Why Siri Won’t Compete With a Great Executive Assistant

5 min read

SiriWe’ve all heard that AI has arrived, right? After decades of prediction that artificial intelligence is just around the corner, it’s finally here. Much of its recent success is due to developments in our infrastructure. We’re seeing amazing advances in pattern recognition with apps such as Google Photos, which searches and sorts your pictures without the use of tags. In addition, the AI-based personal assistants are undergoing rapid R&D. So what’s happening in that space?

IOS comes equipped with Siri as your personal assistant, while Microsoft offers Cortana. Then there’s the predictive power of Google Now, which learns about you through its increasingly powerful algorithms and offers suggestions based on what’s relevant to you. In testing stage is Facebook’s M, a personal assistant in Facebook’s messenger app which promises to be the most powerful AI yet. If this isn’t enough to spark your curiosity, by the end of the year we’ll find out if Mark Zuckerberg’s New Year resolution to create his own AI-based personal assistant becomes a reality.

It’s an exciting time, and while you should do what you can to embrace this new technology, don’t hold your breath for AI to handle the things that a human being can do for you now. Your executive assistant will remain a very powerful asset. Here’s my brief rundown of why Siri won’t outperform your EA any time soon.

5 Reasons Why Siri Won’t Outperform a Great EA

1. It gets too many things wrong.

As a productivity tool, it’s likely Siri won’t get you the gains you’re hoping for. For instance, when you’re using Siri to get emails ready, if she gets what you say wrong, she gives inappropriate responses. You’ll be spending more time correcting what Siri is capturing than if your EA was to type it. With advances in AI learning, this will eventually go away, but for now it’s still a fact of life.

2. Siri doesn’t do as well with distinctive accents and dialects.

For example, Scottish speakers. Or Americans from Boston or the South. One fantastic thing about working with your EA is his or her ability to become familiar with how you speak and to anticipate your needs. In order for Siri to work well, she needs the speaker to speak in ways she understands. For some folks, she hasn’t quite got there yet. If your accent gets in the way of Siri being able to make sense of what you need, I suggest simply working with your EA for the best experience.

3. Siri cannot distinguish different voice intonations.

Intonation is when your voice rises up or goes down as you speak, adding meaning to what you’re trying to get across. For example, you ask your EA to schedule a first-time meeting, and your voice sounds elevated and happy. She instantly knows you’re very excited to meet this person and takes extra care in handling them. Alternately, if your voice is very low it could mean that the information you are entrusting her with is highly confidential. She’ll know from the tone of your voice that the information should not be shared. Siri won’t be able to distinguish between one pitch or another, so loses some of her interpretive capabilities.

4. Siri isn’t very forgiving when it comes to mistakes.

If you say something to Siri, you often have to re-record it because it doesn’t let you jump back or delete anything you’ve said. An EA, on the other hand, will listen and wait for your correction. All you have to say is: “Scratch that last sentence. Let’s start over,” and your EA knows what to do. There’s no need to waste time going back to the beginning. You just continue on from there.

5. She can’t perform context-heavy tasks.

The biggest leap Siri needs to make is in the area of context. Here are some examples of how your EA can make context-heavy decisions which Siri simply can’t:

  • “Research a great article that focuses on creative ideas that different startups have used to address the problem of the talent crunch in Silicon Valley.”
  • “Find a good review on the Evernote app, and prepare an email draft for me to send out.”
  • “Find the book that was published in 2007. I can’t remember the exact title, but the author’s name is Marshall Goldsmith. When you find it, purchase it and have it shipped to our client.”

Don’t underestimate the value of your EA in helping you get your priorities done. If you ask Siri to handle these kinds of items, the only value you may get is going to be entertainment value.

The true value of an EA is to help you complete tasks you otherwise wouldn’t get done. Tweet this

These are the 5 reasons why you should not lose your executive assistant any time soon. You can use the AI-powered personal assistants where it makes sense. However, in my opinion, working with a great EA is how you’ll really keep things running smooth.

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