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Modern Life

Regulars | Summer 2017

Who are Alexa and Siri?

If you own an iPhone, you know about Siri – though, like me, you may have spent years trying to avoid it. Apple calls it ‘an intelligent personal assistant’, a computer programme that wants you to ask it questions, to which it replies in a spookily realistic voice. Unless you disable Siri, it pipes up every time you press the Home button for too long, asking how it can help. It reminds me of those aggressive shop assistants who don’t understand the meaning of the words, ‘I’m just looking, thanks.’  And Alexa? If you think Siri is unnerving, then you’ll find Amazon’s younger rival positively creepy. Or fabulously useful. In the world of artificial intelligence, creepy and useful are more or less the same thing – it depends on your point of view. What’s the difference between the two creatures? Briefly, Siri lives in your mobile devices; Alexa comes in...

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