I’m currently sitting in a coffee shop I’ve never been to before, and I’m feeling very present and charmed, as if my cheeks were rosier than they are. I’m here to kill time because I’m running ahead of schedule. Do you remember what that feels like? To be early? To kill time? It’s very good and underrated. And it’s a situation I’ve found myself in a lot since I started using Siri like a real-life personal assistant.
Doesn’t it sound nice to have a robot who catches your every misplaced thought? Every random task you thought of in the shower, every person you remembered you needed to call at 2 a.m., every appointment you felt like booking in the middle of the workday? How about every time you said, “Yes, I will bring that to you tomorrow!” or “I’ll text you later to set a date and time!” What if that were all taken care of by someone who wasn’t you so you could just live your life, be early with the right things in tow, observe the old man next to you at a random coffee shop reading The New Yorker? Noticing inconsequential things is the best. It’s the opposite of being dead.
I’m here because I’m dedicated to my little $999 iPhone robot. It was she who reminded me to text my friend I hadn’t seen in a while about getting together last week, which is why I’m out of the house this morning. It was she who set my alarm early enough so that I could leisurely stroll here. She even reminded me to bring my computer in case I had extra time to work (which is how I’m writing this), and what the weather was going to be today (high of 41, windy), and what song is playing right now (“Fantastic Man” by William Onyeabor). Also to get paper towels on my way home later, bless her little heart.
I’ve been teased a lot by my friends about my increasingly aggressive use of Siri over the last year. Maybe because she’s literally been around since 2010, or maybe because I look like an idiot cosplaying as a futuristic cog when I talk to her. Both true. But I think part of them is secretly thinking, Maybe I should start doing that, and then they forget. Because that’s what humans do. Which is exactly why I use Siri. She is me without all the things that regularly foil my ambition and focus, like forgetfulness, laziness, and overstimulation. She’s me without the embarrassing American accent (I made her Australian). And as stupid as it feels to endorse a vaguely creepy Apple product everyone has known about forever, I’ve been using it to such consistent satisfaction I feel called to do it anyway, like a good boss would.
Here are some of the things I used my personal assistant for in the last week:
To remind me to text an old friend Happy Birthday the next week, when I was sure I’d forget (I did)
To remind me to email someone I thought of as I was falling asleep
To tell me the weather (and then again after I didn’t listen the first time)
To set a timer for roast chicken
To tell me how many ounces are in a cup
To research flights to San Francisco
To call my mom while I was washing the dishes
To tell me the exact meaning of the word “proselytize”
To tell me how old Rachel Bilson is (38)
To tell me how tall Drake is (6’0”)
To put “dinner with my brother” on my calendar for Friday night at 8 p.m.
To remind me to bring a book back to my coworker the next day
And my favorite: to tell me where she was (under my pillow)
As dystopian as modern comforts can skew, and as unexciting as this one is, I think it’s the first that’s actually made me a better person. Now I’m someone who remembers stuff! Who never forgets a birthday or to do that errand I thought of on my way home! I’m almost always on time, less anxious, never have to apologize for forgetting that innocuous thing that keeps slipping through my synapses. The seemingly unsolvable problem of being a person who remembers everything until I actually need to remember it has finally been addressed, and by the very device that caused most of the problems in the first place. Beautiful, isn’t it? Or cursed.
Every time I address Siri in the middle of the workday, my coworkers laugh, and you might be doing the same, which I will take on the chin, as the Brits say on Love Island. But getting in the habit of outsourcing random thoughts has genuinely changed my life. It not only solves one of the core incompetencies of the human race—that we’re far more ambitious about our future selves than our present selves—it also frees my inner hamster to step off the wheel of my mind periodically and take a nap in a pile of woodchips. Which feels like a victory worth sharing, no matter how ordinary.
Does anyone else use Siri like a madwoman and believe it’s underrated or should I see myself out?
Graphic by Lorenza Centi.