Today the screen of our smartphones contain clever solutions and shortcuts to nearly every problem but one — life.
As much as software engineers develop sophisticated tools embedded with predictive behavioral algorithms or endless deep pools of information, life continues to prove the one area no app can ever solve.
Each day my phone tells me where and when to be at nearly every moment of my life. If an event, appointment or task is not on my phone, it may very well not happen.
By some twist of technology, my brain is offloading the mundane aspects of life into an app, converting them into lines of code. And while all done in the spirit of progress and allowing my brain to focus on more important items in my life, I have to wonder about the endgame here.
For example, the app for my local grocery store allows me to create my shopping list as well as tells me what aisle to locate the items. And no matter how often I visit the same store, I still struggle to find where the salad dressings are located without my app.
My brain, it seems, is being retained to simply do the mundane input of information, not perform the critical calculations of life. And that, frankly, concerns me. My brain at times feels as mushy like an overly ripe avocado.
But as of late I’ve begun to take life back from my phone and these sophisticated software engineers. And the tools I’m using are as old school as it gets — my own brain and a pencil and paper. Granted these are remarkably unsophisticated but I am really enjoying learning to explore life off the app grid. I love to wander the aisle of a store with prehistoric 3-by-5 cards crumbled from being in my pocket, crossing off items or remembering the moment I scribbled the imperfect letters.
But there is more.
No app can tell me when the person I am speaking with is hurting or distracted by something in their life. Only through being fully attentive to the other person, listening for both the spoken and unspoken, can we perform the difficult and rare task of being able to read another person. And no app can ever help us know when to offer a hug or drop a card in the mail to someone who has lost a loved one. And when it comes to know to take out the trash, well, if we ever need an app for that, we are in even bigger trouble.
As much as I offload the details of my life to a magical data hub locate in the clouds — and not the white puffy clouds dancing across the horizon — I am determined to fight for my ability to remain human. I am increasingly valuing the fact I am imperfect and can at times be incredibly fallible. I like being flawed and, well, human.
And God willing, no app will ever take being human away from me.
Leonard Woolsey is president and publisher at The Daily News in Galveston County, Texas.