Apple’s Journal app needs to read the room (The Verge)


Thread author
Staff Member
Jan 8, 2011
On paper, I’m the type of person Apple was appealing to when it announced the Journal app during this year’s WWDC keynote.
Instead, my reaction while watching the keynote was a knee-jerk Hell to the No. My hands were sweaty, my heart was racing, and I ended up walking away from my desk to take five deep breaths. The fact that Apple is Sherlocking Day One isn’t what set me off. It was the fact that Apple said it’ll use “on-device machine learning” to create customized journaling prompts based on your contacts, photos, music, workouts, location data, and even podcasts. Essentially, it was pitched as a riff on the Memories feature in the Photos app. An AI-powered scrapbook and digital diary rolled into one, if you will. And that’s worrying considering the AI behind Memories is... let’s just say it ain’t too bright.

The Journal app itself is not an inherently bad idea. According to Apple’s press release, it seems the intention is to help you cultivate gratitude by commemorating positive moments. There’s a growing body of research that suggests gratitude journaling may help boost your mental health — so it’s not as if the premise is completely woo-woo snake oil. My problem, based on the preliminary details Apple’s given us, is this proposed execution feels half-baked. People don’t onlytake photos of happy things or moments that spark joy. If your camera roll is like mine, it’s a jumble of happy, serene, infuriating, vain, mundane, and melancholy moments. It’s messy because life is messy.

And if the Journal app truly takes a page from Apple’s Memories feature, there’s a good chance it’s going to tactlessly ambush you with memories you either don’t want or aren’t ready to see.
The fundamental problem here is that AI can’t read the digital room. Until it can, I have my doubts about how healing these AI-powered features can really be.
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