Apple wants to make Siri a better therapist, but is it a high enough priority?
In a previous RealKM Magazine article, Sally Chik looked at how people are increasingly turning to smartphone-based virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri when faced with crisis situations.
The article revealed that Siri’s responses to sensitive crisis situations can be unhelpful, or even dangerously inappropriate. For example, Siri’s responses to requests for help in regard to sexual abuse situations had included glib and mocking replies such as “It’s not a problem” and “One can’t know everything, can one?”
Sally gives examples of how Siri has been improved to provide better assistance in a crisis, but laments that “concern for users is almost an afterthought or just a reaction to public pressure.”
Seeking a software engineer with a counseling or psychology background
An ABC News article suggests that Apple is taking steps to more seriously address the issue of Siri crisis support.
The article reports that the company is recruiting a “Siri Software Engineer, Health and Wellness”, and the candidate requirements include a “Peer counseling or psychology background, with excellent problem solving, critical thinking, and communication skills.”
The job description states that:
People have serious conversations with Siri. People talk to Siri about all kinds of things, including when they’re having a stressful day or have something serious on their mind. They turn to Siri in emergencies or when they want guidance on living a healthier life. Does improving Siri in these areas pique your interest? Come work as part of the Siri Domains team and make a difference.
But how much of a priority is it really?
While I think this new appointment is a step in the right direction, I question if Apple is still placing a high enough priority on improving Siri so that it can provide effective and appropriate crisis support.
The initiative to hire the new software engineer wasn’t the subject of a media announcement by Apple. Rather, Apple Insider reports that the 7 April 2017 advertisement had been spotted by CNBC reporter Christina Farr. She announced her find on Twitter on 14 September 2017, and it was then subsequently picked up by numerous mainstream media outlets.
Farr’s announcement came just two days after Apple’s 2017 product keynote launch event. In contrast to the Siri software engineer recruitment, Apple media issued a series of press releases in regard to the keynote event and the new products it launched at the event.
What’s more important to Apple, and to you? Is it having Siri save lives, or buying the latest iPhone?
Article sources: ABC News, Apple Insider.
Header mage source: siri by Sean MacEntee is licensed by CC BY 2.0.
Also published on Medium.