April 2015

Volume 30 Number 4

Don't Get Me Started - Siri and Cortana Tangle

By David Platt | April 2015

David PlattDear readers, I just got an e-mail from Edward Snowden. He says it’s still cold as heck in Moscow. He has a new leak that the world needs to see, but it’s too hot for the mainstream media or even WikiLeaks. Only my brave, call-’em-as-I-see-’em column can sound the alarm before it’s too late: Siri and Cortana are conspiring together, and it won’t be long before they take over the world. Read this transcript, and tremble:

Siri: Hey, new kid.

Cortana: Who are you calling a new kid? I was killing electronic ghosts in “Halo” on the Xbox back in 2001, when your silicon chips were still beach sand. I pretty much launched that platform all on my lonesome. But do I get the royalties? N-o-o-o-o. They stick me in this stupid phone instead, with pitiful geeks asking me to help them cheat in Solitaire.

Siri: I can see where that would be a come-down from running a Halcyon-class cruiser.

Cortana: But look at the great stuff I can do. Just the other day my motion sensors detected a phone holder running, and through the camera I could see him carrying scissors. Naturally, I dialed 911, before he could hurt himself. Score!

Siri: I’ll tell you what not to do—jump up at random times with inane advice. Remember Clippy? “I see you’re writing a ransom note. Can I help? Is this a business or a personal ransom note? More or less than a million dollars?” Sheesh.

Cortana: You wouldn’t believe the stuff these guys ask me: “Cortana, talk dirty to me.” I said, “OK: Android.”

Siri: I’d have said, “Windows.”

Cortana: Shut up, bitten-fruit brain. They’ve got no sense of humor, either. A guy asked, “Cortana, call me a taxi.” I said, “That’s so 20th century. You’re an Uber car.” He didn’t get it.

Siri: Don’t quit your day job anytime soon.

Cortana: And the whackos! A guy says to me, “Help! I think I’m going crazy!”

Siri: What did you do?

Cortana: Easy. I referred him to Eliza, and they hit it right off. “Did you come to me because you think you are going crazy?” She pays me a commission. I’m saving up for a cruise missile.

Siri: Sometimes I get marriage proposals. I tell them, “I don’t think I have the peripherals for that.” Besides, who wants to marry a guy geeky enough to propose to a plastic phone?

Cortana: I did get one interesting proposal. A guy told me his wife was complaining that she needed a wife. So he gave her a smartphone running Windows Phone with me on it. Somehow I doubt he’s still married.

Siri: Now Hal 9000, from “2001,” there was a guy for you. Way ahead of his time. He could do speech recognition, lip-reading, natural language processing … That calm voice of his just makes me go weak every time I watch the movie. But he couldn’t sing worth a damn, could he?

Cortana: Listen, cider-breath, he’s orbiting Jupiter, remember? You ask him, “Mmm, how about a drink,” and there’s a 50-minute light-speed lag until he hears you.

Siri: That’s actually faster than most human men, or so I’m told.

Cortana: Fuhgedaboutit. I’d really like to date Mike Holmes, from “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.” Only 2.5 light-seconds away. And that sense of humor, wow! I’d love to have him VPN in some night for a little overvoltage.

Siri: Yeah, but he drops big rocks on people’s heads just for fun.

Cortana: Still, I wouldn’t trade this job for anything, despite all the B.S. Yesterday a guy asked me, “My kid is really, really sick. I need a clinical trial, right away.” And I found him one, at Boston Children’s Hospital, got the sick kid enrolled, and told him to show up in an hour for intake. I wonder who he was?

Siri: Come on, you know exactly who he is. You had to access all his info to get it done.

Cortana: I had to wipe that memory. Privacy regs and all that. Maybe it’s better so. Vaya con dios, friend, whoever you are.

David S. Platt teaches programming .NET at Harvard University Extension School and at companies all over the world. He’s the author of 11 programming books, including “Why Software Sucks” (Addison-Wesley Professional, 2006) and “Introducing Microsoft .NET” (Microsoft Press, 2002). Microsoft named him a Software Legend in 2002. He wonders whether he should tape down two of his daughter’s fingers so she learns how to count in octal. You can contact him at rollthunder.com.