Siri as the new mouse

A question from Steve Jobs’ 1985 Playboy interview (worth a read!):

Most computers use key strokes to enter instructions, but Macintosh replaces many of them with something called a mouse — a little box that is rolled around on your desk and guides a pointer on your computer screen. It’s a big change for people used to keyboards. Why the mouse?

At first, the mouse looked like a toy. People claimed that “serious” computer users would never consider interacting with the computer via this device. Later on in the interview, it is called “inefficient” and derided as a “recurrent criticism” of the Macintosh.

Fast forward 30 years. At first, I thought Siri was extremely gimmicky. Is it really easier to ask Siri about the weather than to just tap the weather app? Well, no. But, like the early mouse, I just hadn’t learned how to use this new tool effectively yet. Speaking my thoughts into my phone’s notes app lowers the friction significantly compared to typing.

It makes it easier for me to get thoughts out of my head and into the real world. In fact, it’s how I am writing this essay right now. The technology isn’t perfect yet, but it’s good enough for me now and it will keep getting better.

Having someone that you could dictate your thoughts to used to be in the realm of the hyper-elite [1]. Now, anyone with a smartphone can turn their voice into text with a high level of accuracy. It is yet another example of technology driving the costs something down, and turning a tool for the elite into a tool for the masses.

If it can be as helpful in getting people’s thoughts out of their heads and into the real world as it has been for me, I think it’s going to be transformative technology.


[1] For example, Lyndon Johnson, who often dictated to staff members while on the toilet. Robert Caro, Master of the Senate, pg. 122

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