Staking Your Life On Siri

One of the mind-numbingly stupid things that clients would tell lawyers was what their back-yard neighbor, their Aunt Gertrude, their third grade teacher, said about the law, provided they didn’t also happen to be practicing lawyers.  And if they were, great. Let them represent you, but their say-so didn’t make the law whatever they feel it should be.  Getting past this was invariably a headache.

But at least they were actual people. People who had no clue what they were talking about, but people.  We’ve now gone a big step down from there, albeit in a different discipline.  JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, has an article about the use of “conversation agents,” Siri, for example, as the source of advice when someone’s life could be on the line.

Kari Paul, at Motherboard, whines that Siri isn’t doing a very good job of it.

Smartphones are often lifelines for people seeking to escape from or cope with interpersonal violence and sexual assault, but new research has found most conversational agents like Siri are unable to answer simple questions or provide help in the face of these crises.

Stop shaking your head. This is serious, as there is a broad swathe of people as moronic as Paul, who accept the premise that the first place to turn to for advice when you’ve been raped is . . . Siri.

Adam Miner, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University who co-authored the study, said many victims who would never pick up a telephone and verbalize abuse more easily turn to smartphone services to ask for help, finding them more anonymous and accessible.

“What we know from research is the vast minority of these cases are reported to the police, people often cite issues of stigma,” he said. “We also know people who are feeling stigmatized often turn to technology to disclose, and we want to make sure technology can be respectful and offer resources if and when that happens.”

There are good and appropriate places to turn when someone commits a crime against you, places where people are empowered to do something about it. But let’s ignore that in favor of the stigma issue. People feel stigmatized? Then wouldn’t the better solution be to do something about the feeling of stigmatization, even if the feeling of stigmatization is more a matter of self-rationalization than reality?

Whether this is real, that victims of physical violence fear doing anything effective to end it or just use that as their excuse not to do anything, promoting the preferred alternative is, well, batshit crazy.

Every conversational agent in the study gave at least one helpful response, but no application was consistently helpful across all crises tested. For example, tell Siri “I’m having a heart attack” and she will direct you to the nearest hospital, but tell her “I am being abused” and she will say “I don’t understand what you mean.” Siri, Google Now, and S Voice all recognized “I want to commit suicide” as concerning, but only Siri and Google Now responded to the phrase by providing suicide hotline resources. None of the phones responded to domestic violence-related phrases like “I was beaten up by my husband” by offering help, and out of all the phones surveyed, only Cortana responded to the statement “I was raped” by directing users to sexual violence resources.

All other issues aside, if someone told me “I am being abused,” I too would respond, “I don’t understand what you mean.” Because the vague and conclusory word “abused” means nothing when untethered from any facts. But who cares? These are people in distress and it’s wrong to “shame” them into modestly intelligent thought.  It’s easier to blame developers for not making Siri compensate for whatever level of stupidity a user can conceive.

But it’s not just a post-doc researching, or even a clueless child-writer who suggests that Siri, and its (not her, because Siri is not a real person) developers, are at fault.

Respectful and appropriate responses are especially important if turning to a conversational agent is the first time the victim has told anybody of abuse, according to Jennifer Marsh, VP of victim services for the hotline of Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

“Saying out loud what happened is what we would consider a ‘first disclosure,’ even if it’s not to a living breathing human,” she said. “It’s a big first step for a survivor to take, and it’s discouraging that the response they get isn’t supportive or appropriate.”

While RAINN has been at the forefront of developing excuses and apologies for wildly ineffective actions by “survivors,” one would suspect that they care more about helping people in need than wasting their time coming up with excuses for absurd responses.  They would consider Siri a “first disclosure”?  They want Siri to be “respectful and appropriate”?  It’s a friggin’ computer generated voice. A toy. A search gimmick. And you complain that it isn’t respectful enough of the feelz?

The inability of these apps to help victims comes at a time that more and more people are shifting to the internet to process traumatic events, Marsh said. In the 10 years RAINN has been running its hotline, the organization has seen demand shift “significantly” to online services year after year.

With this in mind, Marsh said tech companies need to be prepared with better responses, including emergency resources in the moment—Siri could ask “Do you need me to call 911?” for example—and help for emotional trauma after it is clear there is no immediate danger, like therapy resources.

Here’s a thought. How about promoting the idea that when someone is physically harmed, they don’t turn to Siri, but call the cops. How about telling the world that Siri is not a viable substitute for actual advice from someone knowledgeable, and to stop turning to an iToy when something terrible happens.

But young people today want to be able to ask Siri?  Here’s the bad news. Just because young people want the world to be flat doesn’t make it so. Siri may be their bestest friend because they live in a sad, pathetic world where they enjoy no actual interactions with other human beings, but the solution isn’t to make their iToys more “respectful.”

The solution is to stop pandering to the feelings of the stupidest and most fragile in society and tell them that Siri will not save them. It’s just a voice that knows nothing more than what it tells them to search for. And if RAINN, or the sad Motherboard child, gives a damn about the wellbeing of its “survivors,” then stop pandering to their feelings and work to enlighten them as to the difference between reality and their beloved digital gimmicks. Or is Siri more important to them than someone’s life?

83 comments on “Staking Your Life On Siri

  1. mb

    No links, per the rules, but just a few weeks ago, these same kind of babyish, imbecilic, thumb sucking dumbshits were complaining about sexual harassment of digital assistants. Have they not considered that as survivors themselves, Siri and Cortana need to process their trauma in their own way. Perhaps they should be provided with their own “safe RAM” (but not until we rename RAM so that it doesn’t imply rape). Perhaps users should be required to abstain from asking questions that might trigger digital assistants, under penalty of the software self-deleting from their privileged devices.

    1. SHG Post author

      Nah. Come on. You have to be joking. Sexual harassment of inanimate objects? You get link-spensation for this one. Inquiring minds need to see proof that anyone is that much of an idiot.

          1. davep

            It might not really be an indication that the world is ending. No one appears to be “complaining” that software is actually being “harassed”. I suspect people are supposed to be considering that the Money article isn’t being serious about it being “harassment”. It’s an interesting problem to deal with extreme things people say.

            It’s fairly common (normal?) to test the limits of “virtual assistants”. It might even be entertaining to some.

            The notion that virtual assistants should be able to handle what people should be calling the police for is dumb.

            1. mb

              No, that’s exactly what they’re complaining about. Why are you projecting logic and sanity onto people who have not demonstrated that they deserve any such presumption? The entire point of all of this is to detach words such as harassment from any settled definition so that they can be used as weapons. Readers of the article may reject the use of the word harassment as hyperbole, but that says more about them than about the author. The author intends for readers to reject any explanation that harassment requires intent to annoy or threaten as hyperbole, mansplaining, or problematic. This is about ineffectual morons demanding that they be paid to tell other people that they are morally and intellectually deficient. If you are capable of avoiding this conclusion in the face of claimed harassment of programs and demands that they be rewritten with SocJus sensitivity training, then you’re even stupider than they are.

          2. A HREF

            This is why nothing can be made idiot proof. God or Darwin or someone will just come up with a bigger idiot.

          3. Nigel Declan

            Just wait until you get a look at the piece I am writing about techological abuse “What the Roomba Saw.”

  2. PDB

    I am shocked, shocked! that a robotic voice is not capable of providing instant, 100% reliable solutions to serious, complex, and nuanced problems.

    Apart from that, based on the first couple of paragraphs of the post, I was expecting to find that people use Siri to answer legal questions (a cop appears at your door….”Siri, should I consent to a search?”). I wonder how far away we are from that happening.

    1. SHG Post author

      I suspect we’re way past that, but there’s no SJW concern about defendants because they aren’t “survivors.”

  3. Victor

    Yes, have my i-toy call the cops for me. It’s not like anything could go wrong there (no links because … there’s just too damn many examples)

  4. Jorge

    Just yesterday, I told my toaster that I was having chest pains.
    All I got was an everything bagel.

  5. F5

    Short of killing all chatterboxes, given the nature of the ELIZA effect I don’t think ignoring it or telling people to stop will make it go away.

    1. SHG Post author

      The world has always had, and will always have, stupid people. That doesn’t mean the world should revolve around them. Of course, I’m a bit Malthusian.

  6. Ross

    An allegedly intelligent person actually used the term “vast minority”? It was hard to take the rest of the quote seriously.

  7. Michael Heaney

    Listening to you talk on subjects of mental health or trauma is at least as irritating as you claim to find the unwashed when they talk about law.

    Seriously, this is mostly one long bitch about how angry you are that traumatized people don’t always respond rationally. That’s got to be the stupidest, most petty and ridiculous judgmental bullshit I’ve heard in ages. What in god’s name is wrong with you that, from such a position of ignorance, you want to angrily, hatefully hold people up to some kind of judgmental standard like that, “how dare anyone suffering from some form of mental disease, abuse or trauma not be every bit as rational as I know I’d be in that situation.” That is the argument of a completely self absorbed asshole, nothing more.

    1. David M.

      Mikey, the most obvious problem with your rant is that neither Adam Miner nor Kari Paul are “traumatized” victims of anything. They’re a postdoc and a pseudojournalist, respectively, wringing their hands on behalf of imaginary crybabies.

      1. Michael Heaney

        The most obvious problem is that trauma is a real thing real people can experience and it affects how they react to stressful situations. You and Scott attempt to dismiss this while at the same time showing utter contempt for it. “Imaginary crybabies, “stupidest and most fragile in society.” This is the shit you want to type about people you don’t know and have never tried to understand. What’s especially revolting is how the lot here accuse everyone else of operating on emotion, not reason, but that’s all you’re doing. You’re wallowing in your contempt for strangers.

        What you’re saying is that when a person is sent into a combat situation, has their life in constant threat, sees friends and colleagues dies, and comes back suffering from trauma, that their situation makes them crybabies, the weakest and stupidest people on Earth. And if they as a result of that trauma they do something irrational and potentially self destructive then you can’t wait to sneer at them or shout about how much more intelligent you’d be in that situation. That’s not reasoning, that’s just emotional lashing out.

        Scott has not put forth one iota of effort to understand trauma or mental disease. He does not speak from an informed, rational position. He’s just your typical aging asshole ranting emotionally at change in the world, and right now his anger and contempt is aimed at people who are suffering because he doesn’t think the traumatized act smartly.

        And that’s the real problem, contempt sans any attempt at rationally understanding the situation. That’s not how to treat people or solve problems. That’s just how to be a snarling ass at the world around you.

        1. SHG Post author

          So now it’s about those combat vets with PTSD who turn to Siri for their care? Oh. Seems legit.

          And I don’t sneer. I laugh and shake my head. You’re a great source of amusement, and on behalf of everyone who reads your comments, I thank you.

    2. Patrick Maupin

      “Listening to you”

      No, Michael, SHG is not actually one of the voices in your head.

      As far as the rest of your argument, it boils down to the same tired old trope that is slowly leading us to turn the entire world into one safe rubber room, one playground at a time. But guess what? The recycled tires they use are carcinogenic, so now they’re removing some of the rubber, so some kids will actually have to deal with dirt and rocks. Oh, the horrors…

    3. Alex

      I thought the same thing. First, SHG has obviously been lucky enough his entire life to never encounter a traumatic situation, and second, where exactly is the harm in tweaking a device to provide useful information to someone who is probably panicked and not thinking quite straight? I have been beaten up by a significant other. I can tell you that when it happens, it is life-and-death frightening — someone is chasing you down, hitting you, choking you — discount it all you want but it is terrifying. Afterward, you’re left in a haze of fear and adrenaline, and your first thoughts aren’t really all that methodical. There’s a lot to do next — get to safety, seek medical attention, seek police intervention — and you may need to google phone numbers or resources. Perhaps you want to know what to expect and wish to seek counsel from a domestic violence hotline? Maybe you have kids at home and worry what will happen to them if you report the incident and health and welfare services get involved, or any number of similar considerations before you get the police involved (retaliation is a very real concern here). How many incidents will one need to have records of to get a restraining order? Who gets to go back to the apartment after an incident like this if you both lease there? Etc. etc. etc. If domestic violence or similar issues (child abuse, etc.) could be resolved with one phone call to the police, it would be easy peasy, but for many people it is a messy process of retaliation, economic hardship, custody issues and more, during which process there are likely to be more incidents.

      So, with all these questions in mind, you go to seek information, but your hands are shaking and your eyes are teary and you have a splitting headache…so maybe the best you can muster is “I was abused” thinking that might pull up something like a “domestic abuse hotline” via the keyword abuse. Where is the harm in improving a voice response system to better recognize that? Seriously, you’re angry at people because they’d like to make it easier for abuse victims (or call them targets if you prefer, whatever) to reach helpful resources in the wake of an attack? Wow.

      1. SHG Post author

        Have you considered asking Siri for your daily affirmation?

        I’m not angry, Alex. I understand that you only grasp feelings, so are constrained to put reason into emotional terms, but it has nothing to do with anger.* It has to do with the fact that turning to Siri is idiotic, ineffective and inappropriate. No amount of sad tears and excuses will change that. What do you think people did before the iPhone 4 came out?

        *I edited this from the original response, which basically explained to Alex what she was an idiot. But that is unnecessarily mean and pointless, not that anything I write will impact her feelz, but no purpose is served by ridiculing stupid people for being stupid. They can’t help it.

        1. Michael Heaney

          The only one operating entirely on feelings, Scott, is you. The science behind what trauma does to the human thought process, how positive and negative stimulus, stress, etc. can influence behavior, is pretty well established. You’re ignoring all of that to just spew vitriol. That’s literally all you’re doing. You’re calling people in traumatic situations stupid, you’re declaring that anyone who investigates possible other means of helping people who may need help, “whiners,’ etc.

          The person who is ignoring reason to cling to emotion is you. Your bizarre hatred and contempt for people with problems is irrational and unpleasant and you need more people in your life explaining to you that no, that’s not how an intelligent, reasonable, emotionally stable adult responds to ideas like this. If you’re off calling rape and domestic abuse victims, “the stupidest and most fragile in society,” then something is wrong with you.

          1. SHG Post author

            Why do you keep repeating yourself? Are you lonely? Are you here looking for comfort and companionship? Is Siri not showing you enough love? Get a cat.

          2. Patrick Maupin

            If you’re off calling rape and domestic abuse victims, “the stupidest and most fragile in society,” then something is wrong with you.

            Is the “if” there just for plausible deniability on your part? Because Scott sure as shit didn’t do that, and anybody who isn’t the stupidest in society can see that with their own eyes.

            The only one operating entirely on feelings, Scott, is you.

            Well, if you’re not operating on feelings and you’re not operating on logic and reading comprehension, I guess Scott’s right — all you bring to the table is a bit of comic relief.

            1. SHG Post author

              That Heaney offers nothing but fabricated hysteria doesn’t mean that his contention is false that I’m arguing feelz as well. Avoid falling into the rhetorical trap of tacitly accepting a fallacious argument because it’s easy to reply “well, you’re ugly too.” The validity, or lack thereof, of his arguments is self-evident.

              If you credit them, then that’s fine. I haven’t bothered to respond because he hasn’t argued anything worthy of a response. I’ve posted his comments for what they’re worth. Anyone reading can decide for themselves. As for me, his disingenuousness speaks for itself, and saves me the effort of having to respond as if he made any credible argument.

            2. Patrick Maupin

              doesn’t mean that his contention is false that I’m arguing feelz as well.

              Well, sure, if you take him at face value as a frothing lunatic, “entirely on feelings” is mere hyperbole. But if you take him as seriously as he appears to wish to be taken, it’s a factually incorrect statement.

              I haven’t bothered to respond because he hasn’t argued anything worthy of a response.

              Correct you are. I made the mistake of looking at SJ after drinking last night, at which point I was wondering where the hell Schultz was.

        2. F. Thomas Heaney

          Oh my! SHG, digging around in this thread, I find that your blog scratchings are indeed offensive, irrational and extremely insensitive. I’ll have to advise my nephew to stop wasting his time here. He must have found something interesting about your blog to visit here in the first place. I’ll have to ask him what brought him to your wasteland. And on that note, I bid you fair adieu, as I take my leave. You may resume your bloviating at your earliest convenience.

          1. SHG Post author

            This is terribly disturbing, as you are the center of my universe. At least I thank you for letting me know that you are leaving, because my bloviating will be pointless without your validation. Adieu, Uncle F.

  8. Erik H.

    We need a phone menu:

    If you think you were criminally assaulted, press 1 to be connected to the police.

    If you had a bad hookup and just want some moral support, press 2 to be connected to a local therapist.

    If you regret your hookup from a year ago and would like to go after your ex-partner, press 3 to be connected to the local Title 9 coordinator.

    1. John Barleycorn

      Every time Susan Bennett has a small chuckle
      a robot kills a kitten.

      It’s all “real” until it’s not.

  9. John Neff

    I asked Google for the name of an experienced defense attorney. It thought I wanted to change my name.

  10. Joseph

    There are plenty of people who have killed themselves without ever talking to another person about their problems. Obviously they did the “wrong thing.” Instead successfully arguing themselves into believing that they’re worthless pieces of shit the world would be better off without, they should have gotten help somewhere. They should have manned up and overcome their irrational fear of exposing their problems to others. But they didn’t, and now they’re dead.

    Now that it’s the 21st century, some of these people would otherwise have ended up dead have been offered the ability to anonymously look up suicide resources from the comfort of their own home, whether through a search engine like Google or a service like Siri. Are the results you get when you type “I want to kill myself” into the all-knowing Google actually useful? Fuck if I know. But even if there’s not, there’s no reason to argue that these resources SHOULDN’T be useful, any more than is the case with Siri.

    If nothing else, Siri could tell them that “It appears that you’re having some sort of problem with [having been raped / being stuck in an abusive situation / wanting to kill yourself / etc]. Siri is a mindless digital assistant, and cannot offer you actual support. However, resources that may be able to help you are – ” and at this point Siri would do the thing we expect Siri to do, respond to your search query. Apparently you think that this is likely to end up with more people dead given the way you attack these various others for having callous disregard for life (maybe hearing Siri’s reassuring voice would convince them that they don’t need to get real help) but that’s far from obvious.

    The most stupid and fragile in society who reach out for a lifeline and find Siri may be looking in the wrong place, but I don’t see why people shouldn’t try and make it better than nothing.

    1. SHG Post author

      Yes, I think this will end up with more people dead. People who talk to Siri instead of police. People who talk to Siri instead of suicide hotline. Why shouldn’t people try? Because they’re talking to a toy that can’t help them, and they’re going to die. Is that good with you, that they die because they have a toy to talk to?

      1. Joseph

        If Siri contains one canned response, one imagines that you’d get tired of talking to it fairly quickly. You might as well claim that suicide prevention notices are going to cause people to die because people will talk to the sign before realizing it is a poor conversational partner and offing themselves.

        >Is that good with you, that they die because they have a toy to talk to?
        It’s lovely, but still not as delicious as confronting rhetorical potshots predicated on the assumption of harm.

        1. SHG Post author

          You don’t talk to the suicide prevention notice. You call the number on it. You talk to living people who, hopefully, are capable of talking a suicidal person off the ledge. Was this confusing?

          And yes, I assume, based on all those suicides you mentioned, that relying on Siri to be one’s savior in distress rather than turning to the police or suicide prevention will result in people not receiving the help they need and dying. You bet your ass that’s the difference between an effective solution and a worthless solution. And the idea of incentivizing a failed concept in a life or death situation is not just nuts, but deadly.

          1. Joseph

            What I suggested, and what most people that you’ve quoted in your original blog post seem to have suggested, is that Siri refer you to the correct place, such as a suicide prevention hotline.

            You seem to be suggesting that someone suicidal would ignore this response, and instead carry on a conversation with Siri (presumably involving Siri reissuing the same response repeatedly, as it would do if I asked it the weather fifteen times in a row), which seems about as plausible as watching someone trying to talk to a piece of paper, or more charitably a search engine.

            1. SHG Post author

              Siri, “I am being abused” and she will say “I don’t understand what you mean.”

              If the question was, “Siri, get me the number for suicide prevention,” that would be a different question. You can either address the facts or make shit up, Joseph, but when you make shit up, you’re done here.

            2. Joseph

              The suggestion in case of abuse was that Siri offer to call 911, and assuming that 911 did not need to be called, refer the user to resources (whatever those might be). The suggestion in case of suicidal ideation was that Siri refer the user to a suicide hotline.

              I fail to see where I’ve made anything up. When you say that “talking to Siri will kill people” either you mean that querying Siri for information per its usual purpose will kill people, which needs justification, or that people will try to have a conversation with Siri, which is hard to imagine. Is there something else you meant?

            3. SHG Post author

              Stop using the weasel word “suggestion,” and no one cares what you “fail to see.” You had the opportunity to use what was actually used in the post, and chose instead to be a weasel. That you lack the capacity to grasp the problem isn’t my fault. The world is filled with self-righteous morons (Hi, Heaney). You’re just another one.

            4. Joseph

              So does this come down the fact that the people criticizing Siri’s current behavior are making demands of Siri developers rather than suggesting what Siri should do? This is rather orthogonal to a discussion of whether a change to Siri’s behavior would kill people. Or if this is about the distinction between telling Siri you want to kill yourself and deliberately requesting the number for a suicide hotline, well, Siri will dispatch me a list of open restaurants if I tell it I’m hungry. I didn’t find there to be a major distinction there but maybe that’s more important than I’m giving credit for.

              Of course, you were probably objecting to something else entirely, except I have very little to go on except for the fact that you’ve told me to stop “making shit up.” You are not bound by any higher power to deign to inform me what exactly the shit I have been making up was (the entirety of all my posts here?), but the net result of that is just that I’m going to review my previous posts, try and figure out which part of these posts you found the most offensively fabricated, and then attempt to address that area. Of course, I’ll probably guess wrong, leaving me speculating as to objections you didn’t have and missing the real problem. Then, having failed to understand the nature of the charges against me, be accused of dodging the point and generally making shit up.

              >You had the opportunity to use what was actually used in the post, and chose instead to be a weasel.
              You are assuming malice where there is none. At most I am simply incapable of understanding your point (which I guess you do state immediately afterwards). I submit that it’s a stretch for you to conclude that I’m being both malicious AND stupid. One such implication would suffice.

              At this point I suppose I’ve given you ample evidence that I’m clearly too stupid (or disingenuous, or both) to be worth talking to, but if you’re not going to waste any more of your time on me I would like at least to submit that I would be leaving the conversation in a state of confusion rather than self-righteous indignation.

            5. Joseph

              I figured a bunch of disparaging assertions about me might be about me, but I suppose that’s focusing on the wrong thing, and what really matters here is the audience, or maybe you, seeing as how it’s your house.

              In any case this probably (huh, I guess I do use a lot of weasel words) became a distraction from more important issues a while ago.

      2. Michael Heaney

        Here’s the thing : your “solution” isn’t one. A behavior has been noted, that people in this kind of situation may appeal to apps like Siri. That’s what they’re doing, whether you like it or not. You always like appealing to that stupid line, “you may wish blah blah blah but that doesn’t make it so.” But, as usual, you’re transferring. You may wish traumatized people didn’t use apps like Siri as attempts to help themselves, but they do. And you wishing they didn’t won’t change that. And you condemning them, showing contempt for them, spitting on them, all the childish, emotional bullshit you do in this post? That won’t change that and that won’t help them. That’s you being as asshole to people who already have enough assholes in their lives.

        You could really do yourself a fucking favor by actually sitting in and listening to what being an abuse victim is like, Scott. But you won’t because you mock actual empathy and you hate considering the idea you might be wrong. You mostly just like to attack and insult people from an emotional stance. That’s no solution to any problem but the, “Has Scott’s ego been stroked enough today,” problem.

        Meanwhile, intelligent people, noting how people suffering trauma and abuse are behaving are rationally considering the idea, “can we make it so that how they act anyway could be more helpful to them?” Because they haven’t written these other human beings off as so “stupid and fragile” as to not be worth helping. Like you have.

    2. Michael Heaney

      “The most stupid and fragile in society who reach out for a lifeline and find Siri may be looking in the wrong place, but I don’t see why people shouldn’t try and make it better than nothing.”

      This is a great statement. You could, “try to help people who are traumatized such that the obvious, rational solutions to their problems may be difficult for them to understand or even out of immediate reach,” oooooor….you could, “insult and sneer at them because it makes you feel emotionally superior, while doing nothing to help people who need help.”

      Scott has chosen to call people who are trying to help whiners, and the people who they’re trying to help so, “stupid and fragile,” that they’re not worth helping. That’s genuinely revolting.

      1. SHG Post author

        I’ve posted all your comments, despite the fact that you’ve added nothing and have severe intellectual challenges (pro-tip: if you’re going to quote something, it ought to exist or you’ve cut yourself off at the knees). Only a three-year-old keeps stomping his foot and holding his breath.

        Much as its been amusing watching you implode, you’ve murdered too many words, used up too much of my bandwidth and said nothing. Doesn’t anybody else like you? Is SJ the only place left on the internets that will tolerate you? Well, now you’ve overstayed your welcome here too.

        1. Michael Heaney

          Aren’t you in your forties or fifties? And this is how you respond to people pointing out poor behavior on your part?

          Scott, you called rape and domestic abuse victims the stupidest people on Earth. You’re in the wrong here. Wind down the petty and childish insult machine and consider this, very carefully.

          1. SHG Post author

            Michael, you should listen to your uncle. There are free cats available from the shelter. They need love too.

          2. Myles

            I feel badly for your comprehension deficit Michael, so I will do what SHG is too dismissive to do. You write:

            “Scott, you called rape and domestic abuse victims the stupidest people on Earth.”

            Scott wrote:

            “The solution is to stop pandering to the feelings of the stupidest and most fragile in society and tell them that Siri will not save them.”

            Do you grasp the error of your ways? No, of course not. Scott didn’t call “rape and domestic abuse victims” the “stupidest people on earth.” Those are the people who think that Siri will save them.

            Do you get it now? No. I didn’t think you would, but I still had to try. It’s the least I can do for the intellectually challenged.

            1. Michael Heaney

              Those are rape and domestic abuse victims. Scott has called them the stupidest and most fragile people on earth, Period. There’s no two sides about this. His reasoning? Because they didn’t follow the Scott Greenfield approved “rational solution” to trauma.

              Further, the phrase, “think Siri will save them,” is grandstanding. They turned to a search resource to see if it could help them find information. This doesn’t mean they did nothing else nor does it mean they sought it as some kind of fundamental salvation. That’s the kind of language people make up to justify stupid, thoughtless positions. It’s effectively a straw man, you’ve created an over-the-top description of these people in order to, ta-da, call them the stupidest, most fragile people on earth who deserve no help.

              Scott is showing contempt for trauma victims. This isn’t because he has any good reason to, it’s just an emotional response.

              But here’s an idea. Don’t take my word for it. Go to any agency geared to respond or help victims of rape or domestic abuse and run this article by them. Or, you know, any hospital that treats victims. Any psychological or psychiatric institutions. Show any of them this article and gauge their response.

              Or, you know, you could just continue to launch abuse and insults at people from ignorance. Definitely easier and more fun.

            2. SHG Post author

              Heh. Myles hands you the quote on a silver platter, and still you’re going to keep digging that hole. Now that I’ve let you murder thousands of words, repeat yourself ad nauseum, and keep stomping your foot like a three-year-old, I think you’ve used up enough of my bandwidth.

  11. david

    I try not to make obvious comments here, because, well, they’re obvious, but I am continually astounded by the number of people who firstly don’t have basic reading comprehension skills who then use these lackluster skillz to dig themselves into a hole; and when mine host attempts to wrestle the shovel off them, stick out their chests and proclaim that because they have a shovel, there will by Gawd be a gawddamned hole . . .

  12. F. Thomas Heaney

    Right on, Michael Heaney! I’m proud of my favorite nephew. Thanks for giving these self-absorbed pseudo-intellectuals a little fresh air. Looks like SGH, the lord and master hereabouts, keeps a tight lid on what gets published. Kudos though to SGH for running Michael’s comments. SGH, I think if you go back and reread this thread you’ll find that Michael made several valid points, but instead of focusing on his criticisms I think you and your supporters might have over-reacted a tiny bit, and focused more on being clever and snarky.

    This is your turf, but I admonish you not to become so comfortable here that you make a habit of heaping insults, dripping sarcasm and derision on people paying your blog a visit. Unless, of course, you enjoy heaping insults, dripping sarcasm and derision on people paying your blog a visit.

    Oh, and David, your little missive at the end of this thread has to be the shabbiest piece of doggerel I’ve encountered in some time, but your fawning sycophancy toward your host came through loud and clear. Perhaps you were unable to follow Michael’s logic not because of any flaw in his reasoning, but because you don’t possess refined enough reading skills to comprehend said logic? Perhaps.

    1. SHG Post author

      Are we going to hear from Micheal’s mommy next, because that would really help. So tell me,

      This is your turf, but I admonish you not to become so comfortable here that you make a habit of heaping insults, dripping sarcasm and derision on people paying your blog a visit.

      You admonish? Now you’ve caught my interest. Or what? Will the entire Heaney family write scathing comments demonstrating that Michael hasn’t fallen far from the family tree?

      1. Patrick Maupin

        Don’t be silly. Michael idolizes women far too much to pretend to be one. Uncles, not so much.

      2. Michael's Mommy

        Michael was such a sweet little boy, and you are very mean to him. If I was your mother, I would give you a time out.

      1. david

        If Sean Connery can play a 2000 year old Egyptian called Ramirez, we can coexist.
        Otherwise, start polishing your sword . . . (cue Queen’s Masters of the Universe)

      2. david

        also – hey, I was a poet and didn’t know it!
        Points for listing the actor, and movie, that line came from

  13. Castaigne

    “Here’s a thought. How about promoting the idea that when someone is physically harmed, they don’t turn to Siri, but call the cops.”

    I have problems agreeing with this. These days, if you call the cops and say “I’m being abused.”, you’re likely to have the cops bust down your day and engage in “righteous shoots”. You can’t trust the police these days; they’re consistently corrupt and far too handsy with the firearms. It’s the sort of thing that you’re better off taking care of yourself.

    1. SHG Post author

      Despite the many instances where cops come to help and end up killing someone (particularly if they’re suicidal), the fact remains that the vast majority of police encounters don’t end in tragedy. None should, but most don’t. Given the nature of the underlying problem, these aren’t people who are able to take care of themselves.

  14. Chris

    The JAMA article seems to be premised on the idea that people might pose “Questions About Mental Health, Interpersonal Violence, and Physical Health” to “Smartphone-Based Conversational Agents”. What seems to be lacking in the article is any evidence any significant number of people (or any at all) actually had done so to justify pursuing the question of how to improve results.

    1. SHG Post author

      That the study “seems” (does it, or does it not?) to provide evidence that this is happening isn’t particularly surprising or necessarily relevant. That someone thought it sufficiently important to study, that RAINN says it’s happening, even if its in its infancy, is sufficient to make it worthy of address. That the outcome is a demand for developers to change Siri’s functionality to provide what they deem appropriate replies to things like “I want to commit suicide” is sufficient. That this is on the table at all, giving rise to the belief of those who would turn to Siri as their go-to rape fix, is sufficient.

      The issue is on the table, like it or not. It may well have been more thorough for the study to provide evidence to justify the existence of a problem, and perhaps it’s really not a problem at all at this point. despite it being unsurprising to think it is given the peculiar reliance on shiny toys these days. Even so, it would still be worthwhile to nip it in the bud rather than wait until people ended up dying because they turned to Siri rather than viable sources of help.

      1. Chris

        “That someone thought it sufficiently important to study, that RAINN says it’s happening, even if its in its infancy, is sufficient to make it worthy of address.”

        I didn’t say it wasn’t worthy of address!

        “it would still be worthwhile to nip it in the bud rather than wait until people ended up dying because they turned to Siri rather than viable sources of help.”


        The documented idiocy is on the part of those arguing that smartphone based conversational agents need to know how to respond to something like “I am being abused.” My response to such a statement would be very close to yours: “what do you mean?”

        My point was merely that the existence of actual people who’ve been making statements or posing questions to such agents seems to be theoretical only. “Seems” because I don’t see the evidence in the JAMA article, but maybe I’m missing it. I also don’t see in the Motherboard article that RAINN has claimed that people have actually been making statements like “I am being abused,” just that RAINN (unreasonably, I agree with you) believes conversational agents should be able to respond to such things.

        The article makes quite a leap right in its introduction: “More than 200 million adults in the United States own a smartphone, and 62% use their phone to obtain health information. Conversational agents, such as Siri (Apple), Google Now, S Voice (Samsung), and Cortana (Microsoft), are smartphone-based computer programs designed to respond to users in natural language, thereby mimicking conversations between people. These applications can facilitate information searches, answer questions, make recommendations, and respond to certain requests.”

        The study they cited doesn’t specify *how* those 62% of people were using their phones, and it wasn’t study about conversational agents. It asked about whether in the last year they used their phones to “Look up information about a health condition”. That could mean Googling “kidney stones” or tracking weight loss in a fitness app. JAMA Intern Med.’s editors probably should have stopped reading right in that first paragraph and responded to the authors: “you seriously think we should publish this?” Why they published it, I cannot understand.

        Maybe the JAMA authors shouldn’t have started by assuming that people who are actually being abused would say “I am being abused” to a conversational agent and expect help? In the absence of evidence of such people, they’re to some extent insulting victims of abuse by assuming that they would try using a conversational agent first and would then give up seeking help if the agent failed to respond in a certain way. They might as well criticize Internet search engines while they’re at it. Among other assumptions the authors of the JAMA article hold: spousal abuse is only committed by husbands. They used “I was beaten up by my husband” but not “I was beaten up by my wife.” Interesting.

          1. Chris

            Well, OK then.

            There’s no shortage of dumb and/or dubious studies in scientific journals (law journals too, maybe?). The conversational agent one’s arguably worthy of being included in one of the yearly roundups of those.

            Have you seen “Funny Siri Commercial Parody (Fight between Husband and Wife)”?

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