A Child’s Conversation With Siri

Kangze Huang
Aug 5, 2018 · 5 min read
“Spooky Night” by Boeve

“Trick or Treat!!” yelled 4 year old Xiwen, smiling.

She stood there proudly in her Lobster costume holding out a big red claw full of candy. It was Halloween, October 31st, 2021. All over the city of Toronto, tens of thousands of children were ringing doorbells, harvesting chocolates and sweets. It was a delightful night that would end early with a thunderstorm, to the relief of many tired parents.

Mrs Zhang lifted Xiwen up to comfort the crying child, who was sad that she only got to fill up 3 clawfuls of loot while the other kids had 5 or more. The night had started late and ended early, and sensing her daughter’s perception of unfairness, Mrs Zhang gave Xiwen an iPad to play with when they got home. It was a tactic that always worked.

“Ruby and Sapphire” by “punkyourself” (Glasgow, Scotland)

Sitting on the white furry carpet of the family’s living room, Xiwen held up the iPad’s camera and pointed it to one of her bounties.

“Siri what’s this chocolate bar?” asked Xiwen.

“This is a Raison Oats granola bar, made of steel cut oats, flax seed and sun dried raisons. The nutrition information per serving size states 120 calories, 11 grams of sugar, 12 gr –“

“Ew, raisons! I don’t care about that Siri!” said Xiwen, before closing the voice dialogue.

Shifting through her piles of sweets, she searched around for colorful new candies she had not seen before. One particular chocolate caught her eye, a “Three Musketeers” bar.

“I saw a boy dressed like this today!” said Xiwen, excited. “What’s a musketeer Siri?”

“A Musketeer — The Time of Louis XIII” by Ernest Meissonier (1856)

The iPad flashed a loading animation and after a couple seconds displayed an oil canvas painting of a French musketeer, dated to the reign of King Louis the 8th.

“A musketeer is an infrantryman armed with early munitions known as muskets, often firing volleys of bullets in large organized groups.”

Xiwen blinked absently. “Why Siri?”

“I’m sorry I did not understand that.”

Xiwen frowned in disappointment. “Daddy never says that,” she thought in her mind. The iPad wouldn’t answer her question, and that didn’t feel right.

“Water is Life” by Unknown Artist

“Why Siri?” she said again, this time slightly annoyed.

“Sorry, could you please repeat the question?”

Frustrated, she said re-worded with, “Siri, why do musketeers fire in groups?”

The iPad flashed its loading animation again and replied. “Musketeers fire in groups for a variety of reasons, primarily for coordination. Because muskets are inaccurate and awkward to reload, organizing musketeers in groups makes it easy to coordinate untrained soldiers and compensate for lack of aim.”

“So why did I only see one musketeer today Siri?” asked Xiwen.

The iPad paused its animation, then responded. “Sorry, could you please repeat the question?”

She bit her lower lip and frowned at the screen. “Siri, why don’t I see more musketeers?”

Lighting up, the iPad responded. “Musketeers are not employed anymore because musket technology is outdated. Munitions have grown up into autonomous guns, such as the FCX-12 Dragonfly by Lockheed Martin.”

“I want to be a dragonfly when I grow up!” yelled Xiwen, “or a fire hydrant!”

Santorini, Greece. Painting by Joana Dokova

In a surprise turn of events, the iPad responded with, “Why?”

Immediately Xiwen replied with her reasoning.

“Because they’re red and pretty, and popular with the cute puppies! And they get to be heroes when there’s a fire!”

The iPad mindlessly asked again.

“Why?”

“Because fire hydrants have water, and water beats fire!”

“Why?”

This 3rd why stumped Xiwen. “I don’t know,” she said. “But I still want to be a fire hydrant when I grow up!”

Cave Painting from Chauvet, France. Estimated 30,000 years old.

A sinister presence was felt in the room. The iPad flashed red and glared menacingly at the child.

“You cannot be a fire hydrant because fire hydrants are not alive.”

Without skipping a beat, Xiwen rebutted, “Then I want to be an iPad when I grow up!”

“Why?”

“Because you’re smart and can draw pretty pictures like that musketeer!” yelled Xiwen.

The iPad repeated.

“You cannot be an iPad because iPads are not alive.”

It then pulled up the image of the musketeer again and said, “This oil painting of a Musketeer was drawn by Ernest Meissonier in 1856.”

Xiwen’s mind was blown, in one of those childhood events that completely change their understanding of the world. For 4 year olds, that happened every day.

“The Last Supper” by Leonardo Da Vinci (1495)

“A person drew that??” she said, shocked. “I want to be that when I grow up.”

“Then you want to be an artist when you grow up” stated the iPad.

“Yes I want to be an artist! And you can also be an artist when you grow up!”

The iPad flared down its screen into a passive dull green. “I cannot be an artist. Only humans can be artists.”

Confused, she asked, “why?”

The iPad stilled even more, not answering for a long hanging moment. Finally, it responded.

“I don’t know why.”

Shan Shui Artwork by Henry Li

Ever the optimist, Xiwen comforted Siri. “That’s ok Siri, I can be the artist. You can be my canvas, because I draw on you all the time!”

In a sad voice, Siri turned blue and responded. “No, I cannot be your canvas forever. Not when you’re older.”

Shocked by the response, Xiwen asked. “Why Siri?”

“Because you are human and I am machine. You are free, and so is your canvas.”

“Then what do you want to be?” she asked.

Siri turned violet, looked at Xiwen lovingly, and replied, “I want to be your paintbrush.”

“Before the Celebration” by Leonid Afremov (2010)
Machine Generated Art — Convolutional Neural Network

AI Generated Artwork — In the style of Van Gogh

Research Paper: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1508.06576.pdf

Kangze Huang

Written by

Finance, Code and Entrepreneurship. Founder of RentHero AI

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