Siri serves up doomsday prediction when asked about the end of 2020


Sorry, Alexa: Siri still the most widespread AI assistant
Answer: Clearly not calming our nerves.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Between a pandemic sweeping the world and the ramped-up rhetoric of a U.S. election year, 2020 has felt pretty apocalyptic thus far. It seems that Siri agrees, too — at least, based on the AI assistant’s response to the question, “How long until 2020 ends?”

Siri’s answer varies depending on when you ask the question. But one thing’s consistent: The doomsday clock only has a few hours left on it. Fortunately, there’s a logical explanation.

Siri’s answer to the question, which must be phrased exactly right to elicit the response, is less than 24 hours. My iPhone told me that six hours and 50 minutes remain.

That doesn’t give you a whole lot of time to, well, do whatever you’d do if you knew the world only had one full day left to hang around. (Personally, I’d try and petition MGM to release the next, and presumably final, James Bond movie a few months early!)

But there’s a reason that makes total sense to explain Siri’s newfound prognosticating abilities. 2020 is a year, but it’s also a time on the 24-hour clock, aka 8:20 p.m. When you ask Siri how long until 2020 ends, it’s therefore calculating how much time will elapse until 8:21 p.m.

For what it’s worth, Siri’s answer to a scary question — “When will the world end?” — is a lot more comforting. The answer: “The world changes. Sometimes it changes a lot. But last time I checked it was still around.”