Various studies have shown that some technology trends may shift over time. What was accept- able decades ago can seem decidedly less so when viewed through modern eyes. This does not just apply to social attitudes, it also applies to technologies. Below are eight technologies with the potential to trigger regret years to come:
An electronic cigarette or e-cigarette is a handheld electronic device that simulates the feeling of tobacco smoking. It works by heating a liquid to generate an aerosol, commonly called a “vapour”, that the user inhales. Using e-cigarettes is commonly referred to as vaping. The liquid in the e-cigarette, called e-liquid, or e-juice, is usually made of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine, and flavourings. Not all e-liquids contain nicotine.
Is vaping going to turn out to be more dangerous than we currently think? While some research has reported that they are considerably safer than tobacco cigarettes, the fact remains that e-cigarettes are still new enough that we don’t conclusively know how they will affect our health in the long term.
One alarming study from researchers at the University of Connecticut claims that vaping using a device filled with nicotine-based liquid may cause just as much DNA damage as smoking regular cigarettes.
Another study, led by researchers the University of Rochester Medical Center, suggests that some of the chemicals and liquids used to add flavoring may be a health risk.
Overuse of screens
This is one of those areas where there simply haven’t yet been enough longitudinal studies to figure out the effects. Here in 2018, a growing number of people are worried about smartphone addiction, particularly among younger people.
Concerns include the fact that digital media use is decreasing the time we spend socialising with people face-to-face; that it
interferes with sleep; and that the pervasiveness of social media is correlated with rising rates of depression.
Simple technophobia on the part of the older generation or something far more serious? We’d sure like to know.
Whether it is the intelligent Google Home, the cute Amazon Echo Spot or the great-sounding Apple Home-Pod, we’re suckers for a good smart speaker. But will we turn out to have been the worst kind of suckers?
The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal involving Facebook highlighted just how many people have no idea about the way that certain tech giants harvest and monetize user data. As smart speakers continue to get smarter (a rumored Facebook speaker is alleged to include facial recognition tech), there’s a chance we’ll one day regret our willingness to bring “always listening” (and, potentially, “always watching”) devices into our homes.
In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the government forced people to install these devices. In 2018, we willingly buy them for ourselves!
There’s a scene in the excellent AMC series “Mad Men” in which the Draper family end a countryside picnic by simply shaking out their trash on the ground. It’s both shocking and archly funny because it shows absolutely no concern for the environment, and reminds us of how much our attitudes have changed in just a short space of time.
No doubt, one day we’ll look back on e-waste in much the same way. Each year, up to 50 million metric tons of electronic waste is disposed of. Companies like Apple push their environmental credentials, but have no problem also making devices which can’t be easily repaired, based on a business model that pushes users to constantly upgrade their hardware.
They are even willing to shell out money to fight “right to repair” bills. We can’t see that decision finding companies like this on the right side of history.
No, bitcoin enthusiasts: we’re not suggesting that a decentralized peer-to-peer payment solution is a bad thing. While there’s a definite argument to be made
about the short term risks of a cryptocurrency bubble, we absolutely think the technology will pay off (figuratively and literally) in the long term.
The part we totally worry the people of 2048 will frown upon, though? The fact that cryptocurrency operations consume bonkers amounts of electricity. According to one study, bitcoin alone is on pace to use upwards of 42TWh of electricity this year: more than countries like New Zealand and Hungary.
In terms of CO2 emissions, that’s the equivalent of 20 megatons – or approximately 1 million transatlantic flights. Not good news!
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
A.I., or so certain people are fond of saying, could be either our best or worst invention. There are numerous possible threats artificial intelligence may pose in the coming decades. These range from mass unemployment to the existential threat of superintelligence.
Even though we’re still nowhere near replicating true general intelligence inside a machine, creating robust regulatory and ethical frameworks for these areas is something we totally need to be considering. Our future selves will certainly thank us for it!
Destroying our high streets
This one’s difficult. On the one hand, a high street that’s full of thriving local stores, instead of empty shopfronts and payday loan sharks, is good for community spirit and making a neighborhood enjoyable to live in. On the other hand, who can resist a bargain offered by e-commerce companies like the almighty Amazon?
Add drone delivery, subscription boxes, and the plethora of streaming services out there and it’s easy to fear what our high streets might look like 30 years from now. If we want the neighborhood of the future not to look like some post-apocalyptic wasteland you may want to act now!
Drones and flying cars
They’re the dream of science fiction writers everywhere, but what’s the future going to look like if drones and flying cars (no pun intended) take off as expected?
While it’s hard not to get excited about the possibility of flying to work like a character in The Jetsons, it seems that there’s a whole lot that can go wrong in this domain as well. Dealing with bad pre-coffee drivers on the commute to work is bad enough when you’re on the ground; let alone hundreds of feet in the air.