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Technology & Innovation

Apps Are Helpful Tools, But Can They End Up Being Too Helpful?

One reporter took to using a variety of time-saving apps that found her rides and hired personal assistants, but she found something greater at stake than the cost.

What’s the Latest Development?

In the bustle of major cities, there is no shortage of smart phone apps that can help alleviate the stress of everyday life. One reporter for the New York Times, Jenna Wortham, took to trying out several time-saving apps after finding one particular app—Lyft, which pairs San Francisco drivers with nearby pedestrians looking for a ride—useful. Over the next several days, she found herself in several binds, and took to the app market to solve her problems. From HotelTonight, which finds last minute hotel rooms, to Exec, a service that hires strangers as human assistants for $25 an hour, she was able to find solutions to last minute problems.

What’s the Big Idea?

By the end of her experiment, Jenna described a feeling of unease about having a number of faceless strangers willing to do her work at the tap of a button. She talked to the founder of Exec, who told her “I don’t think it comes that naturally to people at first. There is friction. But when they see other people using it, they will find ways to use it and that it is O.K.” “Airbnb, a service that lets people rent their homes to travelers” had potential to make people uneasy at first, but eventually the business caught on: since 2008 people have booked over 10 million nights in 26,000 cities. While Jenna ultimately felt uncomfortable with these apps, many others may overcome their unease for the sake of simplicity.

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