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We all succumb to bouts of technology paranoia every now and then, whether it’s worrying your phone is tracking you or fearing the enslavement of the human race by robots. Most of the time we’re overreacting, but as the following examples show, sometimes there’s good reason to think your technology could lead to your demise.
We all want that killer shot on our Instagram, but some of us will go further than others. The cult of the selfie has grown dramatically as camera phones have become more and more accomplished. Unfortunately, the level of common sense used when taking selfies hasn’t grown with it.
Numerous selfie deaths have been reported, including a man falling to his death at Machu Picchu, while posing for a picture.
A hiker in Wales was killed when lightning struck his selfie stick, a businessman in China was drowned by a walrus he was trying to take a selfie with, and a man was gored to death in Pamplona Spain after trying to take a selfie during the annual running with bulls event.
Video games are great, but playing them too much can kill you, unfortunately. In February 2017 a man in Virginia died during a 24-hour gaming marathon. Brian Vigneault was raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and got 22 hours into the session, which was streamed on Twitch, before telling viewers he was going outside to smoke. It’s reported he had a heart attack and never came back on screen.
This may seem like an extreme example, and most gamers really don’t have to worry about it, but there have been other reports of gamers suffering from deep-vein thrombosis, a condition associated with sitting on a long-haul flight for multiple hours.
Self-driving cars may well be extremely safe when they hit the roads en-masse, but the thought of an artificial intelligence controlling our transportation throws up some pretty interesting theoretical questions. For example, if three people jumped out in front of your car, would the car run them over and save you? Or would it weigh three lives against one and drive you off the road and into danger?
Smartphones have changed the way we live. We now carry around an extremely powerful computer in our pockets. This is great for feeling connected, informed, and entertained, but does have its downsides. One of these is people paying more attention to their phones than the world around them, sometimes with devastating consequences. A recent report revealed in 2016 there was an unprecedented jump in pedestrian deaths in the U.S. – and smartphones have been blamed. Using one while driving, or even crossing the street, could distract you just long enough to cause an accident.
Twitter can’t do too much damage, can it? I’d have said no until November 9 last year, when the most thin-skinned, provocative, insecure person on the social media platform was given the nuclear launch codes. The chances of a Twitter-inspired doomsday scenario has increased dramatically over the last few months, and 140 characters now seems far too long for all of us.
If you believe Elon Musk – and a lot of people do – the greatest threat to the species is artificial intelligence. AI has been painted as the bad guy plenty of times in the past by Hollywood, from The Matrix to The Terminator, but Musk’s warnings are far from fiction. He believes humans are developing technologies they won’t be able to control, and all AI projects should be open source to ensure no company gets a monopoly. AI isn’t quite there yet though, just ask Siri.
In November 2016, Facebook killed two million people. Well, not really, but a glitch in the social media platform meant people logging onto their accounts found they had been “memorialized,” presumably causing some concern for their family and friends. One of those affected was the creator of Facebook himself, Mark Zuckerberg, who is still very much alive.
Robots are already killing humans. They just aren’t doing so in the traditional Hollywood manner: walking down the street, 60 feet tall, crushing humans like ants and firing laser beams out of their eyes. No, robot deaths are happening in factories. In March, a robot was blamed for the death of a worker in a Michigan auto parts factory.
Memes can be hilarious, annoying, controversial, and sometimes deadly. This month a Russian man was sentenced to three years in prison for creating a meme that led to two teenage suicides. The Blue Whale meme encouraged people to undergo a series of tasks over the course of 50 days. The final task is to take your own life.
As our technology becomes more sophisticated, so too do the hackers trying to exploit it. A new form of attack, called ransomware, sees hackers take control of a computer, system, or data, and demands payment for it to be returned. This has potentially deadly consequences when you consider it’s possible to hack a car’s brakes, a pacemaker, or even a nuclear power plant.
If you’re alarmed by any of the above, then don’t worry, virtual reality is here to help. A team of scientists from Barcelona University used virtual reality to let people experience death, in an effort to make the prospect less terrifying. Check out the video below to see how they recreated death.