Writing in The New York Times this week, Judith Newman confesses that she thought she was a bad mother. Her 13-year-old son Gus had developed a strong bond with Siri, Apple's iPhone AI helper, and that can't be healthy, right?
But Gus is not a typical app-addicted child. He has autism, and thus has difficulty communicating his feelings in the way that neurotypical people can.
"In a world where the commonly held wisdom is that technology isolates us," Newman writes, "it’s worth considering another side of the story."
Newman realized that Gus could bond with Siri's data-driven personality over the things he finds compelling ("trains, planes, buses, escalators and, of course, anything related to weather") and discuss them for hours.
Although her son falls asleep with Siri at his side, Newman knows that he is aware that Siri isn't human or a replacement for human contact. Still, a friendship of sorts has bloomed between Gus and his device, and Newman is happy for it. After all, Siri encourages politeness, enunciation, and learning. Even better, Siri never gets tired of him and never judges.
"Somewhere along the line, I am learning that what gives my guy happiness is not necessarily the same as what gives me happiness," writes Newman. "Right now, at his age, a time when humans can be a little overwhelming even for the average teenager, Siri makes Gus happy. She is his sidekick."