The fact that apps have become integral to the average American life is nothing new. That apps have begun to affect the structure of our society is. According to Benjamin Freed of The Washingtonian, apps like Amazon and Uber are changing the very makeup of DC, even becoming a deciding factor in where people choose to live and what kinds of housing get built.
Here are four ways the apps you use have been changing your life and you haven’t even noticed:
They can reveal your culture:
Have you ever wondered what your most used apps might say about you? Does it mean something that you’d rather download Angry Birds than language-learning software?
One company wondered just that, which is why it conducted a study on the nature of apps used by people around the world. The study found that people in India tend to rely on their smartphones for more social matters, like keeping in touch with loved ones, while Russians gravitate towards more practical apps, like for scanning barcodes or looking up dictionaries. When you consider the respective histories and prevailing cultures of these countries, the results are unsurprising.
Your most used app is probably less important information than say, your birthday, but it’s fascinating to think we might reach a place where someone can tell where you were born just by how many versions of Temple Run you have saved.
They’re causing our bodies to adapt:
Smartphone culture wouldn’t even be possible without the evolutionary jackpot of our opposable thumbs, and it seems our brains have taken notice. A study done by researchers from Switzerland found that smartphone users have “an enhanced thumb sensory representation in the brain.” Our thumbs are also capable of registering the fluctuation in phone use through the day.
Just like how a string instrument player’s fingers gain blisters after years of performances, our bodies are adapting to the realities of living in a phone heavy world.
They’ve changed the government:
The inconvenient American standard of not receiving any mail on Sundays is slowly changing. In 2013, Amazon struck a deal with the United States Postal Service to get their packages delivered on Sunday. With the rise of delivery apps like Peapod and Drizly, especially in urban areas, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the USPS starts breaking that “no Sunday delivery” rule for more companies in the future. If the USPS can change its policy for an app, who knows who else could.
They know what you need before you need it:
There is a fine line between proactive and intrusive. The idea of an app that does everything for you seems nice at first, but the concept becomes much creepier in action as New York Times journalist Claire Miller found out.
Google Now, a predictive search app created by technology juggernaut Google, was able to tell Miller when to leave to avoid traffic for a reservation she’d made despite her having never told the app she had a reservation in the first place.
As apps become more and more vital to our society, it’ll be important to monitor the way they both aid and harm our way of life.