Some Siri-ous Thoughts about Technology and the Generation Gap

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"Would you mind if I ask SIRI for a 2nd opinion?"

It was hilarious to watch the Italian grandmother’s reaction when she heard the smart assistant give precise answers to her queries even after she called it ‘Goo Goo’. This viral video took me back in time to an afternoon when Father and I had visited the community centre back at home where a crowd had queued up to witness a new piece of technology that was up for public display and demonstration.

This was a time when the Oxford dictionary and common man understood the definition of ‘mouse’ as a rodent with a pointed snout and a long tail that usually kept the occupants of the house running after it when it made an unbidden visit and technology was at its infancy and we were yet to trust complicated computing machines that could supposedly ease our workload. We looked in awe at the wonder gadget — the mouse — placed inside a locked glass enclosure to be carefully removed and attached to the keyboard by the ‘mouse expert’ during the hourly demonstration.

When computers replaced typewriters and swivelling cushioned chairs, the outdated wooden ones, Father, for whom the change presented a bit of a learning curve, spent evenings at one of the many internet cafes that had sprouted in the vicinity. These cafes had dial-up internet connections that grated and whistled noisily while the operator-cum-instructor imparted precious knowledge on the complex technique of sending electronic mail.

Much later, we rejoiced the day Father brought home our very own personal computer. Patience was a virtue for after the dial-up had finally made the connection, it took just one wrong number on the landline phone to terminate it.

These childhood tales have now metamorphosed into hilarious bedtime stories that get Sid to laugh incessantly and beg for more instead of getting him to sleep.

Earlier this year, when digital class was no more an option at his school, Sid got his tablet. The thought of my son owning a piece of technology that threw open the doors of the internet world was daunting. While he excitedly spent the first day exploring its features, I hovered about explaining the perils that the limitless world of the internet posed. It was about then that he discovered the virtual assistant — Siri.

At first, he was curious about the robotic voice behind the glossy black screen. Little Princess joined in the questions that ranged from ‘Hey Siri, Who are you?’ to ‘Hey Siri, do you like ice cream?’ This was soon seen to gravitate to academic doubts and questions like ‘Hey Siri, can you find my Math notebook?’ I must admit that it hurt to see that my son found ‘Siri’ more resourceful than his mother, but it was concern about the misuse of technology if left unmonitored that I restricted screen time.

Even though Siri has always resided in the complex interiors of my phone, it was the hilarious answers that my children sometimes got in return for bizarre questions that got me to activate the virtual assistant on my phone. It was impressive to get ‘Siri’ to pull out selective emails, send messages, make calls and set alarms with a simple voice message. But my family was not very happy to be woken up at 2am after the phone jarred to life with what appeared to be an alarm that had been accidently set during my trials.

While the older generation is hesitant to adapt to technological advancements, the children, for whom technology has been an integral part of their existence have taken to it like ducks to water. Father, who had been both worried and excited when he was handed a sleek, shiny smart phone called me up asking me to accept his friend request on social media. Sid is now working on a science project that involves moving suspended objects that can be controlled by an application.

I wonder where that leaves the middle generation — who can rock in a fetal ball of nostalgia at the sound of dial-up connections or talk about heavy desktop computers as if they were dinosaurs, but continue to be enthralled at the pace of technology and is striving hard to keep up pace in the virtual world as much as the real world and real people. Siri is sure to have one or a hundred and one answers to that question too!

 

Hello Friends, hope that you all are having a wonderful weekend. The above is a piece that was written for the Gulf News and has featured in today’s ‘Off the Cuff’ column. You can read it here. Wish you all a wonderful day ahead.

 

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41 responses »

  1. Yet another article I enjoyed reading and can relate to as well! Well written Pranitha:)
    Internet cafes and those massive computers make me nostalgic as well. This intense burst of technology may have its perks but I’m at sea most times. I’m old schools & still love my songs on a CD:))

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello Divya, it is so good to catch you here. Thank you so very much. It warms my heart that you could relate to the old times, rather the simpler times. It is true that the advance have given our life a big boost – making the world a much smaller place as well as getting everything at our fingertips. But the problem is that there is too much at our fingertips that requires to be taken care of. Oh yes, like you, I still have my CD collection too!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I dread to think of the future before us, I just hope that it is for the better and not ‘robots’ for company. I am not complaining as it is technology that helps me connect with all of you and showcase my thoughts.:) Thank you, Megala 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember my first computer in 1984. I still have my first cell phone that is bigger than the police’s walky-talky. I took it to the phone center for recycling, the staff said, are you sure you don’t want to keep the antique phone? So I brought it home.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. yes. Technology is here to stay. it is real, and not at all virtual, as sometimes one wished it were, when, for example, you see your kids take to it like ‘ducks to water’, as you said! the one and only option left for us is to learn to live with it; you know, Dinosaurs lived millions of years ago. they’re long extinct!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved this post and was smiling the whole time, Perfy. God, I had forgotten how beautifully you write. We are the sandwich between our parents who’re getting technologically inclined and our kids who belong to this generation anyway. I’m dreading the time I will have to let my son use internet on his own too. Wonder what Siri will do then? (I’ll try not to let my kids realise that she can be more resourceful than me. :-P)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! I tried too but Alas. ;( I worry everyday and keep reminding him but there are limitations for us too and I cannot entirely deny that digital class is not doing its bit to make his learning more interesting and widening his thoughts too. You are right, we are sandwiched between our parents and the super-tech gen.
      So glad to catch you here, V. Good to see you on the list of the most-read posts in Indi Blogger. Your posts are a sure hit there. Congrats my dear and good luck for more.
      Thank you, V

      Like

  5. I understand how you feel. My 5 year old daughter can pick up any piece of technology and figure out how to use it. I think technology has opened so many more doors for the younger generation. I am only 30 and I still feel like I struggle sometimes to use technology to it’s full potential. I am guessing by the time my daughter is a teen I will feel an age gap even more.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey friend! What a wonderful, wonderful read this was♥️ I have so many thoughts going through my head but I’d have to limit to some for the sake of our convenience!
    It’s a brilliant combination of humour, fact, issue based and thought provoking aspects.
    “Hey Siri, do you like ice cream and where is my notebook!” Hahahahaha! Your kids are awesome! Did I tell you that? I understand, Siri did give pangs of guilt to you but it’s alright my dear friend, you’re doing the best you can.
    Being a mother especially in the present times where it requires work and home life balance along with unnatural amount of competitiveness that is fast shaping in society wherever kids are involved, has made motherhood one of the hardest thing ever. Always was and now excessively much. We are all proud of mothers.
    I still remember the day, my father had got us a desktop computer! And how I’d enjoyed playing all the games on it, ah childhood memories, such pure bliss♥️ Yeah the gap, no one will get that but at least there are tons to feel nostalgic about, isn’t that what makes life worth living?
    And seriously mouse in a glass display, ahahaha, how nice♥️
    Take care my friend, happy day to you😄😘xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • So so glad to hear from you, TW. I so look forward to your ‘conversations’ as they are not just your feedback but it is like we are conversing (and I love it). Yes, that was a true bit of my past that was the first thing that came forth when I saw that twitter viral feed.
      Siri is super, just that it does she disappears when I need her most and quickly but to give the strangest answers, she is around.
      So glad to have got you down memory lane too and yes, I am a proud mother too, so will gladly agree with all that praise you have heaped on moms.
      Hope you had a wonderful Sunday , dear friend. Enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Heylo my friend, I missed conversing with you and yes I myself very much look forward to our weekly interactions which are not just comments but chats♥️
        Hahahah there are so many funny memes on Siri’s unhelpful means😂😂 absolutely absent from the scene of real importance!
        I’m glad the praises on mother’s made you happy but they deserve every bit.
        Thank you my dear friend. I hope you’re doing good. Here’s wishing a fantastic week ahead♥️

        Like

  7. I have several dear friends in their 80’s who wield their I-Pads with such confidence, it amazes me! I also have friends and family who refuse to own or use a computer…I appreciate each piece of technology I master but worry that we might lose our humanity over time…thank goodness, nature is eternal, forever keeping our world in balance! It’s so good to read that your pieces find themselves in print, you are a lovely writer!

    Liked by 1 person

      • I really love your imagery, “technology has become the other oxygen of our existence”, very sobering words to ponder over…it’s always a pleasure to read your words…looking out my windows this morning has revealed the spring light, everything looks different…our part of the world is getting ready to say good-bye to winter!

        Like

  8. Hello, Writer Woman! I was going through your posts just now. This one is among your very best, I think. I have yet to encounter Siri, though I’d love to very much. My friends in school do smuggle in their iPhones sometimes but I can’t go about exploring their phones however much I may want to. Besides, I don’t trust myself to handle such expensive technology.
    When we got our first PC home, I don’t think we even tried to use it for any of the functions it was originally designed for. We learnt to play Tarzan much before we were taught the basics of MS Word or Paint in school. Even now, I bet I’ll excel at that game and many others when compared to my mastery over a computer’s usual functions!

    Like

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