McAdams On: App-rehension

SKEPTICITY: Andy Rooney did not die. His spirit merely moved into my body. I find myself growing more curmudgeonly by the minute. For example, I cannot for the life of me whip up so much as a look of enthusiasm about the latest app. That is because I don’t use apps. I have never used an app of the mobile phone variety. There, I said it. What kind of a technology writer does not use apps, you may wonder. One on a budget reflecting just how much you paid to read this, I may reply.

I realize how frightfully this sets me apart. I was at a dinner party recently with 500 of my closest strangers, and the two people seated next to me talked about apps throughout the entire meal. They tried to draw me into the conversation, bless ’em, but I just sat there like a stunned monkey, nodding my head and smiling. It’s true that I couldn’t hear anything amid the din of 500 people talking at once, but it may have been worse had I tried to comment. I’d have said something along the lines of, “oh, that’s really cool.” I say that when I have no idea what’s going on. I say it a lot. I should just get it printed on a T-shirt and point to it.

Apps are, after all, the new cable TV. There was a time cable executives couldn’t stop with the anecdote about people subsisting on dog chews rather than risk losing cable TV. Now, no one cares about cable TV because there’s an app for it. There’s an app for everything, except one that earns a paycheck for me while I run on the beach—the new iKlone—for when you absolutely, positively have to do something else besides work for a living.”

I’m not in complete darkness about apps, because there is always someone in my circle breathlessly showing me their latest acquisition. One friend was absolutely dazzled with the flashlight app that made his eleventy-hundred dollar smartphone screen glow white. (Me: Stunned monkey look.) There was one purporting an indiscernible frequency to keep insects away, when you can find one whose genes have survived the L.A. smog. There’s an app for locating your car. I can see needing that one very, very soon. First the hearing goes, then the… whatever it is…

There’s apps for identifying musical refrains, alerting you the dry cleaners is nearby, remembering your passwords, keeping track of one’s alcohol intake and translating Spanish to English in photographs. In other words, there’s an app for everything we once did with our minds, so that we may slip ever sooner into senility and appear not to! We are becoming ever more dependent on machines to do our thinking for us. That can’t be good, but I’m not sure, so I’ll Google it later.

Even the practice of telecommuting is robbing us of the opportunity to keep forgetting things we had to take to work and other stuff we wanted to take home. The one advantage in that regard is that you can still hide things from yourself in your own home office. This is easily achieved by putting something where you won’t forget it. Works every time. As soon as there’s an app for finding all that stuff, however, I fear all is lost. Civilization will collapse like a flan in a cupboard.

I would be more concerned for life as we know it had I sufficient cognizance, for one thing, and if these type of memory aid apps were all the rage. This does not seem to be the case, however. According to the Apple App Store, people are using this most amazing of technologies to play. Bubble Shooter Free is No. 4 on the top 10 list of most popular apps in the iTunes store. Bubble Shooter Free is a game where you shoot bubbles. In my day, we called it “Space Invaders” and played it on refurbished pinball machines, so I can see in this instance where technology has magnificently revolutionized human life. “Ragdoll Blasters 2,” which looks suspiciously like Mario Bros., is No. 1. (Oh, I can feel the flames now for that comparison…) Then there’s StickWars, NudeRunner-Girl Edition, a Fibonacci sequencer and a dark matter generator.

No there’s not. There’s nothing among the top 10 apps of five first world nations that belies anything but shear mindlessness and some degree of digital dexterity. And since I can already button my shirts and tie my own shoes, I cannot quite work myself into any sense of urgency about missing out. I was never much of a dinner conversationalist anyway, and I have stunned monkey down pat. O_o

So there you go.
~ Deborah D. McAdams