Often, technology is a wonderful thing, bringing us information, making us safer, and providing endless amusement. The inventions we create serve as our most lasting testament to the grand tradition of changing our environment to suit our needs. Technology is, in that sense, a large portion of what makes us human. Consequently, it also can be a real bastard—the kind that lures you in with slick promises of a better, more convenient future, only to bring about the dreaded Big Brother, or the apocalypse, or some incurable sickness, or some such other horrifying nonsense. This, of course, is not the fault of the technology itself, but rather the people behind the circuit boards. Inarguably technology has evolved faster than our own morality and good sense. While the intentions may be good and the technology awesome, some tech takes a while to get comfortable with. Here’s what’s got us terrified in 2012:
3-D Drug Printers
3-D printers have been around for several years now, and DIY geeks have taken to their construction quite quickly. University of Glasgow Professor Lee Cronin’s 3-D printer, however, is a bit more complicated. Able to print drugs tailored to the specific user, Cronin’s printer is essentially a high-tech version of the laser jets we’re all so familiar with, albeit with the ink and paper replaced by precursor chemicals and digital blueprints. Fantastic news, right? This could bring about the end of the pharmaceutical industry as we know it and finally make medication more readily available. But it doesn’t take a DEA agent to see the potential for abuse on this one: Would-be Walter Whites cooking up their own super-meth at pennies on the dollar, bad batches of meds with unintended consequences from amateur chemists, counterfeiting—the list goes on. Bath salts, it seems, could be the least of our worries.
Crazy-Thorough Molecular-Level Scanners
Invented by Genia Photonics and funded by the CIA’s In-Q-Tel investment firm, the Picosecond Programmable Laser is capable of analyzing your entire body from more than 160 feet away. It can tell every physical thing about you, from your body’s adrenaline level to what you had for breakfast—it can even find down to the smallest crumb of pot or chemical residue stuck to your clothing. And it’s completely portable, allowing surreptitious conglomerates to monitor the bodies of entire populations. Combine this with the fingerprint scanner that can snag prints from 20 feet away and you’ve got yourself a recipe for enslavement. But let’s hope those things are for stopping terrorism.
Glowing Red Modified Mosquitos
In what appears to be the start to a bad-good horror movie, scientists at spooky-sounding British biotech firm Oxitec have successfully created crops of mutant mosquitoes that may soon be released into the Florida Keys as a way to combat disease (but not if residents have anything to say about it). Their primary purpose is to produce offspring that can’t survive long enough to mature into feeding on human blood, but they also tend to glow red under a microscope, so the creepiness factors outweighs much of that comfort. Mosquitoes are bad enough without tampering with their genetics, lest we create some kind of (even more) mutated, vulture-sized super-sucker or ultra-efficient rage virus carrier. Maybe put this one on the scientific back burner until we understand that “circle of life” thing a little more. Or at least don’t, you know, unleash these things on a town without some consideration.
Artificial Intelligence is inherently pretty unnerving. Think of it like this: Take human logic and the ability to learn independently, but remove elements like morality, conscience, societal pressures and empathy. Only logic remains. As if that notion isn’t unsettling enough, designers James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau recently decided to throw in the ability to track, kill and digest for energy common household insects and rodents. The result is five different robots designed with the sole purpose of killing and “eating” living things, including the Coffee Table Robot, which essentially is a large, mechanical trapdoor spider. And they want these things in people’s homes. This coupled with Google’s recent breakthrough with AI learning to identify cats independently ought to worry any pest-averse pet owner. At least they’ll combat those rage-inducing mosquitoes.