Don Norman on Siri

With Siri only $199 away, I feel that now is the time to share Don Norman’s thoughts on this distopia from his 1992 book Turn Signals Are the Facial Expressions of Automobiles:

Let’s assume we’ve reached the time when the power of information technology has increased enormously, with the whole country—nay the whole world—wired so that anyone anywhere can connect to the huge communication network. As a result, society has evolved to the point where everyone always carries a portable computer with them, except that it is thought of not as a computer but as a personal, confidential assistant.

Each of us would have our own portable device, all the time. In fact, by starting out with a personal assistant at a very early age—from two or perhaps three years of age—it could help us learn to read or write, draw and sing, spell. Because the devices would be handed out early in life, the version for young children would be soft and cuddly, like a Teddy bear—hence the name “Teddy.”

By starting so young, the Teddy could store within itself all the information and experiences of a lifetime. We would become quite intimate with our Teddys. They would know all about us, while also giving us complete access to the world’s databases of knowledge. I assume that by the time such devices are possible the speech recognition problem will certainly be licked, so we could communicate with Teddy by talking. We talk to it, it talks to us.

My 1 and 3 year old kids can already use an iPhone, but I haven’t let them loose with Siri yet! (And they disdain most fluffy toys, too.)

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