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Is Siri Messing Up a Generation of Children?

The New Republic’s Judith Shulevitz is alarmed at what she perceives as a negative consequence of children using Apple’s Siri and other brands of digital personal assistant.

Ms. Shulevitz observesn that it’s important to understand why children can’t stop trying to make friends with these disembodied voices, and frustrated with their serene unflappedness when the child gets angry with their responses, and notes that from a child’s point of view, Siri rebuffs stabs at intimacy. EG: “Do you love me, Siri?” — “Do I what?” – I’m not capable of love.”

Moreover, she says Siri’s disembodied voice unleashes fantasies and projections that the embodied voice somehow keeps in check, noting that’s why Freud sat psychoanalysts behind their patients, and also why phone sex can be so intense. She cites literary critic Ruth Franklin’s comment that maybe kids get mad at Siri because she fails to meet the maternal expectations they associate with a female voice, although she acknowledges that the current generation of iPhones allows you to set Siri to male as well as female.

Ms.Shulevitz observes that children today will be the first to grow up in constant interaction with these artificially more or less intelligent entities. So what will the utimate consequences be? She cites opinion of several child psycology experts.

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