The Virtual Assistant

In 2010, Apple introduced “Siri” to the world.  Siri was a software application available for Apple’s iOS and used a national language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations, personal assistant services and other virtual assistance functions that were relayed to designated web services. Siri was Apple’s technological equivalent of the Virtual Assistant.

It did not matter which part of the world hired Siri. With consistent use, the national language interface individualized search results according to the user’s preferences. The creation of Siri opened a new dimension in Information Technology which attempted to connect the advantages in efficiency of technology to basic human tasks, duties and responsibilities. Through microchip technology, gadgets became “smart” gadgets and have greatly influenced the decisions and choices people make in life.

The Virtual Assistant versus the Rise of the Machines

The work space was no longer confined within four walls. People could now work on the go and complete deadlines outside the confines of the office and their own homes. Technology has erased the demarcation line between professional and personal, between what is virtual or real. Technology has violated whatever qualities were left sacred by humanity. Technology and its advocates assumed humans are flawed organisms who were highly susceptible to mistakes. And mistakes not only cost money but opportunities.

These advocates fail to see that it is exactly the flawed aspect of humanity that makes them the ideal fit for an ever-changing, more globally interconnected world. Siri with all its features for accuracy and efficiency will never have the ability to adapt to the demands of its environment. Siri is a “virtual employee” that is a controlled product of man and cannot react or adjust “willingly” because the national language interface does not provide it with one very important feature: a soul.

While Siri was hailed as a technological breakthrough, eventually people from different parts of the world, cultures and societies complained of its inability to function properly given certain accents or provide answers to controversial searches such as abortion. Apple pointed to technical issues but the flaws of Siri magnified the reality that technology is not the solution to all problems. In fact, some problems provide the solutions.

As a VA, the user can curse at Siri and it will not respond in the same manner. The user can shout and hurl invectives at Siri and it will be a one-way argument. If the user throws Siri against the wall or throws it down a 10 story building, he or she will not face criminal charges or pay insurance. That is, unless Siri inadvertently hits someone walking down the street.

In a way, Siri is technology’s perverse vision of a Virtual Assistant; forever docile and servile.

And there is the greatest drawback of Siri and other technological enhancement: the inability to provide feedback and empathy.

Because Siri will never understand your urgency, it will not double efforts to get the job done.

Because Siri cannot foresee events that could affect your industry, it will not be able to provide valuable feedback or input to your strategies.

Because Siri cannot feel your pain or sense of desperation, it will not WILLINGLY extend itself above and beyond its encrypted program to make sure your venture succeeds.

A human Virtual Assistant can do all of these regardless of which part of the world he or she is from. In whatever language, the need to accomplish and succeed is universal. We may have a different understanding of how to get there but we will always be unanimous in achieving our goals. If you curse at your VA, he or she will react accordingly. Humans are flawed, imperfect organisms but we can also improve exponentially because we have the ability to adapt.

A Virtual Assistant is not just a tool or a process; he or she is a living, breathing organism capable of thought and emotion as well as a paid contractor tasked to perform assigned duties and responsibilities. He or she is a partner who shares your interest and passion to take your business to the next level.

Technology may be able to replace how we do business, what we sleep on and introduce gadgets to create the perfect golf swing and the backhand in tennis. But it will never replace the value of the human spirit.

Technology may have given itself a voice but it will never have a soul or a heart.