20th May 2016
What is the world coming to? Definition of term: “Used to say that one is shocked or disgusted by something that has happened.”
Well, we’re not disgusted per se at the following announcement at Google I/O 2016, but we’re shocked. (As in, shocked at humanity’s naiveté.) Philosophical literariness apart, here’s from 9to5Google: With Google’s new Awareness API, which will soon be available after the usual conference and announcement formalities, developers will be able to build apps that intelligently react to a user’s current situation. With this API, apps will be able to self-customise based on one or more parameters of your existence. You’ll soon (or at some time Google sees fit) have apps that take in information — such as the weather, where you are and were, what you’re doing and what you (apparently) want to do, and so on — and process it (and the info that preceded it) to behave intelligently.
The way I explain it is, a simple clock-and-calendar app will show you the local time if you happen to land at Jakarta airport without your having to do anything. And if you ordered pizza recently, your shopping app will beep-beep when you pass by a pizza outlet in Jakarta.
I’m still saying Google is the most exciting company ever. But I’m also saying this is nuts — at a much higher level. Consider the following examples from TechCrunch:
“A streaming music application could display an energetic playlist when you plug in your headphones and start jogging.”
If you’re so dumb as to not switch to your “energetic playlist” when you’re jogging, you belong in the grave six feet below Darwin’s. Or, if you’re so lazy as to not do it even if you can, you might as well die now rather than trying to be fit.
“Perhaps an app could alert you to stop by the pharmacy to pick up your medications — but it would only do so if you were driving, near the store, and the store was actually open.”
If you’re so brain-dead as to be driving, near the store, which is open, and you forget to get your medications — you might as well be dead rather than just brain-dead.
Google suggested a number of use cases, Sarah Perez of TechCrunch says, as to how the Awareness API could be implemented:
“A smarter alarm clock app could decide when to wake you up based on how late you stayed up the night before, and when your first meeting is that day.”
How about “snooze”? Or are we all too dumb to figure when to set our alarms for? Or, how about simple discipline?
“A weather application could sense the Chromecast plugged into your bedroom TV and project the day’s weather onto the screen.”
And how accurate have weather forecasts been the past 50 years?
Here’s my favourite: “A running app could immediately log your run for you, even if you forgot to start the tracking function.”
There are some silly considerations here, such as that the Awareness API is two distinct APIs — “one that lets apps react to the current situation (Fence API) and another to request information about the user’s current context (Snapshot API). ... (So the API) not only offers the convenience of requesting all this information about a user’s situation more easily, it also does so while optimizing for system health. That means the apps get smarter without slowing the phone down or killing your battery.”
There’s something telling there. It needs to be clarified (in this day and age!) that “system health” refers to the device’s health, not yours. Words don’t lie.
So here’s what happens in Google’s app-aware world (and I’m not even including VR and AR or anything else):
Alarm tells you to wake up. Room devices give voice commands about when to leave for the meeting. Self-driving car moves you to meeting. At meeting, Awareness API enables apps to tell you what to say, because they already know the reason for the meeting. Calorie-aware and restaurant-aware apps tell where to go for lunch and what to eat. Later, smart car drives you to where you should be — home, theatre, restaurant, club, or seaside. Then app tells you — based on data synced with your partner’s device and data — whether you should have sex, and for how long. App tells you when to sleep; it knows your schedule for the next day. Alarm tells you to wake up. Room devices give voice commands about when to...
Lather, rinse, repeat.
The issue is not about the Awareness API and whether it’ll work. It’s that Google is now seeing the world this way. That you’ll be a bot instead of using one.
Rather, that you’ll want to be a bot rather than use one.
Post scriptum: If you’re a bot, guess who gets your money?
Post-post scriptum: Look back a bit. “System health” refers to the device’s health, not yours. Words don’t lie.
Google Will Enable Self-customising, Context-aware Apps
For developers who’ll play God
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