Technology worship is stupid

For those who haven’t noticed, I’m a bit of a geek.  I’m not so obsessed with being the first to have the latest and greatest tech toys as I once was but I do still love gadgets.  I have a weakness for shiny things with blinkenlights.
 
So by most standards I qualify as a technophile.  But it never ceases to amaze me how stupid people can get when they start waxing lyrical about what great positive changes better technology could make to all our lives.  For instance, an article in Popular Mechanics titled “10 Genius Inventions We’re Still Waiting For.”
 
To their credit, this is not another “where’s my jetpack and personal robot?” article.  But I’m astonished at how shallow their thinking is, particularly when they describe these as “genius” inventions.  Admittedly, not all of the ideas are stupid.  But some of them are really fucking moronic.
 
1. Sonic Showers
First up is a pretty reasonable idea.  Given access to water is rapidly approaching crisis point, even in developed countries, some way to get clean without using water is a good idea.  And the technology required hardly seems impossible.
 
2. Augmented Reality
OK, now it’s getting stupid.  AR is described as some sort of headset that would filter the real world and block out “inappropriate” sights and sounds.  Oh my fucking god.  Who could possibly think this is a good idea?  The article sells it as a way to block out billboards and maybe protect delicate young ears from profanity. 
 
Fuck that.  Did you hear me kids?  FUCK THAT!  The potential for abuse is simply mind boggling.  From totalitarian governments, to greedy commercial interests, to absurdly over-protective parents to hackers with a warped sense of humour.  Any society that implemented a device like this would implode within years.
 
Even if it was never used maliciously, technical issues could easily have catastrophic consequences.  The Blue Screen of Death would become a very literal concept if you were wearing AR goggles while driving.
 
3. Life Simulator
OK, you know this one is fucked from the sound of its name.  The idea is that you should plug every life question into a computer and have it make your decisions for you.  This is so horribly fucked I hardly know where to begin.  Let’s start with the fact that “right and wrong” are relative concepts.  One person’s right is easily another person’s wrong.  And in any case, they definitely aren’t binary.  Life isn’t so simple that you can break it down into yes/no moments. 
 
And in any case, have your life’s decisions dictated by a fucking computer program????  Again, the possibilities for abuse are almost endless.  And even if nobody tried to manipulate you, the software would still be written by a *shudder* computer programmer.  I’m sure none of us have ever met a computer programmer who makes poor life/social choices.
 
4. Acoustic Cloaking Shell
This one is quite seductive and, if done right, would have some good benefits.  But it’s still riddled with problems.  So you live in a noisy area but your domicile is blissfully quiet thanks to your Acoustic Cloaking Shell.  How much of a shock would it be when you opened your door to be blasted with 100+ decibels of noise?  And I mean you could quite literally go into shock from the trauma.  Plus there’s the issue of not hearing someone outside yelling “You’re house is on fire!”
 
5. Legged-Robot Everything
Legged robots may well the wave of the future and I definitely want my own Gundam suit (even if it’s made by Toyota).  But the direction writer takes this in is staggeringly stupid.  Live in a 2 room house – 1 to store robot furniture and 1 to actually live in?  Apparently all we need is mobile, automatically changing furniture to be happy.  First, you’d be totally screwed when (not if) your robot furniture broke down.  Second, move the furniture around all you like, I want more than one fucking room to live in. 
 
6. Nontangling Cable
This one is a no-brainer.  Definitely a great invention waiting to happen.
 
7. Insect Force Field
Another good one although I suspect it would take a true genius to overcome the hurdles with this one.  Making the barrier non-audible to humans and animals, non-cancer causing, effective against all insects, non-interfering with other devices.  It’s a big ask.  And I worry what would happen to a person who’s never been bitten by an insect when they inevitably comes that they’re without their force field.
 
8. Megatracking System
Oh fuck off.  Micro-devices that track everything in the world?  Does anyone need me to actually explain why this idea is horrendously bad?  We have little enough privacy as it is without companies and governments being able to track every item we own.
 
9. Kid OnStar
Same as above.  A tracking device for kids.  Give the kids a mobile phone if you need to.  Besides all the invasion of privacy issues, kids generally are more technologically savvy than adults.  They’d find a way to screw with this system in no time flat.
 
10. Auto Memory
Excuse the fuck out of me if I’m too busy living my life to record every fucking detail of it.  And then there’s the insurmountable privacy problems: you’ve got the same problems of companies, governments and hackers fucking with your “memories”.  This is stupid techno-weenie fantasy jack-off material.
 
I’ve worked in technology long enough to know that many geeks are smarter than the people they have to answer to, sometimes by orders of magnitude.  And a lot of people are frustrated by the fact that we seem to be led not by the smartest but the craftiest, most ruthless or best looking.  Why don’t geeks run the world?
 
This article is exhibit 1 in the case of why things are the way they are.  If geeks ran the world, some pretty stupid shit would happen.
 
DISCLAIMER: Of course I know stupid shit happens now.  Maybe a geek run world would be better.  But it astonishes me how much techno-fetishists can be oblivious to the stupidity of their ideas.
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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Technology worship is stupid

  1. Now, to be fair to AR it’s already being used as a way to overlay useful information onto real-life. Builders have been trying it out as a way to overlay blueprints, wiring or plumbing diagrams onto the building they’re working in. Plus people have used it to play Quake around their university campuses. Both of which are highly useful valuable things to do with sophisticated technology.

    But most of these ideas smack of people trying to solve social problems using technology. Bah!

  2. DOA

    So I take it the holodeck is a long way off? Oh, well, I suppose it’s for the best. You hear about these kids that sit in front of a PC playing games for days on end and they end up dead? That would be me the first time they let me use a holodeck.

    On a different note they could also look at making present technology more accessible. I want an affordable pocket-sized version of those devices they have that block cell phone signals. What I wouldn’t give to walk into a cinema with one of those.

  3. I like the “Augmented Reality,” (in the sense of “it’s fucking stupid”). Besides, it’s already been done: an American comedian, George Carlin, declared in one routine that he would like to see a lightbulb invented that only shone on the things that one wanted to see!

    One final thought: why are most of these ideas about control, rather than interaction?

    Matt

  4. Jules

    Many of those are way too 1984 for me.

  5. chemboy

    Those are awesome!!! If that gets in the hand of an engineer they could make it happen.
    By the way, new blog: http://nerdsrule.wordpress.com

  6. Augmented Reality: isn’t that just another name for AOL?

  7. bananas98765

    A mega-tracking system has already been invented and is in use.

    http://www.spychips.com/

  8. Around my way, most of the old folks travel like Davros to get their newspapers.

    I’m guessing by the time we’re all pensioners, we WILL BE queueing for our pensions in Mobile Fighter G Gundam suits!!

    I just didn’t expect them to say Toyota on them…

  9. I, for one, welcome our new… Wait… No robot butlers? Dude! LOL

    Actually, I don’t think the technologies that would be required to accomplish these things are inherently bad ideas. All of these technologies have applications that would actually be very beneficial to many people.

    I can appreciate how blind technology worship would be imprudent, however it seems to me that many of the problems you cite are social/societal in nature rather than technological.

    While my opinion may be biased by the fact that I have a greater affinity with technology than with people, I think the real problem, as Massif and Matthew Holfords posts illustrate, is that humanity is still too jacked up to use them properly.

    Given the uber-controlling governments, bad parents, overzealous individuals and malicious hackers, of today, I think our problem lies more in the inherent cluelessness of people, than the technology itself…

    I still want a flying car though…

  10. Rose

    Thank you, Mr. Angry. I’ve been suffering from writer’s block as of late, but my head is now teeming with ideas. Augmented Reality would make for excellent dystopian sci-fi.

    Also, from the bit about Kid On-Star:
    “While newer versions of OnStar allow police to automatically disable a vehicle at the touch of a button, we don’t recommend this feature for Kid OnStar—no matter how rowdy your offspring may be. ”

    Now, come on. Tell me that is not dystopian sci-fi waiting to happen.

    And THIS, from Auto Memory:
    “With every frame of your life cataloged, this ensures you’ll never forget a face again—even if you want to. ” That is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever heard.

    It felt very Clockwork Orangey, since all this stuff would have such great potential for psychological torture.

  11. Vladimir

    I don’t know, I’d use that Augmented Reality, because sometimes seeing all these morons around is too much to bear. I’d like them being replaced with black rectangles, just to avoid collisions. And combined with acoustic shield it would be a device of my dream!

  12. Massif: You hit the nail on the head- trying to solve social problems with tech? Bah!

    DOA: I think some cinemas install phone signal blockers by stealth

    Matthew: re Control vs Interaction – I suspect that’s the bias of the writer.

    Jules: My main problem too.

    Chemboy: Don’t put too much in the hands of engineers

    Kyklops: AOL is degraded reality

    Bananas: now I’m depressed

    Goatsoup: You’d get to the front of the line faster in a gundam suit

    Phyre: this writer seemed *really* into controlling ideas

    Rose: There’s nothing like dodgy technology ideas to fuel dystopian SF

    Vlad: If I had tech that blocked out everyone I consider to be a moron, the world would be nothing but blank spaces.

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