Author and celebrated futurist Ray Kurzweil talks about the coming singularity, which is a projected moment (Kurzweil predicts to be in 2045) when humans and machines will merge. While hybrid hyper-intelligent androids are the stuff of sci-fi television shows, it is true that people already work together in dynamic ways with computers and software to enhance and improve human behavior.
An example is as simple as the contact list in a cell phone. Many no longer feel the need to memorize phone numbers because the data is stored on an easily accessible machine. Realistically, the phone then becomes an external hard drive for human memory.
While science fiction films and many scientists put forward fearful notions of robot uprisings or machines taking over human consciousness, the benefits that tech already demonstrates is proof of how connecting with software in daily life can be hugely beneficial.
GPS tracking has become invaluable for drivers, social media knits communities together, and financial applications allow people to be more responsible with their money. This is not to mention the medical and biotechnology that is saving people from illness and allowing people to live longer fuller lives. In short, the merging with software is already here and it is time to take the best advantage of it.
Enhancement through apps that track behavior
There are a number of applications that allow humans to track their behavior more effectively and to live more efficient lives. Panda Security has vetted some of these that have proven to be both safe to use and effective when working toward the improved life that a selective reliance on technology can provide.
Improved health through tracking software:
MyPlate Calorie Counter is an example of an application that makes the human machine more efficient. It is a free application put out by LIVESTRONG.com that allow users to be reminded of their fitness and health goals. Entering information into the application engages with specific metrics that supports someone to eat better, drink more water, and exercise properly. The application contains recipes for nutritious meals as well as workout routines and connects people in a community setting to discuss what seems to be working and what might be less useful.
Tracking software that improves financial health
Apps such as Mint.com promote ways to perform better within society through improvements in managing money. One of the most important aspects of these apps is to act as a reminder to pay bills consistently. Late fees have been pegged as one of the most common ways of losing financial stability. Other useful attributes of these money management apps is how they help in creating feasible budgets and alert users to possible identity theft.
Tracking software that tracks sleep cycles
While machines never sleep, humans most certainly have to and the epidemic of sleep deprivation is a growing problem. Losing sleep can affect life span, brain function, and even lead to diabetes. SleepCycle is an app that aids in promoting sleep. Other apps like Pillow track metrics having to do with sleep quality and offer advice on how to have healthier sleep habits.
Apps that make you work more efficiently
Working more hours is actually shown to be less efficient and worse for both employees and employers. Still, overwork is a rampant modern phenomenon. More organized and focused work through organizational software can alleviate some of the stress and prevent wasted time.
RescueTime, for example, is an application that tracks the user’s time performing certain tasks as well as distractions while working such as going on social media or emailing. Because multitasking is actually very bad for work habits, this app provides metrics on how often a user drifts off task. It’s definitely a sobering experience to see this graphed and brought down to statistics. On average about 40% of our workday is spent on non-work tasks. It’s useful to know how that shakes out and how it can be improved.
Apps that inform your day
Weather and travel apps like Accuweather or The Flightview Flight Tracker allow for a higher level of preparedness when traveling from one place to another. Again this leads to more efficiency and less stress in life. Other apps, like the GPS and traffic analysis software Waze, or the Parking application SpotHero allow the user to more easily commute and relieves drivers from the stress of searching for the best place to leave their car.
Be safe when using tracking apps
While the apps mentioned here should be relatively safe, it is imperative to check on privacy settings to be certain that your data is not being shared indiscriminately. Apps that have community aspects built in can also be vulnerable to data leakage. A recent breach in Under Armour’s nutrition tracking app “MyFitnessPal” affected the data of over 150 million people, This underscores the need to be careful when using an application that asks for a large amount of personal information.
Kurzweil, for one, believes that it is useful to rely on machines as an extension of the self, particularly in allowing software to perform daily tasks efficiently. He posits that pressure is taken off the brain which is now free to concentrate on more esoteric information, like beauty, scientific innovation, and (perhaps ironically) the human condition.
While humans and computers are not currently dreaming the same dreams, the way we interface via applications can alter life for the better. Taking the best advantage of how modern technology makes life easier is a no-brainer, be that for humans or our AI cousins.
Infographic Source: Panda Security