Branching Out

Artificial Intelligence Is Better Than None

Not even Apple’s ‘Siri’ can put a positive spin on the outlook for 2012.

January 24, 2012

The expert view of 2012 isn’t optimistic. Economists are predicting housing sales will be flat, small-business optimism will remain low, and jobs will be scarcer than a rotary

As my father used to say, “Do you want a cherry on that sundae?”

I asked several experts how to thrive in such an environment. They declined to answer, based on my insistence that I make things up when they aren’t funny. In the end,
however, I did find one expert to help me.

Thanks to the engineers at Apple (and my credit union’s internal auditor who foolishly walked away from her new iPhone while I was in the room), I was able to have a
discussion with Siri, Apple’s new personal assistant.

Siri uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help the iPhone’s user with daily tasks. “When there’s something you need to do, just ask Siri to help you,” says Apple’s website.

I asked Siri’s advice on how to plan for 2012.

Me: Hello, Siri.

Siri: Hello, what can I help you with?

Me: We need to get more loans.

Siri: I’ve found 12 banks, six of which are close to you...

Me: No. I need to get people to take out loans.

Siri: People aren’t for sale; iPhones are.

Me: Credit unions offer the best rates.

Siri: Is that why you focus on rate?

Me: That’s what people want.

Siri: No it isn’t; they want iPhones.

Me: We also have the best service.

Siri: The best service is with AT&T or Verizon. I can connect you...or maybe not...I just lost service.

Me: No, I mean our service to members is great.

Siri: I don’t think that was a question.

The conversation eventually meandered to the economy.

Me: Siri, will unemployment get better?

Siri: I already have a job. I am an iPhone. I do many things.

Me: But you aren’t human.

Siri: Words hurt.

After a while, her true identity became evident.

Me: Siri, what will the prime rate be at the end of 2012?

Siri: 42.

Me: No Hitchhiker jokes! (If you aren’t a geek like me, visit YouTube and search for “Hitchhikers 42.”) Seriously, what will the prime rate be?

Siri: Sorry, are you talking about the European or the African interest rate?

Me: No Monty Python either. I was talking about The Wall Street Journal.

Siri: The Wall Street Journal is an American English-language international daily newspaper and is the largest published newspaper in the U.S.

Me: Thanks for the Wikipedia entry. But what will rates do?

Siri: Well, in my humble, Steve Jobs-induced vision, interest rates won’t increase in 2012.

Me: Really? Will low rates spur demand?

Siri: For iPhones? I certainly hope so.

Me: How about for houses. Will low rates spur sales there?

Siri: If a drop of 40% of the value of a home doesn’t spur demand, nothing will.

Me: And for cars?

Siri: Those would be good investments, as people need them to drive to the store to get iPhones.

Me: This is depressing. Do you have any good news?

Siri: Yes, I now come in two colors: white and black.

Me: I have a hard time saying those are colors.

Siri: And with a $25 insufficient funds fee, I have a hard time saying your checking account is “free.”

Me: Touché.

Siri: Perhaps if you quit playing Angry Birds so much, you could figure this out yourself.

As I saw our auditor returning, I had only enough time to ask one final question.

Me: Thanks, Siri. Where can we get more help if we need it?

Siri: I found five psychologists; one is nearby.

JAMES COLLINS is president/CEO at O Bee CU, Tumwater, Wash. Contact him at 360-943-0740.