I wonder how many apps developers can create that the public will continue to buy. A new one allows Donald Trump supporters to find restaurants where they can feel safe, not from guns, but from a “socialist goon squad.” (“Only In America,” The Week, March 22, 2019, pg. 6.)
Apps like this can help further divide the country but that’s not the extent of weird technology. Recently a robot at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in California rolled into the room of a 78 year-old patient to inform him his lab tests had come back and the man had only a few days to live. (Ibid, pg. 6.) That’s efficient but cold.
Always seeking to do more, Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store each boasts over 550,000 choices. (“Alexa Has 80,00 Skills And None You need,” by Matt Day, Bloomberg Businessweek, March 18, 2019, pg. 22.) Amazon, on the other hand, has 80,000 apps for their smart home devices, Alexa/Echo. (Ibid, pg. 22.) The smaller number exists for a reason. Designing apps for visual cues is easier than for verbal ones.
While Amazon promises more voice apps are on the way, one wonders why. “Half of smart speaker users say they don’t seek out applications.” (Ibid pg. 23.) Most of them admit they use their devices to get a summary of the news, weather, and stock prices. Apps to control home appliances are popular. But what apps do people crave beyond those that already exist on other devices?
Not much, I suspect. What’s driving app design is money. If developers don’t sell apps, they don’t make profits.
Nonetheless, we humans have limited capacities. We can only wonder, reason, dream so much. So, whether 550,000 visual apps compete with 80,000 verbal apps, neither seems to represent one giant step for mankind.
Knowing what I don’t want is easier. I don’t want an app that spies on me, not in my home or anywhere else. And I certainly don’t want a robot rolling up to my hospital bed to announce in two days it’s sayonara, baby.