WWDC UX Insights: Embracing the fear of automation

Digital, Experience, Innovation, News, Opinion, UX


Apple did a great job of both scaring me and putting me at ease this year. I fear the loss of choice, control and influence over my ‘world’ and the 2016 WWDC saw the release of some heavy hitting features – that will not get the limelight – yet will have a broader, longer lasting, impact on our lives than EMOJIs.

I fear the features that go beyond doing-it-for-you. Yesteryear this was the ‘cloud’ and its ability to auto backup, removing the pain, and loss, of data management from people’s lives. This year it is getting creepier: the announcement contained a slew of think-it-for-you features that will run in the background. They wont be doing-it-for you, they will be quietly processing things so you do not have to ask… these features will be silent, always running in the background – they will change how you interact with your data/ device:

Silent Runnings

  • Optimised (intelligent) Storage – removing the need for tough decisions on what is sentimental in a digital world…
    My fear: “I wanted that file, I left it here, I know I did!”
  • Intelligent scheduling – event creation based on the context of multiple messages in a thread – an awesome time saver, making communication clearer; but yes, it does need to analyse your message content…
    My fear: “My addresses are all formatted in a new way, I feel too homogenised!”
  • Face recognition, on device – this was the thin edge of the wedge for the next feature but this one gets a special mention from the massive (i)Photo updates so I can fit in an unsubstantiated theory: bald men now grow beards to ensure face recognition does not mistake them for babies.
    My fear: “my life is just a series of faces and predictability – there is no mystical energy field controlling *my* destiny!”
  • Image analysis – content contextualisation is weird and entertaining (see The Roll now if you can’t wait)… Apple will be analysing, scoring and validating your photography skills and content. Apple will be deciding which events are important to you, which pictures that are good or which ones contain Nigel Farage.
    My fears: “will my perception of beauty and aesthetic be influenced by this standardisation?”. NB my favourite memory/photo at the moment is a blurred, poorly shot image with terrible composition in low light – score that one with your algorithm!
  • Memory movies – Creepy just got creepier… and powerful. This feature is super cool in terms of technology and intention – an automatically produced movie from clips in your own library with an appropriate soundtrack is… well great. It will be fun to bring to life the ignored long-tail of your photo album.
    My fears: “is my life being analysed to turn into a movie with an appropriate soundtrack? Which bits are movie worthy? Must I share so much of my life? Given that perceptions of the past are often shaped by captured memories – how will this feature obscure the truth?”
  • Siri on Mac – not exactly silent running but worthy of a rant nonetheless. Siri is, in my experience, not the fastest learner but will still be charged with analysing your desktop data.
    My fear: “does this mean even more creepy features in the future? How seamless can it get until we have Her, a no interface computer…?”


I really do worry too much (no, I really do worry) about the over homogenisation of human experiences and tastes; these innovations, while not ‘unexpected’, have come quicker than I thought they would to the mass market.

I am, just about, placated by the fact that Tim Cook offered some wonderfully human and inclusive elements to Apples vision of the future – like bookends. If deep learning, automation and think-it-for-you stuff will help us get to a future based on inclusivity, education and playfulness, then I’m all up for it. With our minds free from archiving files and deciding which of our memories are worth having maybe we will have more time to be nicer to each other and cultivate a sharing world.


More insights on WWDC…

To read more from my RMA colleagues on Apple’s announcements at WWDC check out:

  1. Siri for MacOS – by George Neill
  2. Messages app – by Mischa Weiss-Lijn