In the near future, all citizens will wear a centrally controlled super-iPhone that tracks your movements and can scan everyone around you to divulge their net worth, their shopping history, and their dating potential.
The so-called äppärät is an invention of Gary Shteyngart, author of the satiric novel Super Sad True Love Story. The main character works in the post-human services industry and falls in love with a younger woman who constantly “teens,” or text chats, with her friends. Is there an äppärät in your future? Will a fictional mobile device have a cautionary impact on today’s designs?
To find out more, we caught up with Shteyngart before his recent appearance at Newtonville Books, near Boston.
TR: Can you tell us about your invention, the äppärät?
Gary Shteyngart: I figure it would be about this big [the size of a medallion], really small. The way I envisioned it at first was that little bits of data will float almost out so everyone would see what it looks like. And I wanted a very shiny pebble. I was kind of thinking of … remember that movie Wall-E? Remember he’s in love with Eve the robot, and she’s very shiny and she has this little LED kind of display in front? That’s sort of what I was thinking.
TR: Does it hang around a person’s neck?
GS: It would be like a piece of jewelry, because you always want to have it with you. It’s interesting, people don’t have–you’d think there would be some device you would hang around your neck, because it’s so awkward constantly reaching into my pocket and getting this thing [the iPhone] out.
TR: How does the äppärät rank people?
GS: So you walk into a bar, let’s say I’m walking into a bar. Everyone automatically ranks me, and so I’ll be the seventh-ugliest man in the bar, but I’ll have the fourth-best credit rating, so it’s very exciting, you know. So everyone tells me that, you know–who I am.
It also ranks your “personality” and your attractiveness. Your personality is how extroverted you are, how much of your own personal stuff you have out there. So it’s constantly–that’s what a “good personality” is, just somebody who just constantly spews things about her- or himself. That’s one focus.
Then there’s something, there’s a kind of emote pad, so if you see somebody you’re attracted to, it measures your heartbeat as it goes up when you’re looking at them. And that woman or man immediately knows how much you want them, and then he or she can reject you or not.