There’s No Application For This
The launch of four new electronic applications have largely narrowed the gap between we humans and them animals. Computer science’s knack for whimsical creativity has resulted in four notables that have recently gained a lot of attention.
- Mail Goggles: Google’s email application, GMAIL, now offers a feature that will allow you to “stop sending mail that you will later regret.” Once enabled, the goggles verify whether or not you really want to send that late-night, weekend email by asking a series of five, simple mathematical questions (i.e. 69-38, 37+19, 2×5, etc…). If all answered correctly, your email is free to be on its way.
- Email Addict: another email feature offered by GMAIL. Designed for those with addictive personalities, Email Addict allows the user a short period of R&R with the simple click of the “Take a Break” button; upon pressing, your computer screen goes blank and a message reading, “Break time! Take a walk, get some real work done, or have a snack. We’ll be back in 14 minutes!” appears on your screen.
- Self Control: Steve Lambert, a Brooklyn-based developer, designed a Mac-only application allowing users to block any chosen website for a specified amount of time; and unless you’re a nerd who is well-versed in detailed computer anatomy, there’s no undoing this feature once enabled.
- Bad Decision Blocker: iPhone users can thank Apple for supplying us the self-control needed to avoid drunken correspondence with exes, superiors, parents and any other pre-selected contacts specified for up to one week.
While no one can deny the entertainment value or appreciate the vast amount of work that goes into making such creations, it’s a rather unfortunate message that we as a society, in our acceptance and use of such technologies, are sending. As the most highly evolved of the Animal Kingdom, our most defining characteristic – which makes us superior to all other animals – is our ability to reason and subsequently our volition. All other creatures live their daily existence out of rote and limited intelligence. Can human behavior really be governed by binary code? Even if so, would that be enough? No. A quick visit to a Google Lab chat regarding the Email Addict application is seasoned with users asking for Google to take measures that would effectively make the application more restrictive: “This is a very helpful lab but is there a way to make so that you can’t open a new internet window and log on while the other page is taking a break? I find that I am on email to much and I would like to be able to completely stop me from getting on when I am supposed to be doing homework…” Other requests range from having mail arrive periodically throughout the day instead of real-time to Google granting or denying email access based on individual, usage statistics.
I’m not dogging the gift or contributions of electronic technologies. At best they’ve been used to extend life past the point where death may have naturally occurred; at worst, it’s been useful for automating thoughtless, menial tasks. But in the end, responsibility for our behavior rests with us alone. Until the days of I Robot are here, electronic devices of any sort will not be able to prevent us from acting on our impulses, be they sending nasty texts to an ex, a cheeky email to your micro-managing boss who does not allow for coffee breaks or use of personal time, or in the worst cases, violent and heinous crimes (think Melissa Huckaby/Sandra Cantu). So when you don’t want to do something that you know is not right… Don’t! You’re more than strong enough. Believe that.
Posted by Elizabeth