As Siri Gets Sexier, Will We be Willing to Die for Her?

In the not-so-distant future, Los Angeles has morphed into a city closely resembling Hong Kong. Siri has transformed into a personal assistant so attuned to our needs that she knows us even better than we know ourselves.

Such is the setting for the brilliant new film by director Spike Jonze, “Her,” starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Scarlett Johansson as the voice of Theodore Twombly’s (Phoenix) OS. Aside from being one of the year’s best pictures, it is also three things: a love story, a love (or is that hate?) letter to emerging technology, and a cautionary tale about how overly reliant we are on our gadgets. 

Although the film does not explicitly state when it takes place, I would guess that it’s somewhere close to 2040. But are we really that far off with regards to how dependent we are on our smartphones? 

In “Her,” Theodore Twombly is a lonely writer who develops a relationship with his OS, a Siri-like woman who meets every one of his all-but-physical needs. Twombly isn’t the only one who has forsaken the dating world for a relationship with his or her smartphone; striking up a romance with your OS is a growing trend. And those who may not be involved romantically with their OS are seen wandering the streets having animated conversations with their smartphones.

(Sidebar: if you’re wondering how one engages in romantic activity with a virtual entity, the film devises some ingenious methods to accomplish this; it’s one of the movie’s more interesting surprises.)

As an extremely mild spoiler, nobody dies by the end of the film. But even today in 2014, are we willing to die for our gadgets? Apparently so. Case in point: early Monday morning of January 13, a Minnesota man passed away in a Chicago hospital after he apparently jumped into the Chicago River to try and retrieve a cell phone he had dropped into the water. No one death is more tragic than another, but isn’t it horrible knowing that this person placed so much value on his phone that he would risk his life by jumping in the frozen river to recover it?

The scariest part of “Her,” despite the film being a work of pure fiction, is how close we are as a society to crossing the street from Tech-As-A-Useful-Tool Avenue onto Overly-Dependent-On-Our-Gadgets Boulevard. Walk along the busy downtown streets of any Canadian city and you’ll see people glued to their iPhones, Androids, Blackberrys or Windows Phones. Have a seat at a table in any restaurant—whether it’s McDonald’s or fine dining—and you’ll witness people seated across from one another, with one or more parties typing away at their smartphone instead of engaging in meaningful conversation with their tablemates. Be a fly on the wall at the dinner table of the typical family home, where more words are directed at the smartphone than being shared verbally. 

When it comes to the alarming rate at which we are addicted to technology, the only difference between where we are now and what’s depicted in “Her” is the technology itself. Siri has evolved into something we can’t even imagine today, and the world of 2040 is falling in love with her.

Despite not being literally “in love” with our gadgets, in 2014 we are already in love with our gadgets. As the technology progresses, the only thing that may change is the definition of the word “love.”