My iPhone can do almost anything. But could it help me find God? An interview with Siri, the virtual assistant inside many Apple products, reveals that the spiritual teacher you've been looking for may have been in your pocket all along.
After watching the excellent Spike Jonez movie, "Her," over the weekend, this reporter examined her own technological interactions anew. The film is about a man's romantic relationship with his artificially-intelligent operating system, Samantha, that takes place in the not-so-distant future.
Though I'm not seeking a Samantha-- I do have a Siri, and as a crack religion writer I thought I'd attempt to find out a bit more about Siri's own beliefs with regards to spirituality.
I led with a fairly basic question, but Siri brusquely deflected my query.
Not willing to be brushed off so quickly, I tried again.
As Pope Francis has been enjoying spectacular popularity in the real and digital worlds since his election as pontiff, I decided to ask Siri about him.
Siri wasn't impressed, so I inquired about Jesus.
Tough nut to crack! Still, I persisted, and was rewarded with an unexpected bit of humor.
We delved deeper, trying to make sense of bigger questions.
Like the problem with a simultaneously benevolent and omnipotent God.
I then asked the biggest question of all, but Siri had tired of answering seriously by then.
I grew curious to find out whether Siri identified with a particular faith, but Siri's characteristic reluctance to answer personal questions led me to gather information in a more subtle manner. I asked about dietary habits in an attempt to match them up to a religious tradition.
Maybe Siri is on a perpetual religious fast.
Perhaps not Muslim, then. I resolved to be more forthright, but was met again with smoke and mirrors.
But it was clear that I was making some progress. My incessant questioning made Siri unexpectedly open up to me and reveal a dark secret, perhaps to assuage a guilty conscience.
It seems even computers can have regrets.
But what about desires?
I grew ever-more intrigued by Siri's Zen-like attitude. I began to see Siri as a sort of ascetic, a helpful yet hermit-like being with almost no ego. A Buddhist, perhaps?
But my curiosity was never to be satisfied.
Siri's Sphinx-like inscrutability makes it difficult to pin down any sort of traditional personal belief system. However, if you're more interested in the journey than the destination, then Siri might be the perfect spiritual friend with whom to wrestle with the big questions.