I love Apple products. Their architecture and design is sexy, sleek and practical. But when I read about Yosemite and Continuity, the latest operating systems soon to be installed on my devices, certain aspects made me wince. Not that Apple’s speedy little shortcuts, which will assist in ever easier ways to multitask, aren’t savvy, but it’s the other side of the apple that sometimes feel just a little rotten.
In iOS 8, the mobile device keyboard has been expanded to improve what is called predictive-typing suggestions. When a user is typing, the keyboard tries to predict the next word the user will type to help save time. It can also predict responses to incoming messages — for example, if a spouse asked, “Do you want to go to dinner or a movie?” the messaging app will provide potential responses to pick from: Dinner, a movie, or “I don’t know.”
Now I can’t fault a device that cuts down on typing on a 3 millimeter keyboard, but I don’t want my computer to predict what I am thinking or what I am going to ask or what I am going to answer. I feel as if my brain is being co-opted by my phone. It’s invasive that this inanimate object can predict my behavior based on my past predictability. Pretty soon I won’t even have to wonder what I’m doing tonight.
Then there is HomeKit. Here, the computer takes care of directing your home appliances to turn on, turn off or turn down:
One tool will allow Apple’s voice assistant, Siri, to communicate with these devices — saying “Get ready for bed” could dim the lights, close the garage door and lower the thermostat.
Just think how much time will be saved when you never have to remember the ideal room temperature or are spared the annoyance of trotting back to the kitchen to turn off the light after you’ve snuggled into bed. The computer has it all taken care of, but the uptick is a little less hands on control over the day to day minutiae that on some obscure level likely keeps the memory juices flowing. The more the computer does for you, the less you need to think about it and there goes one more synapse down the rabbit hole. (Remember the days when we all knew our best friends’ phone numbers by heart?)
Apple also announced the introduction of HealthKit, an app that will track your every move to help make you more physically fit. Big brother in your computer notating the miles you clocked and the carbs you ate, whether your blood pressure is high and your glucose levels low. It is absurd to criticize this because it’s all about helping YOU have a healthier lifestyle while it simultaneously keeps score of your vital signs. This is a win-win should you ever end up in an emergency room where your complete medical record is only a phone away.
Nonetheless, I can’t shake the feeling that bit by bit and inch by inch, we are being conditioned to readily tolerate the 24/7 monitoring of our head, heart and home from the inside and out.
The ever expanding smartness of computers is not new news. But what’s really fascinating is how spot on Woody Allen was in his 1973 movie Sleeper. His vision of the future was filled with people who have embraced a world where robots cook for them and clean for them and almost think for them. Even intimacy is achieved with a device. Hopefully the Orgasmatron will always remain a figment of a screenwriter’s brilliant imagination.