Wolfram Alpha: creepy with a capital ‘C’


My roommate has this thing with technology. It freaks him out.

Like when my iMac and my iPhone ring with an iCal alarm at the same time, he gets spooked. Sometimes my iMac G3, running OS 9, will wake up in the middle of the night and start talking in some robotic voice. My roommate said he almost tossed the Mac into the pond next to our apartment.

But now I’m starting to worry.

I gave that Wolfram|Alpha thingy a try the other day, on my iPhone, and got the above message. It addressed me personally, and I freaked out a little.

Now I know my iPhone has my name in it. And I know that the HAL-like graphic invokes some 2001 reference (“What are you doing, Dave?”). Still. It’s a bit creepy to have your phone address you by your first name.

Called it the Uncanny Valley, or call it some robotic defense system that becomes self aware and starts offing humans. Whatever. It’s terrible.

And now Adobe products are figuring things out on their own.

I dig technology. I’ve devoted this blog to a device that reads my friggin’ handwriting. The Newton is pretty smart.

But it doesn’t call me out by name. That’s a step too far.


  1. Hey, it’s not personal. The character in the film is also named Dave.

    But it must have been a weird feeling to see that, regardless.

    Sunny Guy

  2. You know, it is possible to get an alarm to trigger an audio recording on the Newton so that it could address you by name, if you want…. ;)

    MoreInfo has a text to speech feature to vocalize your alarms much in the same way Ed Kummel uses his HTC Tilt to do the same on his WM phone.

  3. Now that’s cool, Genghis. At least you’d be doing that on purpose.

  4. I actually have Hal 9000 sound effects on my Newton MP 2000
    everytime an error pops up it says “I’m afraid I can’t do that”

  5. Brilliant. How perfectly creepy.

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