10 Tech Innovations That Made Everything Worse
Technology is meant to make our lives better. And yet, some technological advancements have actually made the world worse. It could be the environmental toll, a shift in the industry or economy, or a plain old epic fail. Some technology can forever change how we see the world. But what are developments in technology that have actually made everything worse? MIT Technology Review recently published its list of the worst tech innovations of the 21st Century.
Some technology has shifted our market forever. This deep dive into technological tragedies will snag a few examples from the MIT list. But it will also explore some other, and potentially controversial, technological advancements that in some way have made the world worse. Some were too early for the market. Some were a product without a customer and others created more problems than they solved.
1. Innovation: Segway
How it made everything worse: The segway wasn’t a huge win for its creators. It wasn’t as widely adopted. It also did not decrease our reliance on cars. It certainly did not help with climate change. What it did do was introduce a niche in the market for high-cost people movers. After segways, came hoverboards with problematic batteries and a heightened potential for injury. While not a huge win it also helped make room for app-based scooters. Why pay X amount for a pricey scooter when you can just rent one and leave it in the middle of the street for people to trip over. While, yes, app-based scooters and bikes may have reduced some driving and made travel more accessible. It has created an urban menace. Tons of random uninsured people riding scooters on city streets then leaving them with a potential for annoying accidents and pedestrian run-ins. And all this due, in some part, to the segway.
2. Innovation: Ride-Sharing Apps
How it made everything worse: This may be a controversial pick. The world has forever been changed by ride-sharing apps. They made it affordable for people to get places without relying on public transportation or pricey cabs. Ride-sharing apps made it so much easier to get around. So why is that bad? Well, where did the costs of maintaining the vehicle, security, insurance, and the vetting of drivers go? They fell to drivers and passengers.
Now drivers seeking quick cash are putting wear and tear on their own vehicles. Unlike cabs which are regulated by a city or a local business, drivers and passengers are relying solely on an app. This has led to drivers having to record their passengers or people having to pull out a cell phone mid-skirmish because of personal conflicts or a lack of regulation.
This has also shifted entire industries. Now there’s an entire gig economy of people seeking to live on income from jobs they wouldn’t have sought out before. People are trying to make a livable wage by driving cabs, delivering food, and performing small tasks. And yet, these are positions they would not interview for or are careers they’re interested in pursuing. An app promises flexibility and cash but when you factor in gas, taxes, depreciation of your vehicle, paying for your own health insurance you may not be netting as much as you would from a full or part-time job. States like California have even started cracking down with regulations to try and limit these businesses. We now live in a gig economy and only time will tell if that’s better, but for some, it feels worse.
3. Innovation: Google Glass
How it made everything worse: Google Glass was an epic fail. It seemed like it might offer users the James Bond fantasy of easy Internet access and a cool device. And yet, it mostly just created really pricey e-waste. E-waste takes its toll on the environment. But Google Glass also created a market for overly pricey gadgets. It also shifted the market. Now companies can try to get a larger price point for gadgets. That’s not so bad. But think about the fact that now some iPhones are fetching a four-figure price point.
4. Innovation: Mobile Internet
How it made everything worse: How can having unlimited access to the Internet have made everything worse? In countless ways! Think about how much time people spend staring at screens. While this has helped give us access to more information we haven’t become more educated. You did not learn Japanese or come to a deeper understanding of physics. Instead, you rely more on your phone for information. Now, if you don’t know something you just Google it. You have no excuse to not be available to respond to an email. People have become less inclined to retain information. The increase in mobile use has led to more traffic accidents, a rise in eye strain and visual impairment, increased brain activity, and more. Not to mention the mobile Internet has increased the ways cybercriminals can access our personal information and secured accounts. All the while people are glued to their phones.
5. Innovation: Data Trafficking
How it made everything worse: It stands to reason that social media networks and free websites would have to find some way to make money. But using the personal data of its users crossed into interesting territory. Now if you visit 10 websites each site may only pluck one piece of data on you. But that can be pieced together by third parties to get way more information than you intend. Not to mention, data trafficking has shifted the Internet. Now there’s constant tracking and potential manipulation of you by ad companies. You Google something suddenly you’re inundated with ads for that product. It just might be because a third party has your info and Plus, the use of your information in this way can border on violating your personal privacy and your civil rights.
6. Innovation: Streaming Services
How it made everything worse: Now streaming services are great. Netflix began as an alternative way to rent movies by mail. Then they evolved into a streaming service that was just a fraction of what we have now. Now, we can have all of our favorite movies and series right at our fingertips. But now the streaming wars are in full effect. It seems like anyone with a property wants to create a streaming service with exclusive content to replicate Netflix’s success. So rather than have cable just get 12 streaming services which essentially is just cable.
7. Innovation: Coffee Pods
How it made everything worse: There was a time when a cup of coffee would cost you 50 cents. Now a coffee could cost you upwards of 5 dollars. The solution was to make it easier to make coffee at home. But the introduction of coffee pods only increased the amount of waste in the coffee industry. Also, if you do not have a pod machine you can’t possibly use these pods to make coffee. There was a time when Americans used coffee in a can. Then they’d often reuse those cans for storage. Now, instead, there are tons of plastic pods creating more damage to the environment. And yet, it’s not driven down the price of a coffee or eliminated any expenses for the consumer. So while simplifying how we make coffee is great. This shift in the coffee market has done more harm than good.
8. Innovation: E-Cigarettes and Vapes
How it made everything worse: Smoking is bad for you. The solution was to introduce e-cigarettes and vapes. All of the addictive chemicals with none of the natural ingredients. The medical industry is still not a hundred percent clear on the toll of long-term vaping. It also has created a lot more “smokers” like young teens who are likely to be turned onto the vice with fun flavors. Only time will tell the damage that this innovation will have on the next generation. But, spoiler alert, it’s not in the win column.
9. Innovation: Fast Fashion
How it made everything worse: Fast fashion is a problematic trifecta. You have the environmental toll, the labor issues, and the complete paradigm shift to how we view clothing. Fast fashion is the term for clothing that is made cheaply and quickly to meet the high demand. Now, a designer shirt can find itself knocked off by a few brands and in stores right after people see it on the runway. But rather than made from luxury or durable fabrics it’s made from non-biodegradable materials. So now people are buying more clothes that are more cheaply made, and making more trash. Not to mention, the manufacture of fast fashion is bad for the environment in its use of highly toxic chemicals. To add insult to injury, many of the people making fast fashion are not being paid fair wages. The gift that keeps on giving to the world around us. Clothing that’s not designed, made from toxic materials that are bad for the environment in unsafe or horrible conditions.
10. Innovation: Selfie Sticks
How it made everything worse: This was just a silly invention that made for better photos. But it did create a huge shift in the Internet. Suddenly, these obnoxious cumbersome sticks shifted what was possible for selfies. And a whole fake culture was born. Selfie sticks helped, in part, to create the fake lives people present on social media. Now, people will just blindly consume beautiful content rather than ask, “How did they take that photo?” Arguably, selfie sticks put a premium on what kind of photos you take. And that shifted the entire way we look at how we present our lives online. People have even died. A 2018 report showed that there had been 259 selfie-related deaths worldwide from 2011 to 2017.
These are just a few inventions and “advancements” that took society back. Whether they failed to deliver on the social change they promised or they introduced whole other problems, they’ve made things, to some degree, worse. Some are technological advancements that shifted how we look at the things that matter to us. And some, are just signs that maybe we are at the end of days. But it just goes to show you that not every new technological advancement actually advances society.
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