By Thierry Malleret, economist

Tech development and innovation are at the core of Chinese policy. To overcome the middle-income trap and to boost productivity, China aims to become world leader in AI (artificial intelligence) by 2030 and triple its production of industrial robots over the next three years. This means that the tech future may well be made in China, with a disturbing societal twist. The authorities are developing a “social credit system” that will become mandatory in 2020 and will rank citizens in terms of their “trustworthiness”, aiming to build a “culture of sincerity”. The world of The Circle and Black Mirror (respectively a novel and a series that depict a dystopian tech world) is not far-off… Our data-mined and branded online lives risk becoming a multifarious popularity contest.


Wellness Edition:

Over the next few years, the issue of how technology affects wellness will become one of increasing relevance. As we have noted before, academic research conclusively demonstrates that the overconsumption of technology/social media is detrimental to well-being (and in particular to mental health).

The issue, however, is broader than that. Apart from the sinister and ‘anti-wellness’ dystopian world depicted in novels like The Circle, technology tends to deprive us of or distance us from the real sources of wellness and happiness: our friends and family, and the quality of our social interactions within our communities. More and more, the technological tools that support us in our quest for well-being advise us and incite us to focus on ourselves to the detriment of the outside world, as if happiness can only be found from “within.”

Most happiness apps, for example, lock us up in our private emotional experience rather than helping us connect with people. Every reputable piece of research in psychology now tells us that this is the wrong approach to well-being. The question is: will we continue to consume the thousands of well-being apps and the self-help industry in general (now a $1 billion a year business just in the United States) in the same quantity or is this segment of the industry potentially facing a big financial hit?

4 thoughts on “Well-being Apps Imprison Us in Private Emotional Experience – The Wrong Approach”

  1. Thanks for sharing. I don’t agree with your views. I’m a big user and advocate of well-being apps – particularly those that help us with meditation and mindfulness. You say "More and more, the technological tools that support us in our quest for well-being advise us and incite us to focus on ourselves to the detriment of the outside world, as if happiness can only be found from “within.” – I don’t know what tools you have used but that’s certainly not my experience. Mindfulness is about becoming more familiar with the contents of our mind so that we have more choice about which thoughts to engage with. If you have lots of anxious or depressive thoughts – this is a very powerful skill. It also helps us interact with people better because our mind doesn’t get in the way as much – throwing up judgemental and unhelpful thoughts. We are actually more present during our interactions with people, and more comfortable and confidant having them. So using an app to help practice mindfulness for 10 or 20 minutes per day actually does the opposite of what the article says.

  2. As a small arts company , designer and nature lover wanting to develop things in UK the innovation competition funds available in UK for improving mental health support ask for the clever tech stuff with many identifying Virtual Reality and gamification. Sad as these are the very things that cut people off a lot and are addictive in many ways for many people.

  3. I totally agree with you. Our lives are becoming so dependent on technology that emotions have little or no bearing in many situations.
    The whole concept of smell, feel and touch is lost in this world of so called automated everything.
    I also feel that we are chanelling our brain to accept this route as well. As we sow we reap and long term repercussions are bound to play. There is so much information on the web that people now think there is no need to communicate.
    Human connection is lost and no app can create the wellness factor in a persons life. In my career I have come to an understanding that people come to spas or wellness spaces to revive, and revival is parallel to all factors of human emotions which no app can provide.

  4. You’ve been listening in to our conversations at Trajectory. Even before we get our product developed we are developing relationships in China for the purpose of alleviating the pressure Chinese people will face to become compliant with the “social credit system.”

    Your perspective on happiness apps is dead on. The overall problem with happiness app developers and associated wellness technology providers have is trying to turn the individual into a god. There is the notion that wellness products must be tailored for each individual. No business has ever operated that way and all people are cut from the same cloth with the overall perspectives and purpose for living centered around similar outcomes of life.

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