27 Feb 2019

Five terrible tech trends you need to know about

Written by Kristian Rusten

Technology dominates modern life – computers, phones, tablets, the internet. We have fridges that connect to Wi-Fi and apps for the aircon. Tech’s grip on our lives is overwhelming, and tightening everyday.

But we know that our electronics can drain more than a battery. So let’s look at five of the worst trends in technology – and what, if anything, we can do about them.

Constant Connectivity

With every technological innovation, the disconnected part of our lives shrinks further.

That sentence might trigger a nauseating reminder of unanswered work emails, but the problem runs deeper. Even having a device to check could be wreaking havoc on your attention span.

Thankfully we can fight back with nothing more than a swift flick of the wrist: by unplugging the internet or turning off the phone. There are also apps designed to help us focus on one task at a time and others to encourage self-control when faced with distraction.

This way you’ll have fewer barriers to doing what you really need to do. You might also find you feel less compelled to check your phone.

Data Hoarding

Data hoarding is the collection and storage of as much information as possible. Data can offer big opportunities, so the urge to save as much as possible is understandable. But the risks are big, too, and growing all the time.

Poor data security can lead to huge breaches, with consequences for individuals and businesses alike. As we collect more data, the consequences get worse.

It would be wise to restrict the information you provide online as much as you can. And if you want to step up a level, start using a VPN and stop using location services.

If you’re worried your personal information has been compromised, you can check your various online accounts here.

The Corruption of Information

The internet was once celebrated as a breakthrough in the free exchange of information. But now it all looks very bleak.

Google’s move to comply with Chinese government censorship is like hammering nails into the coffin of a technological dream. But even in democratic societies, many see tech becoming less a boon and more a bane for enlightenment.

Twitter has been criticised as a safe haven for abuse and hatred. The rise of ‘fake news’ has sewn distrust in our sources of information. More than ever, our ability to distinguish the trustworthy from the deceitful is being tested.

To face the threat technology poses to reliable information, we need drastic changes. We need new legislation and regulations. We need to change how we consume content online. The size of that challenge means this trend won’t start reversing any time soon.

Augmented Reality (AR) Dysmorphia

We’ve used tech to change the way people look for a long time.

Now AR-ready apps like Snapchat and TikTok let you change the way you look in real-time, through your phone. You can apply a funny filter for a special occasion, give yourself bigger eyes and clearer skin, or even change the shape of your face entirely.

While this can be fun, there’s a flipside. We know social media can have a profound impact on mental health, but AR apps have pushed people as far as getting surgery to look like their selfies.

AR has the potential to take our dissatisfaction with reality to new extremes. This is only the beginning, and it’s difficult to see a way to deal with the consequences, especially for young people. Worse could be lurking over the horizon.

Social Credit Systems

There’s an even more disturbing trend in ‘social’ tech.

China’s ‘social credit’ system, a massive surveillance program which would record everything an individual does and assigns them a score, caused uproar a few months ago. Based on their score, individuals would receive benefits or punishments. It sounds like the realisation of George Orwell’s worst nightmare.

Although the program was actually much more limited than first thought, the trend is clear: technology is developing at such a pace that the idea of an all-encompassing spy-net is no longer the stuff of dystopian novels; it’s a real problem.

Maybe the most terrifying thing about technology is its limitless potential, and the fact that we never really know what’s coming next.

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Kristian Rusten

About Kristian Rusten

After spending two years working with Amnesty International in New Zealand, Kristian Rusten worked as a refugee caseworker in Greece and now lives in Paris, while writing, freelancing and volunteering.

View all posts by Kristian Rusten