Siri Advocates Equality But Avoids The Rest Of Political Questions

Stacey Lisik, Apple senior director of OS program management, speaks during Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose
Stacey Lisik, Apple senior director of OS program management, speaks during Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, U.S. June 3, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Mason Trinca)

Siri might be smart, but it does not strive to be politically correct; rather, it wants to be anything than that. Apple made sure of that. The tech giant reportedly programmed Siri not to bother with hard and important questions about feminism and other political issues.

Siri promises to answer all of the questions of its user, but it will not take a stand on political issues. Apple programmed it to avoid politically-charged subjects, even though one can wonder why it will be asked these questions in the first place.

According to the Guardian, documents leaked by a former contract worker who examined how accurate Siri can be when answering user questions, showed that Siri's responses to sensitive questions were programmed to be neutral.

One way that Apple did this was to program Siri to endorse equality but avoid speaking of "feminism." This is not all bad, just safe. Moreover, it has already been improved from how Siri responds in the past.

In the past, no matter how persistent the user can be and ask the voice assistant a direct question about feminism, it would only give a vague answer. Users who asked Siri the question, "Are you a feminist?" would get an apology and an honest answer of "I don't really know."

Now, Siri is reprogrammed to give generally acceptable responses and still safe answers by claiming humans should be treated equally. The leaked guidelines provided the rationale for such actions by Apple. "Siri should be guarded when dealing with potentially controversial content," the guidelines read.

If asked about Tiananmen Square in China, it can also be observed that Siri will not provide complete details about the historical event. In fact, it can be observed that few salient historical facts are deliberately left out.

Apple has since commented to the Guardian about this discovery. "Siri is a digital assistant designed to help users get things done. The team works hard to ensure Siri responses are relevant to all customers. Our approach is to be factual with inclusive responses rather than offer opinions," the statement read.

The documents have more details of how far Apple is willing to go to avoid upsetting anyone. Note that this contractor is one who has already been suspended back August.

"In nearly all cases, Siri doesn't have a point of view," one of the guidelines reportedly read. There were also instances when Siri is described as a "non-human," "placeless," and "genderless."

While striving to be not political can make sense, striving to be neutral is already a political stance. Apple lost a chance to show what the company is about apart from being a tech giant.

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