RichTack 2.0: The Bionic Man

What happens when bad data enters my digital bloodstream.

I’m getting ready to walk the dogs. Do I need a sweater for outside?  I check the weather app on my iPhone. “60 degrees.”  Hmm, that’s a lot cooler than it’s been the last few days.  But instead of opening the front door and stepping outside to check for myself, I double-check the app.  Yup. The phone says its 60 degrees.  So I put on a heavy sweater and walk out... into scorching heat.

Now I’m roasting in the Studio City sun. It feels at least 80 degrees.  Instead of taking my sweater off, I pull out my iPhone and check the weather app again, holding the phone up high, as if there’s a thermometer inside.  It still says 60 degrees.

In this battle of conflicting data between digital (my iPhone app says that it’s a cool 60 degrees) vs. biological (my body feels like I’m walking the dogs inside of a toaster oven), I’m not thinking that the phone is wrong. I’m thinking the weather is wrong.  I’m saying to myself, “How can it be so hot on my block, when, according to Apple’s weather app, it’s 60 degrees in the rest of Studio City? The atmosphere around me is wrong.

I intrinsically trust all of the data I get from my iPhone.  In my worldview, the AT&T time on my phone is the time, as if Father Time himself is tweaking the atomic clock for AT&T.

The info from my gadgets has become an extension of my central nervous system. The data comes to me, sending impulses to my brain, like the nerve endings in my fingers.  I'm bionic. Tech makes me RichTack 2.0. Okay, maybe it’s RichTack 1.4, but it's still an improvement. Not only do I always know the time in Los Angeles, I know it in New York, London and (oddly) Cupertino.  I can divine the name and artist of song playing at Chipotle. I can look at the barcode of a product in BestBuy and instantly know the competitive prices. I am psychically plugged in to the ever-updating status of 214 of my friends. I may not be Steve Austin, but it’s getting close.

Living the bionic life is not cheap and it’s not easy. Beyond the cost of constantly upgrading gadgets, I’m constantly monitoring battery power like blood glucose levels.  I’m checking for WiFi and 3G signal strength as if I were taking my pulse. I spend most of my free time upgrading and fine-tuning, at the expense of other hobbies, interests and down time.  I do it because I have faith that all this time is well spent, if it means instant access to all the data available to RichTack 1.4.

And this is the epiphany I have on Moorpark Street, as my dogs try to devour an old shoe on the curb. If the data isn’t always correct, then it isn’t data.  It’s an opinion.  It’s like my iPhone saying, “I’m pretty sure it’s chilly outside. Probably about 60 degrees.” I could ask my wife if she thinks I need a sweater, and it won’t cost 400 bucks plus a 2-year contract.  I put my faith in data and the data is wrong.  I feel like a fool.  

Is the promise of RichTack 2.0 a fundamental lie?  If I have to step outside to double-check the data from the weather app, then why have the app at all?  Is this the wakeup call that I have to stop relying on the iPhone, the iPad the MacBook Air and rely more on my own biological instincts?

I say no.  I’m not giving up on the promise of RichTack 2.0.  I spent too many years with RichTack 1.0, and that was no treat.  I’m not going backwards.  I’m done with the days of bringing a jacket with me “just in case.”  I’m past the point of hoping I’ll remember an inspired idea because I had no way to convert speech to text while driving.  I refuse to be the guy who forgets a good friend’s birthday because it was written in an old day planner.  I say rely on digital data even more, and when data fails, get different data.  If the iPhone app gives me the incorrect weather again, I’ll start using The Weather Channel app.  Individual apps may fail me, but that won’t shake my belief in the overall power of being digital.

~~~

It’s two days later, and once again I need to walk the dogs. Do I need a jacket? I give the iPhone weather app one more chance. “55 degrees.”  That’s odd, I just walked in from my car, and it seemed much, much warmer.  I give the app the benefit of the doubt, trusting this tech one more time. I put on my jacket.  I get outside. Crisp, cool, 55-degree weather.  A big smile spreads across my face.  As the dogs race to get to the lawn in front of the building, I excitedly walk towards the promise of RichTack 2.0.