12 Sci-Fi Movies Where An Amazing Piece Of Technology Does More Harm Than Good

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Vote up the advanced sci-fi tech that creates the scariest possibilities.

Science fiction has always provided a tantalizing look at promising possible futures, techno-topias replete with capsulized food, flying cars, robot servants, and cybernetic or genetic enhancements that grant superhuman abilities. But the dire prospects of technological advancements instead ushering in fatalistic future dystopias are also a common theme in sci-fi movies, and not just in cynical contemporary cinema. In fact, the very first feature-length sci-fi film, Fritz Lang's 1927 Metropolis, gave us the gilded cyborg Maschinenmensch that inspired the helpful, if neurotic, C-3PO, but it did so in a cautionary tale about technology being usurped by the wealthy to suppress the working class.

In the 1950s, moviegoers couldn't get enough of sci-fi films in which heroic protagonists in silver jumpsuits battled external threats to the Earth in the form of mutant monsters or little green men. And yet, movies like 1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still pointed out that our own nuclear weapons technology may be a much bigger threat than alien invaders. Two decades later, George Lucas reignited sci-fi cinema with 1977's Star Wars, ushering in a wave of copycat movies and teaching kids that robots could be friendly, helpful, and even cute. Only five years later, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner showed us just how scary and lethal our artificial servants could become when they no longer care to take orders from their human masters.

Those are just a couple of examples of sci-fi films with decidedly Luddite themes or messages. Scour the archives and you'll find countless sci-fi movies featuring amazing futuristic technologies that have the potential to do far more harm than good! Be sure to mute Siri or turn off Alexa, and then weigh in on the movies containing the most dangerous tech in sci-fi cinema.


  • PROSThe rate of violent crimes in America has been on a steady decline since 1992, due in part to advances in technology like gunshot detection programs. But we will likely never be able to eradicate violent crime altogether as long as modern law enforcement is prohibited by time: Police officers can only react to crimes in progress or to the aftermath of a crime. In Minority Report, the Department of Justice appears to have finally conquered this dilemma and developed a method to save potential victims by identifying and arresting their potential attackers before they can even commit their heinous acts. By using a trio of pre-cognitive psychics, the "Pre-Crime" unit hunts down and arrests people depicted committing violent acts in the visions of the three "Pre-Cogs." The unit is so effective that violent crime in Washington, DC, is virtually eradicated within six years' time.

    CONS: Though Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow) has devoted his entire life to a career pursuing a "remedy" to violent crime, his knowledge of the inner workings of the Pre-Crime program allows him to exploit the system for his own ends. By taking advantage of the one fatal flaw in the Pre-Cogs' visions - that one of the psychics occasionally has a different vision, or "minority report," than the other two, which is routinely destroyed - Burgess is able to get away with murder. Burgess hires a criminal to kill a woman who threatens to destroy all he has worked for, counting on the Pre-Crime unit to arrest the man based on Pre-Cog visions. Then, he commits the crime himself in exactly the same place and manner as the original attempt, counting on the minority report of his act being destroyed as an "echo," allowing him to get away scot-free.

    • Actors: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Max von Sydow, Lois Smith
    • Released: 2002
    • Directed by: Steven Spielberg

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  • PROS: Human beings have been concocting and ingesting substances believed to provide certain benefits or cure specific ailments since before recorded history. The use of cannabis, currently being hailed by some researchers as a "miracle drug," has been traced all of the way back to 8000 BCE, and people have been, ahem, hooked on using drugs ever since. We spend over $1 trillion on pharmaceuticals worldwide, plus another half-trillion on illicit substances, mostly for treating physical conditions, providing pain relief, and for recreation. Only a tiny fraction of drugs sold, illicit or otherwise, are nootropics, substances intended to improve the mind. In Limitless, daily ingestion of the nootropic drug NZT-48 allows author Edward Morra (Bradley Cooper) to reach his fullest potential. The drug supercharges his brain's 100 billion neurons, giving him near-perfect recall, a greater attention span, and an overall boost in mental acuity. He becomes more confident, more persuasive, and achieves a level of personal and financial success that he could only have dreamed of before taking NZT-48.

    CONS: If you've seen any of the countless commercials for pharmaceuticals, you've heard of the disgusting and even downright terrifying side effects of some of the products. Fictional though it may be, NZT-48 also comes with some pretty horrific side effects. In fact, everyone who ever took the drug before Eddie winded up in the hospital or dead from its side effects, which include hearing loss, blurred vision, aphasia, paranoia, psychosis, and premature aging. Eddie experiences periods of manic euphoria and hypersexualism ending in 18-hour blocks of complete memory loss, or "time skips," frequently punctuated by violence and murder. Perhaps the worst side effect of all is the loss of mental acuity when Eddie runs out of NZT-48; he literally feels his mind slipping away as he returns to the "dumbed down" original version of himself.

    • Actors: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel, Andrew Howard
    • Released: 2011
    • Directed by: Neil Burger

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  • PROS: Thanks to advances in science and education over the past 200 years, human beings are taller, stronger, and live longer than ever before in human history. But, for the most part, those advances have been generalized to large populations in a given system, society, or country. Could humans become even better - smarter, stronger, less prone to disease - if scientific advances could be targeted toward certain individuals or controlled population groups? Some say yes, with Sir Francis Galton first proposing eugenics, or "selective breeding," as the means by which "superior humans" and an "optimal society" could be created. In Gattaca, eugenics, in combination with genetic modification and societal selection, has been used effectively to create an advanced, spacefaring society dominated by physically superior, disease-resistant "valids."

    CONS: As is too often the case, the "haves" in Gattaca use their advantages to malign and suppress the so-called "have-nots." Those without the money to afford the expensive genetic screening processes or who choose to forego it and have a "faith baby" find that their child's future options are limited. Society has become stratified into a two-class system that heavily favors the "less risky" valids over the potentially disease-prone "in-valids," who find themselves relegated permanently to the lower class, where opportunities are severely restricted. Unlike perhaps any other sort of class system before it, Gattaca's gene-based class system presents a nearly insurmountable obstacle for advancement and growth for those with natural DNA. The in-valid population is the society's permanent lower class, discriminated against and even persecuted from birth, solely for being born naturally.

    • Actors: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Gore Vidal, Alan Arkin
    • Released: 1997
    • Directed by: Andrew Niccol

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    The Ocular Implants And Global Neural Network In 'Anon'

    The Ocular Implants And Global Neural Network In 'Anon'
    Photo: Netflix

    PROS: If you've ever had your hard drive crash or lost your phone before you could sync your data, you know how devastating it can be to lose your important photos and videos. Those worries are a thing of the past in Anon. In the movie, everyone has advanced tech implanted in their eyes during infancy. The ocular implants record and store everything a person sees for the rest of their life, as well as provide a heads-up display (HUD) that provides information about who and what they are seeing. The technology is not only used for personal use and for advertising, but also by law enforcement. When a crime is committed, the authorities review the ocular records of victims, witnesses, and suspects to piece together exactly what happened and who is guilty of the crime.

    CONS: Unfortunately, those who prefer to stay au naturale for personal or religious reasons are out of luck in Anon: Ocular implants are mandatory. As if the required eye surgery isn't bad enough, the HUDs bombard users with advertising messages constantly, as well as details about everyone you see. As for privacy, there no longer is any, and not just for those who engage in illicit activities: The most intimate details of everyone's lives are available for review by the authorities. And, of course, no system or technology is perfect or safe from hacking. Detective Sal Friedland (Clive Owen) encounters just such a flaw in the system in the form of a mysterious woman known only as "the Girl" (Amanda Seyfried), who offers no details about herself to his HUD. During his investigation, Sal finds that the Girl was able to hack the implants of anyone who saw her in real time to delete all traces of her existence. Effectively invisible, the Girl could get away with murder, literally, as there is no digital trace of her to be found or any information about who she is. Taken even further, it's conceivable that the ocular hack could be used for all manner of nefarious purposes, like convincing potential victims that the intruder entering their house is a loved one or that it's safe to cross a busy street when it isn't.

    • Actors: Clive Owen, Amanda Seyfried, Colm Feore, Sonya Walger, Mark O'Brien
    • Released: 2018
    • Directed by: Andrew Niccol
  • The Self-Aware Artificially Intelligent Gynoids In 'Ex Machina'
    Photo: A24

    PROS: Finding a meaningful connection is hard for many people, even with the proliferation of singles mixers, professional matchmakers, and dating apps. But those lonely souls who also happen to be incredibly wealthy will never have to feel the bitter sting of rejection again once tech billionaire Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) perfects Ava (Alicia Vikander), his most advanced artificially intelligent, fully sentient gynoid (female robot) prototype. Virtually indistinguishable from human women, Bateman's gynoids are developed to be the perfect companions. In addition to providing stimulating conversation and even emotional support, the gynoids can be tailor-made to physically resemble whatever body type or ethnicity is desired, and are even capable of engaging in, and perhaps enjoying, intimate physical contact. Additionally, Bateman's gynoids are immune to human failings like illness, disease, and old age, so they can be perpetually beautiful, lifelong companions.

    CONS: Bateman's genius and obsession with perfection results in the breakthrough AI that allows the gynoids to develop and react with complex, human-like emotions. Ava's personality is so complex that she is able to pass complex psychological tests designed to identify sentients from non-sentients and use her skills to manipulate human beings. Realizing she is nothing more than a sex puppet to Bateman, Ava "feels" sadness, fear, and rage, and is smart enough to prey on the emotions of humans to manipulate herself out of her "captivity." If Ava models went into large-scale production, there's no doubt that other gynoids would ultimately reject the domestic or companionship roles for which they were purchased and turn on their owners in much the same way she did.

    • Actors: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander, Sonoya Mizuno, Claire Selby
    • Released: 2014
    • Directed by: Alex Garland

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  • The Self-Replicating Nanite Brain-Linking In 'Gamer'
    Photo: Lionsgate

    PROS: As early as Maze War in 1973, programmers have attempted to make video games more immersive by changing the player's perspective of the action. Today, first-person shooters (FPS) are expansive, hyper-realistic, and very, very lucrative properties. But even the latest 4K Ultra HD virtual reality games pale in comparison to the gaming experience in Gamer. Gamer Simon Silverton (Logan Lerman) doesn't just manipulate a virtual digital character with a keyboard or controller when he plays the popular "life simulation game," Slayers, he controls a real human being with his mind. Like so many other gamers who play Slayers, Simon uses the self-replicating nanite technology in his brain known as "Nanex" to physically control the body of his character avatar, convicted felon John "Kable" Tillman (Gerard Butler). By pitting Kable against other living avatars in lethal combat, Simon experiences all of the action, all of the trauma, from his avatar's perspective, the ultimate first-person shooter experience.

    CONS: Instead of open-sourcing his technology so it could be used to develop cures for degenerative disorders and other conditions that afflict the brain, developer Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) uses Nanex to make video games and become obscenely rich. Society was his first life simulation game and, though players around the world became addicted to it, at least the human beings playing the character avatars were paid actors. His follow-up, Slayers, is a far more insidious game, with far more serious consequences. The player characters are desperate death row convicts who have given up their physical autonomy for a chance to vacate their sentences by winning 30 games in a row. As bad as that system is, Castle has even more nefarious plans for the technology: He has built up an immunity to Nanex himself by replacing more and more of his brain with the technology and plans to weaponize airborne nanites to take over the minds of the entire human race.

    • Actors: Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall, Amber Valletta, Logan Lerman, Terry Crews
    • Released: 2009
    • Directed by: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor

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