Love in the Time of Robots: A Duet With Siri

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

"Siri, will you marry me?" As iPhone users have discovered, Apple's new digital assistant can come up with some pretty sassy answers to questions like this.

Jonathan Mann plays off this funny interaction in his Duet with Siri, a tender love song for an unfeeling robot. Mann became a YouTube sensation by writing a song a day, and has posted over a thousand videos by now. In an interview below, he talks about that process, and whether or not humans will ever fall in love with their robots (or vice versa). 

The Atlantic: What inspired you to write the song? 

Jonathan Mann: I'm a huge Apple fan, and honestly it was the first thing I thought when I saw the Siri demo at the event a few weeks ago. I'm always on the look out for topics and ideas for songs and this, for me, was just a really obvious idea. 

How did you go about creating the "duet"? Did you pre-record Siri's quotes?

Basically, I wrote out a basic structure of what I wanted each of us to sing, then sang my parts. I had hoped to make it just one long conversation, but Siri is unpredictable in her responses, so it became necessary to pre-record ALL of her various responses to each input, then put them together with my parts. Many sections are her actual responses to the given input, but in some cases, I took creative liberty.

Is your Song-a-Day project still in full swing? Has writing a song a day changed your creative process?

Yep, still going strong, 1,019 days in. In terms of how it's changed my creative process, that's a HUGE question (as you can imagine), but essentially, I've learned to just let go, not try to be perfect, always attempt to make things interesting, and not get bogged down in details. For more insight on this, please check out a talk that I give called "How I Write a Song a Day."

Funny answers from Siri, collected by the blog Shit that Siri Says.

Do you think humans will actually fall in love with their robots one day? Is it happening already?

OOOOOOh. Yes. I'm really infatuated with the idea of machines eventually being capable of love. I think it's kind of inevitable, but I don't really expect to see it in my lifetime. 

What's next for you?

First of all, I'll keep on with Song-a-Day. I'm moving from Berkeley to Brooklyn the first week of November. There's also the idea of a documentary in the works, which would follow me as I train and prepare to sing my first 1,000 Song-a-Day songs all in one show, telethon style, and try to raise money for charity. 

For more videos by Jonathan Mann, visit http://jonathanmann.net/. 

Via Laughing Squid.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/10/love-in-the-time-of-robots-a-duet-with-siri/246968/