Suresh Menon

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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.

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