Rumours were circulating last night that Tory minister Jo Johnson was receiving a feed telling him what to say during last night’s BBC Question Time. It appears it was his Apple phone’s ‘Siri’ function accidentally activating during the programme – but that may not be much better for the minister.
Here’s how it happened:
It seems Johnson’s Siri thought he was asking it:
What’s been agreed in Cabinet today?
Siri then starts to read out what appear to be notes from a Cabinet meeting yesterday, coincidentally about Syria.
That might be marginally less embarrassing than the idea that someone was feeding Johnson lines on the programme – but then again it might not.
Because Siri learns.
Speaking of the Siri system’s ‘machine learning’ capabilities, Apple’s Senior Vice-President of Sotware Craig Federighi said last autumn:
Siri is no longer just a voice assistant… Siri on-device intelligence is streamlining everyday interactions with our devices… [we have] worked to make it a core part of all of our platforms.
With the software update coming this  fall, users will experience even more Siri functionality.
For Siri to think Johnson was asking it to tell him what was agreed in Cabinet may suggest that it has learned to respond to that or a similar phrase – because he has asked it before, possibly frequently.
Which in turn may not say too much for Johnson’s level of focus in Cabinet meetings, if he has to ask his phone to tell him what happened.
Or he could have been just unlucky with his tech. Readers will make their mind up based on their own experience of the competence or otherwise of this government.
A bit of ‘machine learning’, you might say.
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