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Machines Behaving Deadly

Illustration for article titled Machines Behaving Deadly

The printers. A paper jam can be annoying. But one day, they're going to kill us all. More

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I'm talking about all machines, even the innocuous ones. The new Terminator is coming out this week. People think about that movie, and they laugh, or they get scared, thinking "this will happen one day" or "no way this is not the future." I think there's a third alternative: that our control over our tools is already starting to unfurl.

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In our military, dumb robots designed to kill are killing. Unmanned aerial robots in the Middle East are claiming victories and lives, and robots with the same weaponry as foot soldiers—humans—on the ground are ready to do the same. One day, as in the movies, they won't need us to pilot them. IO9, Gizmodo's fellow site, will be looking deep into the world of killer robots in sci-fi and reality, this week. But none of us at Giz have been shot in the face by a terminator, to my knowledge. It's amazing to think about, but this doesn't really affect most of us in our suburbs and cities far away from the conflicts.

The war, however, is being waged on another secret front, all around us.

From where I'm standing, gadgets and tech almost never listen and cause plenty of havoc as they fail at inopportune times. The more we depend on them, the more power they have over us.

Last year, a man drove his car along a route planned by a GPS, into a lake, and almost drowned. In April, a jet engine sucks in a flock of geese and loses all power. Hard drives commit suicide with the entire record of your life on board. A cellphone needed to call 911 drops that call. A man sets up his computer for a work presentation and his porn collection pops up on the screensaver, costing him his job. A driver gets rear ended by a man texting while approaching a stop light on a phone with no physical keyboard. Laptops scathe genitals or worse when their batteries explode. OK, people aren't dying in here, but they still hurt us.

And that's just how dumb devices—personal tech with no sentient ability, weak motors, and low bandwidth connections—harm our quality of life today. Mass injury is already on its way, as we increasE dependence, gadgets increase capability, and Murphy's Law takes over. We're fools to think we can control them then, when most of the world can't even get its personal operating systems to stop crashing. Or, those printers to stop jamming with paper. So, is it so hard to imagine a day when they crave human blood for ink and start noshing on us starting at the neck ties? I don't think so.

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Look around you. Our fight with machines, it has already begun.

If you've been injured, humiliated, maimed or killed by a gadget or some other piece of technology, please tell us.

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Machines Behaving Deadly: A week exploring the sometimes difficult relationship between man and technology.

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DISCUSSION

lukasz-fabis-old
Lukasz Fabis

Things that move can hurt us. Machines have been hurting us since the discovery that sticks can be used to stab, whack, and leverage things and that rocks can bang things. Things that are convenient to us become commonplace to the point that we depend on them. When you depend on something, sometimes you'll be left in an unpleasant situation when it malfunctions.

Seriously, that stupid people would drive into lakes because they rely on gadgets too much should have been obvious and forseeable. It's not that machines are trying to hurt us. Stupid people simply do stupid things.

Honestly, what would you tell children at the height of the Industrial Revolution that lost extremities to machines? That human control over their tools is starting to unfurl and that we'll become dominated by malevolent mechanical overlords soon? Give me a break.

Mark my words, by the time military computer systems become powerful enough to wrest control away from the military and preempt or counter every contingency plan of humans trying to regain control, the distinction between human and machine will be dramatically blurred, to the point that the event of humans losing control to machines might not even be strictly possible. Both scenarios are a long damn time away.

I'm really hoping this week-long bout of technophobia is going to prove to be nothing more than a tongue-in-cheek satire about the people that fear machines, because our culture's apparent obsession with machines doing bad things to people is getting really damn annoying.