Pop culture has been preparing us for a potential dystopian future for decades, but it's very likely that we are already living it. The dystopian technology out now makes the fascist techno-nightmare of George Orwell's 1984 look backwards and primitive in comparison. The implications of these gadgets for humanity's future are not good.
Because of invasive new technologies, more and more data is being collected on individuals than ever before. Social media is being used to spread dangerous propaganda and warp people's perceptions of reality. The threat of a malicious artificial intelligence wreaking havoc on the world sounds less and less like science fiction every day. People are working on weird new gadgets to help protect themselves from all sorts of technological threats, but their efforts may not be enough in the long run.
It's not clear what 2018 will bring in the end but, based on these technologies, the future is looking pretty grim. Browse the list below, and vote up the tech trends that terrify you the most. Then, see the terrifying tech of 2019.
Like many of the fictional mega-corporations from dystopian narratives, Amazon is taking employee monitoring to the next level. The company has been approved to try a new technology that will give them real-time information on the locations of their employees at work. The state-of-the-art wristband will track employees' movements to make sure they stay on task, and it will buzz if they begin to deviate from their assigned job in any fashion.
Amazon, naturally, describes the technology in a positive light, claiming it's meant to increase efficiency in its warehouses by guiding workers to the correct locations and ensuring they're packaging the correct items. However, there is something a bit dystopian about constantly tracking an employee's location simply for labor-saving purposes. No more secret breaks for Amazon employees, as the company is watching their every move.
Like many scary new tech, Deep Voice was created with largely altruistic intents. The new voice-to-text AI can copy a user's voice and produce an eerily accurate replication after only 60 seconds. While it may sound inherently creepy, Deep Voice does have the potential to be put to use in positive ways. It can replicate the voices of people who have difficulty speaking - or who have lost their voices altogether - due to medical conditions. It can create a personal assistant for young children that talks in a parent's voice, providing an extra sense of safety and security while a parent is away.
However, some find Deep Voice a little too accurate for comfort. Given how quickly it can produce a spot-on imitation, there's concern the technology could be used for fraudulent purposes. People could use Deep Voice as part of identify theft scams, for example, and it can also mimic the voices of public figures. This would make it easier to create fake news stories to possibly further fuel conspiracy theories online. Luckily, it appears Deep Voice isn't beyond the beta testing phase. Perhaps developers can respond to concerns before its release, putting any potential dystopian fears to rest in the minds of consumers.
While this new tech isn't available just yet, Google announced in 2018 it's planning a series of smart home technologies designed to assist with parenting. While that doesn't sound all that bad at first, the monitoring systems wouldn't just keep an eye on wayward children and alert adults of worrisome behaviors. The new gadget would actually dispense discipline by reducing a child's access to their mobile phone if they misbehave.
Using cameras, microphones, and motion sensors, Google hopes this new tech will actually be able to keep track of whether a child is keeping up with chores. If a chore is neglected, the device will punish the child accordingly and then alert the parents. In addition to taking on a disciplinary role in the household, the technology will periodically make suggestions to parents regarding how to improve a child's behavior. It may recommend, for example, more family time or family dinners.
The device is a bit off putting for a couple of reasons. First off, the constant computer monitoring is fairly invasive, and it's not clear how much access Google would have to user information. Second, many find the idea of parenting - something that requires a great deal of critical thinking - becoming automated a sign of an increasingly dehumanized future.
Boston Dynamics is no stranger to terrifying technologies. It seems that each one of their new robots is even more impressive and horrifying than the last, and the latest development is no exception. The SpotMini is a quadruped robot that is capable of moving across any terrain with speed, with an attachable fifth limb gives it a dexterity rivaling humans.
The latest version of SpotMini is capable of opening doors, and the video that Boston Dynamics released shows that the robot can easily overpower any human that gets in its way. When a human tries to block the dog-like robot from opening a door, the robot fights back repetitively - and wins! Boston Dynamics claimed the purpose of this test was to make sure SpotMini was able to "adjust to disturbances" and "tolerate and respond" to them.
In other words, human interference is a "disturbance" the robot is essentially designed to overpower. When the robo-apocalypse is finally descending upon us, these guys will definitely be on the front line.