David Letterman appeared on Marc Maron’s podcast last month and before long, the two got to talking about their mutual troubles with alcoholism, and the routes they took to get sober.
Letterman (who kicked the hooch by sheer willpower, purportedly), gave voice to some of the criticism lodged against Alcoholics Anonymous and the like. The fact that most of the people who join AA will abandon it and/or relapse.
“It works if you work it?” Clever slogan when you think about it. If you don’t consider the best thing about waking up is Folgers in your cup–well, that shit’s on you, Mate. The product itself is A-OK.
Anyway, Maron, a devotee of “the program,” acknowledges that depressing stat is true. Then shrugs it off.
For some people, he says, it really works. What more can you ask for?
The same might be said of “brain training” apps like ours. Right?
Everyone’s talking about “subscription fatigue,” too many hands dipping into our pockets at the start of each month for all these services to which we subscribe. Good news on our front along those lines … Watch this space for a free version, coming soon.
Meantime, when it comes to apps that promise some kind of personal improvement with sustained use — whether it’s something as concrete and quantifiable as Duolingo, or something a little more abstract, like Headspace’s promised “mindfulness” — you’re gambling the same way as AA does on the variable of people working it for it to work. It makes sense: You’re not going to learn to speak Lao unless you listen to the green chouette* coach. And repeat. A lot.
So before you shell out your clams for the shiny new brain-improvement app, you ought to ask yourself: Am I motivated? Do I even have the time to use the app in question? Do I have the energy? It’s much, much easier to keep doing what you’ve been doing.
The only real cost is that you’re going to keep getting what you’re getting.
If you are ready for a Maron-level life change, then go ahead and work some program. But question the app’s promise. What are they telling you it will do?
When Lumosity, the biggest name in the space, paid a $2 million settlement in 2016, we sat up. All right—we bolted up. Clearly some authority had rather starkly called into question the veracity of its claims. And the answer turned out expensive for the company—and for the industry in general.
So the brain game brand had *falsely* claimed that their $15 monthly shtick helped to prevent “cognitive impairment, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Every brand lies a little, right? No big deal. It’s, like, the whole idea behind marketing: Surely an M&M or two has melted in your hands and not your mouth, after all. At least, let’s allow for a little exaggeration from the ads department. There’s more to a Subaru than mere love. There’s a clutch. And a carburetor. Or–maybe not.
No. It’s not the same. When Lumosity lies big, it’s way worse than finding out that Gillette is not the best a man can get (so sad if that were true).
No, lying so big is actually sinister, given the nature of the claim and how it plays on people’s worst fears. That’s hard to forgive.
How about Lumosity’s current claim? Which, according to its website, is just to “sharpen the skills you use every day”? Well, that sounds at least more true, if not as histrionic. And what of us?
Does Focus@Will live up to its advertising claims—or might you find yourself someday benefiting from “a dollar two-eighty” (your share of a multi-million dollar class action lawsuit against us)?
Well, some brain apps, like Focus@Will, work more passively than Lumosity. You just turn the thing on and it affects you whether you like it or not. You know, like booze and dope.
More to it than that? Sure. Skeptics have questioned the efficacy of brain training apps since they started popping up. It happens to us, too. But we find the vast majority of the criticism we face comes from people who literally don’t understand what we’re trying to do, nor how it’s supposed to work. Even what the problem is in the first place.
Next week we’ll explore whether – and how – brain apps like ours, Lumosity, and others work … or don’t work—and more often than not work differently than what you might expect. None of the tech is likely to surprise you, our savvy users. But you might find a few of the “secret” tools in our arsenal … let’s say, unexpected.
Spoiler alert: Can anyone say, “Placebo effect?”
From our brains to yours, enjoy your week. Enjoy your work. Work the app in which you won’t enjoy the music to the point of distraction. Visit focusatwill.com.