Why I Install Apps I Can’t Use

Believe What You Haven’t Seen

Jul 23 · 3 min read

I keep the top row of icons on my phone for apps that I cannot use. Why allocate such precious real estate to services not available where I live? Primarily to remind me that change is coming, even if I can’t quite access it.

One of the most frequent sentiments I encounter when I write or present about imminent new technologies is disbelief from people who haven’t seen it in action. But it’s very dangerous to dismiss technologies just because you haven’t seen them personally. Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer observed that “Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world”. Depending on where you live or if you’re invited to be part of various pilot schemes, technology that sounds like science fiction is very much real today.

“…the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.” — Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

The Future Depends On Where You Are

People who haven’t seen Wing’s drones deliver trial customer orders in Canberra or Helsinki, or encountered a Starship robot on the pavement in Milton Keynes think these technologies are still years away. If you aren’t in a checkout-less Amazon Go store, walking out of a shop without checking out is called shoplifting; in any of the twelve Go stores in the US, it’s the future of fast shopping. People who don’t live in the US also can’t try Amazon Key, the Prime service that allows package deliveries directly into your home, garage or car.

If you’re in the right place at the right time with the right app, you can truly be in the future. People who haven’t been to Chandler, AZ and seen the scores of Waymo Self Driving Vehicles on public roads don’t believe autonomous cars are making steady progress.

“Most people across the country haven’t yet had that chance — and consequently, a lot of people have a lot of misconceptions about the technology, and how it will play out” — Chris Urmson, Former CTO of Google Self Driving Cars

The apps I’ve installed are for some of the most advanced services in the world. In most cases, it won’t take long for them to expand from their trials. Companies, policy makers and citizens need to be aware of what’s coming and plan for its arrival — while there’s still time to influence it. Technologies that are going to change how we move around, how we shop and how we are governed will join the torrent of disruptive technologies such as social media that have already had large — and not always positive — impacts.

So my top row of (to me, currently) inaccessible apps reminds me of two things — my daily reality is not the same as other people, and the next advanced technologies are closer than most people think. Soon too though, these apps will be replaced by even newer ones, and move down to the second row where yesterday’s wonders become the new normal.

David Kerrigan

Written by

Thoughts about technology and society. Author of three books: details at https://david-kerrigan.com

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