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The app made me do it!

With apps being so helpful these days, sometimes it's good to remind ourselves of their shortcomings
Mobile Apps (Mobile Apps image via Shutterstock)
Mobile Apps (Mobile Apps image via Shutterstock)

Last month, we had our yearly “Fun Day” at Nubo. We drove to the northern Galilee and rode ATVs and mini Jeeps near the border. After getting dirty, we visited a winery in Kiryat Shmona and ended the day at a good restaurant where I ate a delicious, juicy steak.

On the way home, the guys did what Israelis do and asked the popular app Waze for directions home. We ended up taking a detour to Tiberias. By the time we hit the 5th traffic light, I was starting to think that someone clicked on the “don’t miss any intersection in Tiberias” button.

“What are we doing in Tiberias?”

“This is what Waze recommended.”

“If Waze told you to get us back to Tel Aviv via Beirut, would you do that too?!”

“No, but there could have been a car accident that we avoided. Something must be wrong with Waze’s algorithm.”

“How about driving without an app? When’s the last time you relied on your instincts? Like in Star Wars – use the force!”

The guys told me that Waze used to send a lot of Israelis to the West Bank. Sometimes the quickest way from point A to point B is via West Bank cities such as Kalkilya. Eventually Waze added an “avoid areas under Palestinian Authority supervision” option and saved lives.

If Waze Told You to Jump Off a Bridge

Driving through Tiberias made me think. When we were kids, adults would tell us, “and if your friends told you to jump off a bridge, would you do that too?” Here’s how that conversation plays out today:

“But the app told me to.”

“And if the app told you to jump off a bridge, would you?”

“Is it a 5 star app?”

There are music sites which use algorithms to choose your playlist. After you’ve listened to a few songs, they “know” what you like. No thanks. I love discovering new music on my own. I’d like to think that my taste in culture is deeper than a mathematical formula; and if not, please don’t tell me.

Too Much Information

Remember the “Twinkies made me do it” defense from the 1970’s? It’s only a matter of time until someone commits a heinous crime and a lawyer comes up with “the app made me do it” defense.

Many apps offer (like the old Police song) “too much information.” Do you really want to know how many steps you walk on the way to work and that on Sundays it takes you 2.54 seconds longer to get there? How many decimal points of calorie intake info do you need in order to keep healthy? Many of us need the extra push and inspiration. There are apps that have you put headphones on as you listen to a scary story and run for your life. If trying to escape a zombie invasion helps you stay in shape, all the power to you!

I use mobile apps every day; their importance in our lives will only increase. Who doesn’t enjoy checking out a new app that a friend recommends? It’s time we made some rules.

1. Don’t allow apps to replace your sense of discovery or ability to use your instincts.

2. Use Waze and other map apps, but don’t miss out on the experience of occasionally getting lost on your own.

3. Prefer human error over app error.

4. An app is a tool, not an excuse.

Keep using apps, just don’t tell the judge or your friends “the app made me do it!”

Read Start-Up Israel to keep your finger on the pulse of Israeli high-tech and innovation!

About the Author
Kenny Sahr is a startup marketing executive. His first startup, founded in 1996, was featured in Time Magazine and on 60 Minutes. Kenny moved to Israel from Miami, Florida. In his spare time, he is an avid music collector and traveler.
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