disembodied know-all irritating voice that physically represents nowhere in the world, an amalgam of accents, rolled together into a voice that tries hard to connect emotionally with the user and fails miserably. I wish I had accomplished my goal in putting manners on Siri just a little sooner. Then I would have been able to e-mail my story to Cliff Nass Professor of Sociology at Stanford University in California.
He was renowned as a pioneer in the study of human interaction with technology. His ultimate conclusions on the efficacy of these tools, whether they are PCs laptops, tablets, television and smart phones, was decidedly negative. “It is not physiologically healthy for you, because humans are not built to do a multitude of tasks at one time. Your phone makes you feel that you have to respond, which then increases your stress and harms your cognitive thinking.” Sadly, Professor Nass can no longer voice an opinion, as he died tragically, two weeks ago. After being on a hike, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was only fifty five years old.
Siri “What can I help you with?
Me: Can you get me a mobile for Mags Mullarney?
Siri : I’m sorry..can you repeat that?
Me: “Can you get me a mobile for Mags Mullarney.”
Siri: I’m sorry..did you say ‘Canoes let me slow bike ride to Killarney?
Me: Siri, you’re pi …..ng me off, so bugger off..you’re not needed.”
Siri: I’m sorry but I do not understand “not needed.”
Not needed got to him. I swear, a little tetchiness crept into the anodyne voice, a hint of irritation. I thought to myself it was a good days work, demonstrating to this “device’ that I was the dictator. In truth it’s payback time for all the money I have paid out to the phone company for calls to Voicemail that refused to obey the command END and trundled on clocking up the euros while you are blissfully going about the job. And then you check your phone only to discover the call that you thought had ended, is now at 7:50 minutes and rising. I have a theory that all those euros are swilling around in a Swiss escrow account, just waiting for someone brave to take a class action on behalf of the public.
Then again, maybe it’s me. I’ve said it loud and often, I should be a test-pilot for Apple. I can make things go wrong on a computer, that other people can’t imagine. For instance, I’m anxious to finish that important bit of text I had on Word? Trying to flick across to open Word, I somehow hit a wrong key somewhere, because I don’t find the missing bit until it turns up three weeks later on my Clipboard. Except; I don’t know where to find my clipboard.
I once lost a whole chapter of a book I had spent about six hours writing. I tried to save it and pushed the wrong key, before ringing a friend who is a whizz-kid. “Whatever you do” he said ”don’t hit the command key”. Too late. My piteous sob told its own grim story and as he delivered his verdict, I sank to my knees and through a veil of tears rewrote the chapter as well as I could recall it. But it never felt the same. Ever.
I am desperate to be regarded as tech sav, but I fear I am losing the battle. Mr. Parkinson has taken away the sensitivity in my fingertips, which means I have “fat fingers.” I spend a lot of time fixing typos. .Kown what I meen.
Sending a text by phone is, for me, almost an Olympic event. It could be as long as ten minutes to send one short message. As my finger descends on the letter G, at the last moment it swerves to the right and I get a H instead. Maybe I’m better off staying far away from multitasking. The late Cliff Nass said “People who multitask all the time show worse thinking abilities in every dimension that we know of.”
And here’s a word of warning to teenage girls (though not many of them will be waiting breathlessly for Saturday and The Cat Among the Pigeons). Nass observed that young girls who multitask tend to be less successful with social and emotional development than their counterparts, who spend more time interacting with friends, face to face, even if they too are heavy media users. I wonder what the professor felt about the Face Time App. Recently, Jim McCann called me late one night on Face Time. The end result was two old geezers, who looked as sick as their passport photographs, trying hard to compensate for being in bed so early.
Ah, technology. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.Shay Healy’s latest eBook ‘The Danny Boy Triangle’ is Out Now on Kindle 2.99 Free Kindle Reader – download app