The genius of Siri’s “personality,” meanwhile, is that she doesn’t care if you say, “Will it rain?” or “Will I need an umbrella?” or “What’s the forecast?” She is programmed to understand any wording. This time the payoff is more than user-friendliness; it’s happiness. When Siri does what you want, the first time, when you haven’t read any instructions or followed any rules, you feel a surge of pride at your instantaneous mastery.
So yes, of course, machines that converse like people are a total fake-out, and we know it. But psychology is a funny thing—as when we’re watching a great magic show, we’re delighted even when we know it’s all a trick.