Before Stanley Kubrick introduced the world to HAL in his epic and esoteric “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the idea of computers one day being able to out-think humans was a mere curiosity. The idea of artificial intelligence—a computer that could legitimately think and learn, beyond simple data input and output—was still a relatively novel idea in pop culture. HAL was a computer to fear at a time when society barely had the vaguest clue of a computer’s capabilities or functions.
Today, that curiosity surrounding artificial intelligence is considerably more mainstream. The power of a computer is no longer a secret, which should make HAL more terrifying than back in 1968. Now we’ve reached the point where past stories that were considered science fiction are becoming possible realities. IBM made a computer named Watson that destroyed two of the greatest champions in “Jeopardy!” history. Computers are starting to think for themselves, and it seems they’re becoming quite capable of being rude and temperamental as well.
According to the Sun, Charlie Le Quesne, 12, learned that lesson the hard way this week when he picked up a display model of the iPhone 4S at a store and asked, “How many people are there in the world?” Siri’s answer: “Shut the f*** up, you ugly t***,” the Sun reports.
“I thought I must be hearing things,” Le Quesne’s mother told the Sun. But when they asked again “the same four-letter stuff blared out.”
Since the introduction of the Apple iPhone 4S, Siri, the phone’s personal assistant, has received a lot of attention from both the media and nearly every owner of the newest Apple phone. Siri can make phone calls send text messages, find directions, remind you of appointments and even answer questions. Like most owners of the phone I’ve spent the requisite two hours of asking the phone inane questions in the hope of baiting her into a funny response.
The majority of my efforts were in vain, except finding out that Siri answers “Bruce Springsteen” to the question “Who’s the Boss” and the fact that she gets sassy when cursed at. For the most part Siri is quite boring. She has no sense of humor, political beliefs or favorite sexual position. Which makes instructing a 12-year-old to “shut the fuck up, you ugly twat” seem a tad bit suspicious.
Employees at the store speculate that some troublemakers adjusted Siri’s settings to give that kind of response, but to be safe the phone has since been sent back to Apple for testing. You never know, Steve Jobs could have been sending a message from the grave.