Apple has Siri. Google has Google Now. Amazon has Alexa. Microsoft has Cortana, the Redmond version of an AI-based personal assistant. Unlike Siri and Now, though, Cortana has taken over the Windows search function, so it has a larger potential footprint than its AI cousins, which comes with a double edge. At the same time, Cortana really, really wants to scan everything on your computer, coming and going — all the better to help you with, my dear.
I tell you much more about Cortana in this book but I’ll drop a little tidbit here, tailored for those Windows XP fans among you who may just be a bit intimidated by a talking helper-droid.
Back in 2001, Microsoft released a game called Halo: Combat Evolved. In Halo: CE, you, the player, take the role of the Master Chief, a kinda-human kinda-cyber soldier known as Master Chief Petty Officer John-117. Cortana is part of you, an artificial intelligence that’s built into a neural implant in your body armor. After saving Captain Keyes, Cortana and the Master Chief go into a map room called the Silent Cartographer, and . . . well, you get the idea. Cortana is smooth and creepy and omniscient, just like the Windows 10 character.
Right now, depending on how you measure, Cortana is likely the least intelligent of the assistants, with Google on top, and Siri and Alexa vying for second place. That may change over time. In fact, some day Cortana may scan this paragraph and call me to task for my impertinence — bad blot on my record, served up to our robotic overlords.