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Today's Apps Are Turning Us Into Sociopaths

Today s Apps Are Turning Us Into Sociopaths Wired Opinion Wired com


We’re observing the emergence of tech that doesn’t just augment our intellect and lives — but is now beginning to automate and outsource our humanity.

Now, it’s perfectly possible that this app is a parody (the promovideo includes bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto and feminist voice Germaine Greer among the demo contacts), and its creators “James” and “Tom” didn’t share their last names with me. But my 29-year-old interlocutors — one who apparently has a degree in Engineering and Mathematics, the other in Design and Applied Finance — had clearly thought deeply about why relationship management tools are socially desirable and will be increasingly integrated into our everyday lives.But let’s take a concrete example. Instead of doing the professorial pontification thing we tech philosophers are sometimes wont to do, I talked to the makers of BroApp, a “clever relationship wingman” (their words) that sends “automated daily text messages” to your significant other. It offers the promise of “maximizing” romantic connection through “seamless relationship outsourcing.”

Drawn here and shared with permission is their rationale, which I believe goes beyond just this one app. So even if it’s a parody (indeed, sadly “we can’t tell”), it captures a real automation-app trend and widely held convictions in the tech community we need to pay attention to.

Despite the fact that the app currently advertises the core benefit of spending “more time with the bros”, it included other scenarios in the initially testing according to the developers: “A girl who used it to message her boyfriend.” Someone who “used it to message her Mum a few times a week.” But let’s put aside the many gender implications for a moment. There’s certainly much to discuss there, and by no means do I want to dismiss the fact that this type of thing exacerbates power differentials and perpetuates the problem of sexism in the tech industry.First, some quick background on how BroApp works: It not only sends scheduled texts, but comes preloaded with 12 messages to help users get started. The developers also took steps to conceal the automation going on behind the scenes; in places designated “no bro zones,” the app is automatically disabled. (After all, the jig is up if your girlfriend received an automatic text from you while you’re at her place.) The app even has a rating system that lowers the risk of the same message being sent too frequently.

Yet the app also suggests something else more subtly problematic that provoked me to focus more on how it functions than the obvious concerns around how it is depicted.

Stashed in: Relationships, Sexism, Turing, BRO!, Sociopaths, Relationships, Personality, Apps, Bad Robot!, Blue Light, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality!

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Horrifying thought is that one day our apps might talk with each other on our behalf without us ever getting involved. 

Like in "Her"?

Yes. They'll be able to maintain thousands of concurrent relationships.

And actually it will be difficult to tell the difference between humans and Her. 

@Adam: They will. And initially we'll love it. ("Makes things so much easier!") And then there will be... problems.

As Geege points out, people may end up falling in love with machines. 

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