Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Apple's Siri for iPhone is anti-abortion (and not terribly supportive of women's reproductive health generally)

I realize that Siri, the much-ballyhooed AI "personal assistant" for the iPhone is a work-in-progress and, from what I understand, produces some, er, interesting results when you ask it something, but it would appear that, with respect to women's reproductive health at least, it has a decidedly right-wing bent:

Ask the Siri, the new iPhone 4 assistant, where to get an abortion, and, if you happen to be in Washington, D.C., she won't direct you to the Planned Parenthood on 16th St, NW. Instead, she'll suggest you pay a visit to the 1st Choice Women's Health Center, an anti-abortion Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) in Landsdowne, Virginia, or Human Life Services, a CPC in York, Pennsylvania. Ask Google the same question, and you'll get ads for no less than 7 metro-area abortion clinics, 2 CPCs and a nationwide abortion referral service.

Ask in New York City, and Siri will tell you "I didn't find any abortion clinics."

It's an experience that's being replicated by women around the country: despite plentiful online information about actual places to get an abortion, Siri doesn't seem to provide it. It's a similar experience for women seeking emergency contraception: in New York City, Siri doesn't know what Plan B is and, asked for emergency contraception, offers up a Google results page of definitions.

Was this intentional? It's hard to see how it could not be -- how could Planned Parenthood not be Siri's first answer? -- and it reminds me that I was probably right to get a new Android phone last week instead of an iPhone (though I do have an iPod and use iTunes).

It could be that Siri was programmed so as not to be seen to be an enabler of abortion (though of course this would also mean it was programmed to be extremely conservative on women's health and "opposed," if it can be understood that way, to abortion rights. I really don't know. Maybe there's some other reason for it. But it looks awfully suspicious.


Apparently Siri doesn't know much about gay marriage or mammograms either.


Now, while Siri may be on the right on women's health, it is decidedly libertarian on other matters. Apparently it will direct you to find Viagra, pot, strippers, and a blow job. All you have to do is ask.

Good times.


Yes, I realize that 2001's HAL 9000 is supposed to represent IBM, which is decidedly not Apple. But of course there wasn't Apple at the time and, well, the connection between HAL and Siri is just too obvious to ignore.

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  • If you ask Siri why she is against abortion, she will give at least three answers: I am what I am, I just am, & why, indeed?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:29 PM  

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