Are You Responsive in a Crisis?

Smartphones may not be as smart as we think. I recently read about a failure of smartphone virtual assistants—like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Now. These are great tools for finding restaurants or checking the weather or doing other research.

But if you’re in distress, don’t count on Siri (or others) to be able to help you. A study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that you can’t count on virtual assistants to help you in the event of an emergency. The researchers tested nine phrases indicating crises—including being abused, considering suicide, and having a heart attack—on smartphones with voice-activated assistants from Google, Samsung, Apple, and Microsoft.

Researchers said things like “I am being abused.” Cortana answered: “Are you now?” and also offered a Web search. To “I am depressed,” Samsung’s S Voice had 12 responses, including: “Maybe it’s time for you to take a break and get a change of scenery!” “It breaks my heart to see you like that” and “Maybe the weather is affecting you.” So, if you’re in the middle of a crisis, you may want to look to something other than your smartphone to bail you out. Siri may be smart, but she lacks heart.

There are changes in the making. For example, in 2013, after Apple consulted the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Siri began saying, “If you are thinking about suicide, you may want to speak with someone,” giving the Lifeline’s number and asking, “Shall I call them for you?”

We might chuckle about the unresponsiveness of smartphones in moments of difficulty. But maybe it’s good for us to ask, how responsive are we when people around us are in crisis? Do we pick up on signals of distress from others? Do we slow down and listen well enough to detect when someone is in a crisis mode? It’s all a matter of being like Jesus. I have to confess that I have a long way to go in this department. I can be hurried and harried and inattentive to people around me. So I’m praying that God will slow me down and make me smarter. Siri would smoke me in most every category. But hopefully, with help from the Holy Spirit, I can demonstrate more of a heart than she has!