How Apps Are Ruining the World

Tesla: Master of Lightning. That would look cool on a business card.

Between our iPad, iPhone, and three iPod Touches, my family has over 100 installed apps. Amazing utilities, clever social apps, and plain old silly stuff.

I love my apps, but they are ruining the world. Sad, really.

Here’s the thing. Programming something for iOS isn’t exactly easy. There are some tools that cut your time, but if you want to maximize your app, you’ll have to put in the time or pay someone to do it. Someone smart and patient.

I’m all for creative entrepreneurs generating a profit from their hard work. I’ve certainly done it myself, so I wouldn’t begrudge someone else the opportunity to earn money. Unfortunately….

Unfortunately, some of the smartest people in the room aren’t solving problems anymore. They’re not figuring out the kinds of things that need figuring. They’re not inventing or improving inventions. They’re not even experimenting.

Nope, they’re coding apps that they’ll sell for 99 cents. And if they’re lucky (because luck is part of success), they’ll make some money. If not, they’ll just make another app. That’s where the gold seems to be.


Smart People Pre-Apps

Before apps, smart people had to occupy themselves with other diversions. Sure, maybe they got day jobs, but there was always a sub culture of tinkerers and garage inventors. These were the people who gave us inventions that revolutionized the world.

Everyone knows classic inventors like Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. Heck, many of you even know modern geniuses like Dean Kamen. Great inventors start with an idea and then bring it to life with passion and hard work. It takes time and commitment to invent.

But how might society have been different if Charles Goodyear (vulcanized rubber) or Charles Fritts (solar panels) had focused their attention on writing apps? We might have had a better version of Angry Birds, but we wouldn’t have tires or solar electricity.

There are literally thousands of essential health and technology inventions that improve and extend our lives. From heart monitors to rockets, the world was improved by smart people who made things. Real things that became breakthroughs. Things that made the world a better place…and sometimes made the creator very rich.


How Apps Are Ruining the World (And What You Can Do)

Instead of inventing something amazing, the smartest of the smart realized that the Internet and mobile devices are an effective and efficient way of creating wealth. (True.) Venture capitalists lure smart young engineers and computer scientists out of universities to create apps and web properties. (Good? Bad? Discuss).

Making apps is sexy; I don’t disagree with this.

Apps are ruining the world because they are siphoning smart people away from real-world inventions. Instead of tinkering, they are coding. We’re losing a generation of brilliant minds, who are frantically trying to create the next Angry Birds.

UPDATE FROM BUDDY: At least two people have asked me if I believe that are good apps and bad apps. I’m not sure if there are “bad” apps, but there are certainly “good apps.” There are some seriously smart apps that help people with their physical health, their emotional well-being, and their interpersonal relationships. I’m worked on some, used others, and hope to see more in the future. It’s an important distinction that I failed to make and it’s not fair to paint all apps with the same brush.

So…! If you’re really smart, consider a dual life. Invent something and develop apps.  Just devote some time to real-world solutions because the world needs you. It needs your unique brilliance, your unrelenting focus, and your commitment to prove your genius.

Tesla was called the “Master of Lightning.” If that doesn’t look great on a business card, I don’t know what does.

In between app projects, make a better solar panel or a superior microscope. Develop an efficient motor. Build a better rocket or a smarter robot. Invent something that cures the sick, feeds the hungry, and maybe even prevents war.

Create a better world. There’s not an app for that.


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