The Problem Is Us, Not Our Technologies

(Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

Three or four years ago, I was delighted to find that someone had developed an iPhone app for the game spite and malice. It’s a quick, two-player version of solitaire, and one of the games I grew up playing. 

It doesn’t require online access, and is faster and more mindless than gin rummy while still requiring some strategy. So the game is a perfect distraction while sitting on an airplane, cooling one’s heels in a waiting room, or enduring an interminable conference call or Zoom (sorry).  But the app contains one serious defect: Apple’s technology has allowed the game to keep track of every hand I have ever played on various devices over the years. 

In the past, I would occasionally open the little “Stats” tab and see a number that seemed very large but also abstract enough to discount or rationalize. Today, I did the math. At an average of 4 minutes 40 seconds per hand, I had spent a total of 7 days, 22 hours, 44 minutes, and 57.6 seconds playing 2,456 hands of cards against a computer program. I say “had” because I have another plane trip ahead of me as I write. By the time you read this, I will have hit a new high, or maybe more accurately, low. 

Eight days out of the past 1,300 or so full rotations of the earth comes to about .6 percent of my time since the spring of 2019. I have, thank God, spent many more days on worthwhile things, so what’s .6 between friends? But Apple was not through with me yet. 

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