Luddites

Who would have thought that the otherwise respectable MIT Technology Review would have an infestation of Luddites. Yet the evidence to plain to see.  In a feature called The 10 worst technologies of the 21st century they offer up the following list:

Segway – okay massively over-hyped, but worst?

Google Glass – premature.

Electronic voting – not only is this the future but it will overtake the current “cutting edge 18th century technology” that we currently employ (so-called “representative” democracy).

One Laptop per Child – well yes. A failed political program, but not a bad technology per se.  Yes politicians and some educators try to get technology to substitute for pedagogy but that is a not a technology problem.

CRISPR babies – fascinating ethical problems.

Data trafficking – embryonic market being formed here. I’ll be having more to say on this topic over the next few months.

Cryptocurrency – unfair. This is a use case of a far more interesting technology.

e-cigarettes – this depends on your point of view. If you are a nanny-stater health-nazi then yes. If you are a smoker wanting to consume nicotine with a safer delivery mechanism then no.

Plastic coffee pods – for shame editors of the MIT Technology Review.

Selfie sticks – as a connoisseur of the selfie (as my Facebook friends know) and the proud owner of selfie sticks I have to completely disagree with their view here.

To be fair to the editors of the MIT Technology Review their argument is that it is quite difficult to come up with a list of “bad” technology – how do you decide? Fair enough (yet they managed to overlook nuclear weapons).

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35 Responses to Luddites

  1. bespoke

    as a connoisseur of the selfie

    Why? I can understand photos of people with things in the background but some goofy head with a creepy expression obscuring everything, No. Just stay home and look in the mirror and stop getting in normal peoples way.

  2. Perfidious Albino

    Sinc – could you argue nuclear weapons are also just the use case of a far more interesting technology?

  3. pete m

    1. social media
    2. landmines
    3. hybrid cars
    4. cloning
    5. production of viral menaces
    6. lawnmower – sheep goats easy
    7. universities
    8. cctvs
    9. speed cameras
    10. instant coffee

  4. Tel

    After many years working in software … I don’t trust the online security of electronic voting: there’s no known process of verification and we have coincidence of huge incentive and well known opportunities. I would be very surprised if existing electronic voting systems have not been hacked already, but proving voter fraud is notoriously difficult and people will stare you in the face and say it never happened. With an electronic record as your only record you literally can edit the past.

    That said … there’s known problems with paper ballots too. Some of this could be fixed by tightening up voter ID. Under the current system anyone who knows your name and address can steal your vote (just open someone’s mailbox, scribble down some details, wake up early the day of the election and congratulation you got an extra vote). You can also vote often, and then claim it wasn’t you since the lack of voter ID is so open for others to abuse. These problems could be fixed if anyone wanted to do it … which leads one to conclude most people don’t care. We don’t even have good reports on how often irregularities come along.

    On that note … we have bigger problems. Most people don’t understand our current preference system and how it works (not helped by the stupid journalists pretending that the party gives away your preferences), and to ad insult to injury the system is a moving target, and different between states, different again at the national level. Many people can’t even tell you the name of their candidates, nor what they stand for in terms of policy. Then there’s the Peter Garrett rule: “Once we get in we’ll just change it all.”

    Yes, paper elections are expensive, but shit there must be a lot of other places to save money, don’t make me laugh arguing that the politicians care about spending too much. They pay each other a bonus for every first preference vote … cut that to start with.

  5. duncanm

    By their (own stated) reasoning, they’re identifying failed products, not failed technologies.

  6. Perfidious Albino

    +1 Tel, ink dipped fingers would work for me too.

  7. RobK

     The 10 worst technologies of the 21st century 
    This is problematic on a few levels.
    1) compared to picking the best; which can be determined by utility and popularity, the worst may simply be underdeveloped. Especially since….
    2) the 21 Century is but a pup.
    3) the benefit of hindsight increases after a longer period has elapsed, such that otherwise unforseen elements have made their mark.
    4) In a related manner, incremental improvements stand on the shoulders of past ideas, which can become transformative.

  8. Tel

    +1 Tel, ink dipped fingers would work for me too.

    I’m a fan of lo-tech hi-tech but with early voting available, the ink approach would be difficult.

    Possibly start by having an electronic check-off system installed at the booths instead of the paper books, but keep the ballots in the traditional form. That way you have an identical process with a touch of streamlining and you give something for people like Sinc to occupy themselves wit da progress n at. Since it’s only a check-off system it won’t make as much of a valuable target and anyway it won’t be open to the general public, only installed on locked down laptops with central management.

  9. RobK

    Regarding nuclear weapons; the fact that they havent been used is their usefulness. Arguably, it has set an upper limit, for the time being, for industrial military might, at least in some circles. Other forms of subjugation of course develop.

  10. RobK

    Oops, havent been used more often.

  11. Bela Bartok

    I’m going to be controversial:
    – IVF – clever, not wise. Corollary: if we can make them, we can kill them; ala Frankenstein
    – ‘smart’ phones – that log all details about you (privacy) and have shown how cow-like the populace is (just go on a train to see what I mean), which will have a hugely deleterious impact on our lives, and our kids are becoming slaves to them, lost in the solipsistic environment
    – face recognition software
    – DNA manipulation/coding: Gattaca here we come.

    That’s a starter for 10

  12. jupes

    I’ll give you five:

    Wind turbines,
    Solar panels,
    Wave generators,
    Geothermal generators, and
    Pumping water back up the hill to pretend it’s a fucking battery.

  13. Eyrie

    Nuclear weapons are good unless you have a hankering to be an infantryman in a large scale live re-enactment of WW2.

  14. Eyrie

    MIT Technology review is run by bleeding heart leftist believers in AGW. Write that institution off.

  15. Pyrmonter

    Coffee pods are anathema. The Doomlord needs more attentive minions (and to explore the thickets of excellent coffee in North Melbourne) if he can’t discern this.

  16. RobK

    From Wikipedia;

    Segway’s first patent was filed in 1994 and granted in 1997[2] followed by others[3] including one submitted in June 1999 and granted in October 2001.[4]

    Very 20th C.

  17. Bruce of Newcastle

    1. Wind turbines
    2. Solar panels
    3. Solar thermal plants
    4. Wave energy wrecks
    5. Teslas
    6. Electric trams (see Newcastle)
    7. GetUp
    8. Smoking Ceremonies
    9. Safe Schools
    10. Malcolm Turnbull

  18. RobK

    Dont forget refrigerators connected to the internet.
    A real winner.

  19. Pyrmonter

    [Segways are fun after a fashion. I did a tour of Paris on one in 2004 – fun to herb around the Champs de Mars (aside from nearly taking out a 3yo) – but a bit of a waste of the opportunity for a good walk]

  20. Leo G

    Electronic voting … will overtake the current “cutting edge 18th century technology” …

    Democracy does appear to be heading the way of the de rigueur smartphone guillotine.

  21. Mark A

    jupes
    #2958029, posted on March 14, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    I’ll give you five:

    Wind turbines,
    Solar panels,
    Wave generators,
    Geothermal generators, and
    Pumping water back up the hill to pretend it’s a fucking battery.

    Geo generators work very well where there is a sustained, constant, reliable geothermal activity close to the surface like in Iceland or NZ.

    It would work with hot rocks too if we could open a large enough shaft to get to it. Boreholes will never work, too many restrictions and narrow access to the rocks.

    The other 4 are ancient tech. with current flavor.
    You’d have to ask why they were abandoned at even the infancy of steam?

  22. Bear Necessities

    Stand up urinals for women. I thought that would be a winner but alas no takers.

  23. duncanm

    RobK
    #2958061, posted on March 14, 2019 at 2:39 pm
    Dont forget refrigerators connected to the internet.
    A real winner.

    old school.

    These days, its light bulbs.

  24. Mother Lode

    If you are a smoker wanting to consume nicotine with a safer delivery mechanism then no.

    I think e-cigarettes are a great technology. They don’t smell as bad as cigarettes. Healthier for the e-smoker too.

    Of course, I never considered it an option to ban people from doing something because I don’t enjoy the smell of the occasional wafts I get.

    Any chance this technology could be adapted to create e-armpits for people whose axillae propel out wave after wave of acrid noxious fumes. Especially taxi drivers.

  25. In a feature called The 10 worst technologies of the 21st century they offer up the following list:

    Sinc responds…

    how do you decide? Fair enough (yet they managed to overlook nuclear weapons).

    I knew history books were bunkum. All these years I was led to believe nukilar was invented in the first half of the 20th Century.
    Hiroshima and Nagasaki must have been conspiracy theories, just like Chernoble, 9/11 and chem trails.

    It’s those damned Perfessers who write them books. Never trust a Perfesser, especially a humanities Perfesser.

  26. Merry Poster

    Electronic voting – not only is this the future but it will overtake the current “cutting edge 18th century technology” that we currently employ (so-called “representative” democracy).

    Direct democracy will finally give us real democracy. No political class with their snouts in their trough while they pretend to represent us. The people get to decide their own fate for once.

  27. Frank

    Electronic voting – not only is this the future but it will overtake the current “cutting edge 18th century technology” that we currently employ (so-called “representative” democracy).

    This guy gives a pretty convincing take on why electronic voting is not such a good idea.

  28. Richard Bender

    Nuclear weapons ended the war in the Pacific and pretty much guaranteed there would never be a third world war, so not such a poor technology.

  29. Arky

    Regarding nuclear weapons; the fact that they havent been used is their usefulness. Arguably, it has set an upper limit, for the time being, for industrial military might, at least in some circles. Other forms of subjugation of course develop.

    ..
    Nukes have possibly saved more lives than any other invention.
    If the Soviets could have rolled through Europe because there were no nukes to deter them, WWIII would have made the previous two world wars combined look like a Sunday picnic.

  30. Sinclair Davidson

    Hmmmmmmm. I think are quibbling about the difference between a 21 century technology and a technology invented in the 21 century. True nuclear weapons were invented in the 20 century. So too Segway. Selfies are an even older thing.

    Given that we’re all quibbling and splitting hairs, atom bombs ended the war in the Pacific. Nuclear weapons came later.

  31. Fat Tony

    Sinclair Davidson
    #2958492, posted on March 14, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    Given that we’re all quibbling and splitting hairs, atom bombs ended the war in the Pacific. Nuclear weapons came later.

    Ok Sinc, I’ll bite. Why isn’t an atom bomb (Hiroshima & Nagasaki) a nuclear weapon?
    And please give an answer a mechanical engineer would understand.

  32. will

    Given that we’re all quibbling and splitting hairs, atom bombs ended the war in the Pacific. Nuclear weapons came later.

    Umm, can we make a clear distinction between nuclear weapons, and thermonuclear weapons? Please.

  33. Sinclair Davidson

    something about fission and fusion – heavy atom get broken v lighter atoms collide.

  34. Rafe Champion

    Considering the damage to wallets inflicted by smoking cigarettes, esp given the prevalence of smoking among the poor plus the damage to health, vaping would be a contender for the top ten of desirable technologies. It takes a very special kind of regulatory and totalitarian mind to object to vaping.

  35. Fat Tony

    Nuclear refers to the nucleus for the reaction, whether fusion or fission, as opposed to conventional explosives which rely on chemical processes – the electrons/outer non-nuclear part of the atom.

    And so-called hydrogen bombs are actually fission-fusion-fission.

    A “small” fission bomb for the detonator, which starts the fusion process whose heat and pressure “ignites” the bomb case of ordinary uranium (U238). This fission of the case generally provides about the same power as the fusion part.

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