5 new tech ideas that will scare you silly. Or not

Read the “Drones” one… “The upside is far too strong”

May 20, 2013

1. 3-D printers

Why you might be scared: Now that we can just print guns, they’ll be raining down like biblical frogs in no time. In fact, more than 100,000 gun-printing blueprints were already downloaded earlier this month. Innocents will be gunned down in theaters. Grammar schools will no longer be safe. Nuclear bombs will be faxed like resumes between warring countries, and the world will implode in a wave of violence before you can spell Xerox.

Why you shouldn’t be: Don’t we already have (most of) that? Will the availability of these guns move the marker on shootings? Maybe, but it’s not like lack of availability is much of an obstacle now. It’s still a whole lot easier, safer and more affordable to waltz down the street and pick up your very own metal gun than it is to pay $8,000 for a machine to print a sketchy plastic one. That’s not going to be changing anytime soon.

2. Self-driving cars

Why you might be scared: Computer glitch, the brakes go out, the steering override fails, you Thelma and Louise your way off a cliff leaving a trail of squashed pets and old ladies in your wake. Handing over the reins to a computer and going 65 m.p.h. will be hard for just about everybody.

Why you shouldn’t be: The technology is already here for cars to park themselves and even navigate tracks. It’s just a matter of time before this reaches widespread adoption, and we can finally enjoy coffee, newspaper and a morning commute that moves in perfect harmony. As for the fears of mounting accidents, for every malfunctioning cyberchauffeur, there are thousands of humans who have no business being behind the wheel.

3. Drones

Why you might be scared: As Americans, we’ve been on the outside looking in to drone attacks from the safety of our living rooms. But, eventually, the bad guys (or even our neighbors) are going to get them, and when they’re not blowing us up or showering our children with chemical weapons, they’ll be perving out on us in the bathroom. And just wait until they inevitably become self-aware and reproduce.

Why you shouldn’t be: Let’s not fixate too much on the carnage and privacy concerns. The upside is far too strong. Good drones will make thugs easier to catch, farms more profitable and deliveries more timely. Patrolling drones will also help stop the poaching of endangered species. Need a bucket of chicken and some gravy, stat? The Colonel-copter will be at your door in no time. Embrace the drone.

4. The Hadron Collider

Why you might be scared: For some reason, the idea of smashing protons together at light speed, thereby creating a black hole capable of devouring the world as we know it, frightens some people. Even if it means unlocking the mysteries of space and time. Then there’s the wormhole theory in which aliens invade us through some sort of star gate.

Why you shouldn’t be: The brainy debunkers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research were quick to reject such theories, and it’s been open since 2008. We’re still here, aren’t we? And it’s a good thing, as potential discoveries from the collider, aside from those aliens, range from a cure for cancer to the discovery of the God particle.

5. Google Glass

Why you might be scared: Hi, I’m a mental patient and I’ll be chatting with me eyewear: “Hey Glass, take a video. Vine it. Facebook. Like.” Yes, the complete and utter dork-ification of society is upon us, but that’s a minor quibble. The real issues freaking people out are more about privacy and distraction. The last thing we need is another lens with which Google /quotes/zigman/93888/quotes/nls/goog GOOG +0.27% can peer into our lives. And lord help each and every one of us if this ushers in a new era of wearable technology.


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