Update: Siri now sends rape queries to RAINN

Sometime yesterday, while this article was in the process of blowing up, Apple updated Siri’s response to some of the queries I referenced, doing just what I’d guessed they’d do: sending them to RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline. It’s a good change, and I’m glad they made it.

And yet, everything I said still stands.

Apple has still spent five years more invested in coming up with shallow witticisms than stress-testing its work against real life.

Siri still was never trained to understand a basic human lexicon—the lexicon of abuse and assault, which affects a huge percentage of people, particularly (though not exclusively) women, over their lifetime.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want or expect Siri to know anything about sexual assault. I’d actually prefer Siri doesn’t attempt to provide customized help to people who are abused or raped.

I just want it to stop writing off queries as “not a problem.”

I just want it to do what it’s designed to do: look things up for users, rather than say it doesn’t understand and leave them with a dead end.

So yeah, I’m really glad Apple fixed this one problem with Siri. But the underlying issue remains: an industry so fixated on a shallow definition of delight that it prioritizes “fun” over usefulness, and ultimately fails people when they need it most.

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I help folks in tech and design build sustainable careers and healthy teams. Author @wwnorton @abookapart @rosenfeldmedia. More at www.activevoicehq.com.

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Sara Wachter-Boettcher

I help folks in tech and design build sustainable careers and healthy teams. Author @wwnorton @abookapart @rosenfeldmedia. More at www.activevoicehq.com.