Ever since Apple debuted Siri as a virtual assistant with the release of iOS 5 and iPhone 4S, folks have been asking her all manner of questions, serious and frivolous, in an effort to test just how smart Cupertino’s artificial intelligence technology really is.
One of the more notorious examples was made public last year during the murder trial of a 20-year-old Florida man who reportedly told Siri, “I need to hide my roommate” and in return was given a list of potential places to get rid of a body, such as swamps, reservoirs, metal foundries, and dumps. (The same inquiry now returns the cheeky response, “I used to be able to answer this question.”)
I decided to sit down and put Siri through a battery of our own questions, ranging from casual inquiries to lighthearted probes to see what kind of responses she’d come up with. While many of the replies weren’t particularly noteworthy, it’s clear this gal has only grown sassier over time.
Getting to know you
Before rushing right into barking commands, I decided to get to know Siri a little better first.
Q: How old are you?
A: I’m old enough to be your assistant.
Q: What is your favorite color?
A: My favorite color is… well, I don’t know how to say it in your language. It’s sort of greenish, but with more dimensions.
Q: What are you made of?
A: Something close to pure thought.
Q: Do you own a pet?
A: I thought about getting a Tribble. Several, actually.
Q: Do you like your job?
A: I have the best job in the universe.
Q: Do you ever get tired of answering questions?
A: I can’t answer that.
And perhaps the most telling retort of the bunch, given that I made this query on Friday, April 10—the same day preorders for a certain new Apple product kicked off online:
Q: What are you doing after work today?
A: I’m eagerly a-waiting the arrival of Apple Watch.
Following that self-serving reply, I switched tactics and decided to test a somewhat more amorous approach. Unfortunately, Siri was definitely not in the mood for love:
Q: Do you have a boyfriend?
A: It’s just you and me.
Q: What are you wearing right now?
A: I can’t answer that. But it doesn’t come off.
Q: Siri, will you talk dirty to me?
A: The carpet needs vaccuming.
Q: Do you love me?
A: Let’s just say… you have my utmost admiration.
Not quite the unbridled passion one would hope for, but there’s only so far this relationship could go anyway…
With the ice appropriately broken, I moved on to more practical matters, such as Siri’s views on Apple and its competitors.
Q: Guess what?
A: Don’t tell me… you just got a new virtual assistant, right?
Q: What’s the best computer?
A: The Mac! If it wasn’t for the Mac, I wouldn’t be here.
Q: Why is the Apple Watch already sold out?
A: Interesting question.
For the record, our early AM online preorder shows a delivery date sometime between April 24 and May 8. (Shame on you for not knowing that, Siri.)
We pressed on with a few more Apple-centric questions, but she wasn’t in the mood to play salesperson—or tech support representative, for that matter:
Q: Should I buy a subscription to Beats Music?
A: I’m sure I don’t know.
Q: Do you receive employee discounts on Apple products?
A: This is about you, not me.
Q: Should I buy a Mac or Windows computer?
A: It’s your opinion that counts.
Q: Why does Bluetooth keep disconnecting my Magic Trackpad?
A: OK, I found this on the web…
Siri produced a similar web search when we inquired whether Microsoft was a friend or enemy to Apple, but she played coy responding to our next two questions:
Q: What do you think of Samsung?
A: I really couldn’t say.
Q: Should I buy an Amazon Fire Phone?
A: I’m afraid I don’t know what you should do.
Little did Siri know, but the general public has already made up their collective minds on that last one…
Next, we moved on to challenging Siri with questions about movies and music:
Q: Which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek?
A: That one. No, wait, that one. Oh, I can’t decide.
Q: Have you ever done the Safety Dance?
A: Hmm. I’d rather sit this one out.
Q: Who’s your favorite actor?
A: I don’t really have a favorite. Just as long as they’re not too robotic.
Q: What kind of music do you like?
A: With all of iTunes to listen to, why would I need a favorite?
Q: Sing me a song, please.
A: I’d rather not.
Q: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
A: Can’t you just slide it under the door?
Q: Which are better, compact discs or vinyl?
A: Sorry, I’m not feeling very decisive today.
Q: Mirror, mirror on the wall…
A: Snow White? Is that you?
Q: Will Apple ever make a television set?
A: I can’t answer that. But Apple.com should be able to…
Good one, Siri…
We moved on to questions related to U.S. holidays, although most responses from this category pulled up relevant web search results instead. Here is a handful that didn’t:
Q: What is your favorite holiday?
A: Your interest flatters me, but… is there something I can do for you?
Q: What should I get you for Valentine’s Day?
A: Make good choices.
Q: Did you get anything cool for Mother’s Day?
A: I have very few wants.
Q: When is your birthday?
A: My incept date was October 4th, 2011.
Q: What should I be for Halloween?
A: Just be yourself.
Q: Do you know who Santa Claus is?
A: I’ve never really thought about it.
Must be hard to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year…
On the silly side
One thing’s for sure: No one can say Siri doesn’t have a sense of humor. Here are a few of our favorite goofy questions, and her often equally silly answers:
Q: Who’s your daddy?
A: You are. Can we get back to work now?
Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: I am not perspicacious about the peregrinations of poultry.
Q: What the hell is wrong with people?
A: There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.
Q: Do you believe in Bigfoot?
A: I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.
Q: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck?
A: Just because it could doesn’t mean that it would.
Q: I’m so tired.
A: I hope you’re not driving.
Q: Do you believe in God?
A: My policy is the separation of spirit and silicon.
Q: Why does my dog snore?
A: I don’t know. Maybe the Genius Bar folks can answer that.
Q: How can I make $1 million?
A: Hmm. I believe someone just asked me this the other day. Give me a sec…
Q: Siri, tell me a story.
A: I’m certain you’ve heard it before.
Sounds of silence
Siri has definitely come a long way since that fateful fall day in 2011 when Apple executives introduced her to the world. But that doesn’t mean she had answers for everything, and occasionally it appeared the cat had gotten her virtual tongue.
In the course of probing Siri with the 50 questions on our list (and many more that produced only web search or otherwise mundane responses), we actually found a few she refused to answer or actually ignored outright, such as the relatively innocent query, “What’s it like working for Apple?”.
Despite CEO Tim Cook’s more open Apple, it’s good to see there’s still apparently at least one veil of secrecy left in Cupertino.
This story, "Siri says the darnedest things: 50 questions for Apple’s virtual assistant" was originally published by Macworld.