Everywhere you turn it’s artificial intelligence this and self-driving cars that. If you’d told me five years ago I’d live to see self-driving cars, I would have said, “Sure, maybe in 2049!” But nope. That is our impending reality. From a public policy standpoint, we talk about how this would affect unemployment, universal income, post-scarcity, blah blah blah.
But before we take this giant leap into the future, couldn’t we, as a society, first fix some smaller, surely easier problems first, and then do robot cars? See we don’t need better technology that massively disrupts all of human life. We need better technology that relieves the aggravations caused by existing technologies.
Stuff like …
1. Just tell me my new password
You know when you create a new account for something and they just won’t accept any password you try because it’s not complicated enough? Or you have to put in a new password for an existing account and it won’t accept your slight variation on your old password because it’s too similar? And so you end up using the same password across a lot of different platforms, which is horrible for data security policy? You know what would fix this?
Just give me my new password.
I don’t really care what it is, Internet. You care about these things a lot more than I do. Just tell me what to do and I’ll write it down. Which leads me too …
2. Actually save my password
You know how you get the option to “save password”? You know how sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t? And even if it does save it a few weeks later you may have to re-enter it? And if you recently had to change that password and didn’t write it down then you could really be in trouble? You know what would be the perfect solution to this?
Just. Save. My. Password. I will never want you to un-save this. Ever.
This is very simple stuff. Next one’s a bit more of an ask though …
3. Jamming technology
We are all probably being recorded more than we realize. While privacy is something that many of us have just given away, it would be nice to seize some of it back. While I don’t think you can jam video recording like Batman does in the video below …
... we should be able to do it with audio. A very common counter-intelligence tactic is low-level, high-frequency white noise to muffle audio (like turning on fan or music). Wouldn’t it be nice to have a jamming function on your phone? Can someone do an app of that? And could I change the frequency to keep kids off my lawn?
Speaking of giving away your privacy …
4. Facebook events app
OK, everyone agrees: we all hate Facebook at this point. It causes depression, divorce, and distorts our sense of reality. We all just want to get rid of it, but like any social contract, I’ll only do it if everyone else does it first.
Thing is, what Facebook started as (just a quick, convenient way to stay in touch with people) is pretty good. So what we need is a separate app just for events – the way Facebook already created an app for instant messaging that you can download if you don’t want the whole Facebook app itself.
The app itself can really destroy your battery life. It’s good at destroying your real life too. (Hey ohh!)
Which leads me too …
5. Better batteries
With new phones, or even just updates, we get all kinds of new features to bedazzle and amaze – but most of them, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re never going to use. Nonetheless, many of these whistles and bells are going to drain our precious, precious battery life. We don’t need more features to drain our batteries, science, we just need better batteries.
Battery power is particularly important when you’re driving, but we also need …
6. Less stupid AI on my GPS
The next three are all about GPS, something that was magical and revolutionary when it came out (and still is, of course, count your many blessings, etc. etc.). But because it’s so widespread, any mobile navigation system has to be as smart as possible or it can cause distractions and accidents.
For example, if I am in Arlington, Virginia, I don’t need results for Arlington, Texas. Nor do I need to be told “In 4,000 feet, keep straight.” Straight is literally the only direction I will drive until I am told otherwise.
Please don’t interrupt my song, podcast, or audiobook for that!
7. An undo button
You ever do that thing on Google Maps where you, intentionally or not, add a stop in between your starting point and your destination that throws off the route? Like you accidentally drag the line a few feet off and it throws off your whole trip – and you just want to Ctrl+Z it but you can’t? So you hit the back button on your browser and it throws off everything? Yep. Undo button. Please do this.
And one last GPS thing …
8. Roads and exits, people
So it’s really cool that the Internet can magically take me from one point to another, but the way these services highlight the route frequently makes it impossible to see what road I am supposed to take. Like if I wanted to go from the Capitol to the U of U:
I can clearly read 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th Avenues. But you know what I can’t read? THE NAME OF THE STREET I AM SUPPOSED TO TAKE. Every detail is unimportant except the roads and the exits I need to get me from point A to point B. That stuff needs to be highlighted and everything else can disappear.
The blue bar is terrific, but the street I ride down won’t be colored blue conveniently for me. “But Jared, if you had a self-driving car none of these would matter …” (Yeah, yeah, shut up. I know).
So please work on this Google Maps, and while you’re at it …
9. Google link sharing settings
Instead of sending attachments, I will frequently just upload files to the Google Drive and then send a link. And more often than not I get this message in response.
Look. Google. If I email a link to someone, I want them to have access to it. Please don’t make me especially designate that they should have access to it. If I didn’t want that, I wouldn’t have emailed it to them!
I feel OK complaining about because I pay for the upgraded service. Uploading and then sending links is important for security and data management. Just emailing attachments can cause a lot of problems. And that leads me to the most important one …
10. Finally replace email
So I could write an entire article about this topic alone, but email is the worst. OK it’s not the worst, but you know what it’s exactly like? Normal mail. When the envelope leaves my post box, I can’t do anything to change its contents or its destination. If I put in a mistake, or if news changes, I cannot change what I have written in a physical letter.
And email is no better.
You can’t change the recipient if you realize 0.5 seconds you sent it to the wrong person. You can’t change the time you’ll meet for dinner in the email, you have to send a new one (which can cause confusion). If you don’t want to be part of a discussion any more, you can’t leave the group (the way you can in Facebook Messengers).
While revolutionary in the 1990s, email has made zero advancements in 20 years.
Google tried to fix this a few years ago with the long-abandoned Google Wave. It’s too bad. I hope they try again and ask me to beta test it. Email is the worst! (But please email this article to all your friends.)
So please: Google, Facebook, Batman, science. Get to work on this stuff. Before we create the artificial intelligence of the future, let’s first fix some of technology’s current genuine stupidity.