In the great, illuminating Absurdist Dialogues with Siri in a recent Paris Review, Mariana Lin describes why writing lines for AI like Siri is like writing an absurdist play, which can, she thinks, be a good thing, as Absurdity and non sequiturs fill our lives, and our speech. But really, what we love most is her perfect description of what unusual, human-to-human conversations do:
…functional conversations don’t inspire us in the way unusual conversations might. The unexpected, illumed speech of poetry, literature, these otherworldly universes, bring us an unknown-needs-met satisfaction. And an unknown-needs-met satisfaction is the miracle of art at its best.
The visionary Steve Jobs, who trumpeted the balanced conjoining of technology and liberals arts, knew this. He disliked user studies because, according to him, people didn’t know what they wanted. It was his job to deliver what they never knew they wanted. Some people accused him of arrogance, but Jobs spoke as a true creative. Imagine Emily Dickinson relying on surveys about what meter or rhyme-scheme readers preferred, or conducting opinion polls on which topics she should address in her next collection. Art is not achieved through consensus…
Lin wonders if the increasing “flattening” of communication that occurs via technology will change the crazily expressive nature of human conversation.
I wonder if meandering, gentle, odd human-to-human conversations will fall by the wayside as transactional human-to-machine conversations advance.
Maybe so. But antidotes are all around us, embraced by so many as we speak: poetry, art, graffiti, fashion, making, expression of all kinds.
…an unknown-needs-met satisfaction is the miracle of art at its best.