Skip to content
Floating University

Language Pragmatics: Why We Can’t Talk to Computers

Speech recognition technology continues to fascinate language and cognitive science researchers, and Apple’s introduction of the Siri voice assistant program in its recent iPhone 4S was heralded by many as a great leap toward realizing the dream of a computer you can talk to. Fast-forward half a year later and, while Siri has proved to be practically useful and sometimes impressively accurate for dictation, the world has not been turned upside down. A quick Google search for “Siri fail” will provide you with the often unintentionally funny attempts by Apple’s voice recognition service to answer abstract questions or transcribe uncommon phrases.


But in a day and age when computers can win at Jeopardy and chess programs can consistently defeat the best human players, why hasn’t voice technology reached a similar plateau of mastery? Here is cognitive scientist, popular author, and Floating University professor Steven Pinker exploring the issue in a clip from his lecture “Say What? Linguistics as a Window to Understanding the Brain.”


Related

Up Next