Apps are ruining our world

Watch as the art of direction, conversation and physique all dry up. Dangerously, we want everything faster and easier. The future looks beautiful in its amazing achievements, but will it turn us into stones?

Apps Mobile Phone
No matter how clever the almighty Google AI algorithms may be, no matter how many Baidu apps one uses and especially, no matter how much one relies on the omniscient WeChat master app, none of them could ever replace real knowledge. Indeed, when a person first comes to China—with or without some basic Chinese—they should most assuredly never ever wholly rely on translator apps to communicate.

What I mean with the real thing is simple: learn enough of the language to command it yourself throughout your daily comings and goings, or have a permanent human translator in your place of business, should you not have the time or inclination to learn it yourself. Nothing, and I really truly mean absolutely nothing, replaces the real thing.

Apps don’t feel. Apps cannot think contextually. Apps can’t save a business negotiation. Apps can’t help you truly understand neither men nor women. Apps certainly cannot properly describe and they most definitely cannot help you love someone better.

Apps don’t feel. Apps cannot think contextually. Apps can’t save a business negotiation. Apps can’t help you truly understand neither men nor women. Apps certainly cannot properly describe and they most definitely cannot help you love someone better.

So, where does this problem come from? We are now faced with two techno-generations in both the foreigner and Chinese communities. Whether business or social, apps saturate both on all conceivable levels and dimensions.

Simply leave your apartment or house to see people walking en mass like zombies, hooked on smart phones and living life online—plugged into The Matrix, as it were. They find value and affirmation in emojis and emoticons and are reduced to nothing, but over-inflated dopamine-addicted creatures with little or no connection to others around them. It’s ironic because what a person probably wants or needs, either as a 20- or 30-something year-old, may be the person right next to you on the subway, pedestrian crossing, coffee shop or office cubicle. Yet, totally disconnected and a victim of shyness, the opportunity is lost.

This absolute reliance on apps for all things is, in a word, infantile. I’ll admit that they help get your name out there for business, to meet more people, to pay for things, to find one’s way. Of course, they help. That is where the problem lies; the expectation of assistance makes one lazier and less inclined to grow. Many may praise the convenience factor, but they simply can’t replace skill. It doesn’t replace any bankable, rewardable, reliable and trustworthy ability.

By making your phone a security blanket to hide behind, it very well may prove that you need to go back to the crib. As many a wise person has said, “life demands participation, not procrastination.”

Consider the following scenario: a new foreigner comes to China and is now expected to use Didi to get from the airport to Dongguan. The same newcomer must then use WeChat to talk to managers and assistants they’ve never met in person about hotels, finding an apartment, how to order food, how to link a bank card, how to use a map on WeChat when nobody offers an English map.

If this person has a high level of tolerance for the chaos, they’re then expected to attend meetings done entirely in Chinese without translation, or simply told not to attend because they won’t understand anyway. This leaves the foreigner feeling like they will never belong here nor ever really be part of the team.

But yes, use your apps to find other foreigners who may help, but also use apps to survive daily work life and socialize with other foreigners. This is all great, but increases the divide between the Chinese and foreigner groups in the long term.

So, now we have our new foreigner in town, feeling both at home and lost at the same time, and deprived of any workable international ability, simply because all motivation and reason has been taken away in the so-called name of convenience and efficiency. Damned apps!

I feel; therefore, I am—this would be a concise retelling of Descartes’ philosophy. Apps for the sake of convenience divide people, decrease effectiveness and don’t faithfully help at the office. They negate the human factor and supplant it with dead nothingness. Bring back bilingual meetings, face-to-face language lessons, in-house training on culture, one-on-ones with no phones allowed, airport pickups in person, friendly guidance around town.

Most importantly, bring back patience and soul, for without these, we, and I mean everyone, become as useless as a dead phone.

Category Op-Ed