When it comes to technological advances, people seem to fall into two camps–those who are excited about every next big thing in tech and those who are seriously concerned about the possible dangers of new technologies.
No matter which of the two camps you think you belong to, it won’t hurt to learn about the risks and unnecessary complications associated with today’s (and tomorrow’s) technologies, like microchip implants, AR and VR, AI and machine learning.
How Can Technology Be Dangerous?
Tech can be dangerous in many different ways, from a total loss of privacy to a compromised health. The answer will greatly depend on what particular technology we look at, how exactly we decide to use it, and what regulations and laws will be enforced in the near future to prevent worst-case scenarios from happening.
As always, there is good news and bad news.
The positive side is that mankind seems to understand that not all tech advancements have the potential to benefit us or move things forward. The negative side, however, is that this understanding does not stop us from pushing things in a potentially dangerous direction.
The Dangers of New Technologies: AR/VR, Microchipping, and Artificial Intelligence
Predicting the future of technology is never easy, but it is absolutely necessary—especially, when our privacy, security, and sometimes even life might be at stake. We’re not overdramatizing here. There are reasonable grounds to believe that if not regulated and supervised properly, some tech advancements might put our lives at risk.
The Very Real Risks of Virtual Reality
Virtual reality has already transformed many industries, from advertising and gaming to education and real estate. Given the rapid pace with which VR is developing, it’s safe to assume the technology is not going away any time soon. The potential usage is huge. VR and AR headset sales are projected to jump by 50% annually for the next few years.
Although the technology brings a whole world of opportunities, there are some risks attached. Interestingly, most of them are health-related.
One of the biggest concerns over the common use of AR and VR is its ability to evoke emotions of all kinds, literally in a heartbeat. The effect a full-immersion experience has on our nervous system is significantly more powerful than the effect of regular video or sound. In other words, AR- and VR-induced emotions are faster to appear and harder to cope with.
As the experience of AR and VR usage confirms, when exposed to exceptionally emotional plots, most people end up feeling anxious, stressed, or even shocked. Given the level of stress most people deal with daily and the relationship stress has with severe, chronic health problems like hypertension and heart disease, having a technology that adds to our stress load is a considerable danger.
Can you feel the irony? The fully-immersive nature of AR and VR is what makes and in some way, breaks the technology.
Stress and anxiety are not the only health concerns associated with virtual and augmented realities. Nausea and eye strain are two other big problems.
Potential Threats Associated with Human Microchips
If you follow tech news, you probably know that human microchipping is no longer relegated to a time in the distant future. It might be too soon to talk about embedded microchips becoming the new normal, but some companies in the US and Europe have already given it a try.
Based on a near-field communication technology (the one used for things like contactless credit cards or tag implants for animals), these microchips are now used as an alternative to personal IDs, electronic keys, and credit cards.
Officially, microchips do not include a GPS component. The microchips most of use are used to for entering the office, do not track employees and are protected against hackers. So far, so good.
However, microchips are growing in popularity not just in a corporate environment. They are considered the next big thing in healthcare, as well. At the moment, the functionality of microchips is limited. Experts call them “first-generation microchips” that cannot use smart tracking to follow complicated processes in human body. It is projected, however, that sooner or later such chips will include smart sensors to track blood sugar level, hormones, heart rate, etc.
Another prediction is that, eventually, patients will have smart microchips embedded into their bodies. These microchips will be able to release medical substances in exceptionally correct dosages in an exceptionally timely manner according to real-time bodily changes.
Experts believe that microchips will provide people and doctors with more accurate and timely health information, which will make it a lot easier to reveal disease at the earliest stages, maximizing the chances for successful treatment.
There’s a catch, though.
If we have microchips embedded in our bodies, and they store sensitive health data on all of us, can we be sure where this data goes and for what purposes it is used?
If our health records are loaded up to cloud databases, and there are chips in our bodies filled with medical substances that should only be released in tiny portions, the idea of hacking takes on an entirely new scale.
A promise of better health is obviously exciting, but is it inspiring enough to counterbalance all the risks attached?
The Possible Dangers of Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence has a been a topic of heated discussion for several years already. There are people who believe AI is our saving grace (it’s just not clear from what) and those who believe that AI will eventually take over mankind.
It seems like the only point advocates and opponents of AI agree upon is that artificial intelligence is progressing rapidly, and it is transforming our lives.
Home assistance, self-driving cars, facial recognition—the list of AI-powered applications that are already in use is long. Hundreds of tech enterprises bet on AI as the major fuel of their future triumph and leverage the technology successfully. Meanwhile, some people including top opinion leaders in tech are seriously concerned about the possible consequences of further AI development.
While the technology itself is exciting, the potential outcomes of reaching the point-of-no-return are absolutely not. Chances are high that what now feels like sci-fi paranoia could one day turn into reality.
Some risks are already maturing, though. A growing number of industries from finance and healthcare to criminal justice are switching to smart systems as a decision-making tool. If the trend keeps gaining momentum, the real danger will be a lack of sufficient scrutiny and “human factor” where it is much needed. For instance, if AI makes a treatment decision that turns out to be wrong, who’s to carry the responsibility? If an algorithm decides who must be killed during a military campaign, who’s accountable the possible death of innocent people?
We might not be close to the Singularity yet, but some AI-related risks are already there.
The possible dangers of new technologies depend on what technology you pick. In some cases, a loss of privacy is the only risk. In others, health and physical safety might be at stake. There is one thing that is true for all technologies, though. Most of them are invented with good intentions, but intentions can turn. What was invented as a tool to prevent disease holds the potential to kill (if put in wrong hands or used carelessly). What was invented to save our time and energy can one day devalue our time and energy completely. Technology itself is neither evil nor a magic pill. It’s up to people to decide how to use them.