We, as a human race, have accomplished some truly incredible feats. We’ve landed on the moon. We’ve cured ‘incurable’ diseases. We’ve created sliced bread. But frequently, we’re also nosy, lazy a**holes.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. It’s the reason Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb – to accommodate longer working hours and a fast-changing industrialized world. It’s the reason Steve Jobs gave us the iPhone – to help us build a stronger, on-the-go connection with the flood of data available online. And more or less, it’s the reason Gary Klegg invented the Snuggie.
But why was it necessary for human beings to invent urine detection devices to install in public spaces? Or for automakers to spend millions on pedestrian collision detection software? There’s really only one logical reason: The human race, as ingenious as it is, is filled with horrible people.
Some of the inventions on this list originally had good intentions, but have earned a bad rep through misuse and exploitation by all those terrible people. Others are reactionary inventions that, in an ideal world, shouldn’t be necessary in the first place. Here are 5 of the greatest inventions and technological advancements that at once demonstrate the ingenuity of the human race, and call into question its integrity.
Also known as “The Deep Web,” Tor stands for “The Onion Router” and offers a way to reroute Internet traffic so users are virtually untraceable. In other words, it offers true anonymity – even against the government, spy agencies, corporations and absolutely anyone else – online.
There are plenty of great, productive reasons to use Tor. It provides an answer to online censorship, advocates for online freedom of expression and in 2013, Edward Snowden famously used it to blow the whistle on the NSA’s controversial PRISM program by using the software to send documents securely to The Washington Post and The Guardian.
Why it proves we’re terrible: True anonymity online? Of course people exploit Tor to engage in illegal deals and truly disturbing, sinister online activity. It’s often referred to as “the dark corner of the web” and has been directly linked to instances of anonymous defamation, distribution of controlled substances, money laundering, credit card fraud, identity theft and distribution of illegal sexual content. One of the most high profile instances of abuse in recent history involved the Silk Road – a Tor hidden service that operated as the “Amazon.com” of illegal drugs. Its founder and chief administrator was also arrested on charges of conspiracy to murder one of the site’s users, a crime for which he heavily relied on the anonymity provided by Tor.
4. Remote Access Software
This is another technology that was invented with good intentions but quickly proved the human race is terrible. It’s a remote access software which offers a way for system administrators to access a computer remotely and resolve issues around the office quickly and without actually needing to have the computer in front of them. For example, imagine your computer suddenly freezes while you’re sitting at your desk at work. Using remote access software, your IT guy can log on to you computer and fix the problem – “driving” your mouse and essentially using your computer from his screen across the building.
Why it proves we’re terrible: The ability to log on and control your computer from a distance is incredibly dangerous when it’s not limited to the IT department at your company. This tool offers an easy way for sexual deviants or angry exes to gain access to webcams and microphones of unsuspecting victims without their consent – without, even, the knowledge that they’re being watched. How? If you’ve clicked on an ad or a site accidentally, or just didn’t read all the terms and conditions of a download, you may have also downloaded a Trojan Horse that includes remote access software. It’s even been proven that someone can activate a webcam remotely without triggering the little green light that indicates it’s on.
What does it mean for you? If your laptop is open while you’re changing clothes or in an otherwise intimate situation, it’s very possible that someone is watching and/or taking snapshots. Aren’t people great?
3. Urine Detection Devices
In Singapore, officials have recently installed Urine Detection Devices (UDDs) in elevators to prevent users from relieving themselves in the public space. If a suspicious odor is detected within the walls of the elevator, the device sets off an alarm and notifies police, and the doors automatically lock the culprit inside until he can be incarcerated and properly humiliated for being a terrible human being.
Why it proves we’re terrible: The problem of people urinating in elevators and other public spaces was so prevalent that it was necessary for a team of software engineers to devote their time and energy to this? Ick. Public restrooms are not that hard to find. Hold it, like a decent human being.
2. Cell phone fingerprint security systems
In 2013, Apple unveiled its latest iteration of the iPhone. The iPhone 5S boasted a new security feature that sounded like something plucked right out of a sci-fi movie – a fingerprint scanner.
Why it proves we’re terrible: At first, it seems like a failsafe security feature. Fingerprints have always been the key to catching the bad guys, and every human has a different unique fingerprint, right? Yes, but when considering the efficacy of “Touch ID,” we’ve got to remember one important detail: People are nosy, and also terrible.
The vulnerability of this technology is that it can’t tell whether or not you’re passed out – which means terrible people can easily snoop through your phone while you’re asleep or otherwise out of it. This has, of course, been exploited. Say, for example, your jealous girlfriend wants to get in there and find out who you’ve been texting, or your friends want to “hack” your phone and send hilarious messages to everyone in your contacts list. All they’d have to do is hand you a few too many drinks or wait for you to fall asleep, put your thumb on the phone’s sensor, and voila: All of your information, right at their fingertips.
1. Pedestrian Collision Detectors
Imagine you’re driving down the road, eating a burger you just got from the drive-thru, sending a group text to let everyone know you’re on your way and adjusting the stereo because your favorite song just came on the radio. Oops! You just breezed through a red light and a crowded pedestrian crosswalk.
In the last few years, automakers have developed highly sensitive pedestrian collision detectors that are designed to 1) let the driver know they’ve just run over a human being with their automobile and 2) activate safety features on the car designed to help reduce pedestrian injury. Why is this a necessary invention? On average, more than 4,000 pedestrians are killed in traffic accidents every year, and more than 70,000 are injured. That comes to about 1 pedestrian injury every 8 minutes.
Why it proves we’re terrible: An automobile is a 2-ton vehicle intended to travel at high speeds – and we can’t be bothered to give it our full attention? Pedestrian Collision Detectors should not be a necessary invention, and may even encourage distracted driving by providing this safety net. In fact, human beings have become so useless behind the wheel that we’ll soon be replaced altogether. Self-driving cars are projected to hit showrooms and become mass-produced within the next 5 years.