It’s not app-propriate for apps to invade our lives.
Predictive search. Remember the words. It is this century’s version of 1984. Big Brother is not just watching you, he is anticipating your moves and providing alternatives. Forgetfulness, that endearing human quality, will soon be a thing of the past, like telegrams in India and good manners.
But as the world waits in keen anticipation for this phone app that anticipates your every move because it goes through your mail, checks your appointments, and having earlier booked your flight tickets knows exactly in which country you are – well, my breath isn’t all that bated, to put it mildly.
For one, I hate people going through my mail – and when the people involved are inanimate, I hate it even more. I like my phone to know its place, not rule over me like a butler gone mad. Jeeves is fun to read about, but I will press my own trousers, thank you. In case you are wondering what I am talking about, let me quote The New
York Times on the new app age: “Glance at your phone in the morning, for instance, and see an alert that you need to leave early for your next meeting because of traffic, even though you never told your phone you had a meeting, or where it was. How does the phone know? Because an application has read your e-mail, scanned your calendar, tracked your location, parsed traffic patterns and figured out you need an extra half-hour to drive to the meeting.”
This is creepy. Anticipation is great on the football field or tennis court, but when an app gets in on the act, then I draw the line. Or, if I had the app, I presume it would draw the line for me. We are creatures of habit, sleep on the same side of the bed, drive on the same side of the road, put on one or the other shoe first, and so on, and it is probably not very difficult for an app to work out our plans for the day given all that.
There is so much digital information out there, it was only a matter of time before someone domesticated it in the manner of our forefathers taming animals. Yet such intimacy with an app is hard to take.
There is something joyous about lying awake at night trying to recall the middle name of EM Forster. On your way to the bookshelf if your phone glows with the word “Morgan”, it can be disconcerting. Startled, I’ll probably jump out of the window. But the app would have organised a mattress beneath it, I suppose. You can’t even throw your phone against a wall. We will become prisoners of our own apps.
Suresh Menon is a writer based in India. In his youth he set out to change the world but later decided to leave it as it is.