Why technology can be the ultimate enemy

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Should we be afraid of our upgraded homes?

It’s official – the technological uprising has begun.

Actually, it happened about a week ago in Portland, Oregon, and the thing that started it all was a rogue Amazon Alexa.

It was as Oregon resident Danielle and her husband, believing they were safe from prying  ears, began talking about the innocuous topic of hardwood floors, that the insurgent device began to eavesdrop.

After secretly recording part of the conversation, Alexa then promptly sent it to a mutual contact some 170 miles away in Washington.

“My husband and I would randomly joke sometimes, ‘I bet these devices are listening to what we’re saying,’” Danielle told Seattle news channel KIRO-TV.

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“I felt invaded – a total privacy invasion. Immediately, I said, ‘I’m never plugging that device in again because I can’t trust it.’”

For the tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists among us certain that the new wave of smart device adoption means that some shadowy corporation or government is listening to our every move, the news confirmed our greatest fears.

And despite the fact that nobody has reported a murderous toaster – yet – in a world post Cambridge Analytica where data privacy is more important than ever, the feeling that our devices could be snooping on our every move is a chilling, but very real, fear.

It’s exactly this fear that upcoming film Distorted, set for release on 31st May, taps into.

Starring John Cusack and Christina Ricci, the movie follows Lauren (Ricci) and Russell as they move into the apartment of their dreams, decked out with every piece of tech imaginable.

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But it isn’t long before Lauren begins to suspect that the proprietor is using the tech to brainwash the building’s residents for his own nefarious plans.

With a previous mental health diagnosis on her record, her husband and neighbours say it’s all in her head, so Lauren enlists an investigator (Cusack) to uncover the plot.

But is this a mirror for our tech-addicted future or just an overblown projection of our ultimate fears? For Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the situation looks optimistic.

“I think that AI is going to unlock a huge amount of positive things, whether that’s helping to identify and cure diseases, to help cars drive more safely, [or] to help keep our communities safe,” he said, speaking at the 2018 Viva Technology conference in Paris.

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But for business contemporary Elon Musk, who notably founded SpaceX and Tesla and is pushing for AI-driven tech on the roads, it’s a dark and dystopian future ahead if we continue to push the boundaries of computer intelligence.

“We are rapidly heading towards digital superintelligence that far exceeds any human,” he said in new documentary Do You Trust This Computer?.

“If one company or small group of people manages to develop god-like superintelligence, they could take over the world.

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“At least when there’s an evil dictator, that human is going to die,” he continued. “But for an AI, there will be no death – it would live forever. And then you would have an immortal dictator from which we could never escape.”

Only time will tell whether or not we succumb to our new AI overlords, but for now it might be best just to unplug everything – just in case.

Also starring: Brendan Fletcher, Vicellous Shannon, Nicole Anthony and Oliver Rice Directed by: Rob W King
Rating: 15+
Running time: 90 mins

WORDS Camille Hogg 

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