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The Top 5 Technology Panics of 2009 146

Posted by timothy
from the top-five-beats-top-10-hands-down dept.
destinyland writes "An A.I. researcher lists the Top 5 Technology Panics of 2009 — along with the corresponding reality. There's exploding iPods, the uproar over 'bombing' the moon, and even a flesh-eating robot. But in each case, he supplies some much-needed perspective. 'These incidents are incredibly rare ... the rocket stage weighs around two tons, while the Moon weighs in at a 73,477,000,000,000,000,000 tons... and desecration of the dead is against the laws of war — and plant matter is a much better fuel source anyway.'"
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The Top 5 Technology Panics of 2009

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Black Holes Won't Destroy the Earth [livescience.com]

    "Probabaly."

  • A.I. researcher (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@noSPam.hackish.org> on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:31PM (#30637150)

    Thomas McCabe is a mathematics student at Yale University and a research associate at the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

    Not sure that's the mainstream definition of "A.I. researcher", but more relevantly, I can think of another technology panic that seems to keep recurring that the Singularity Institute might have something to do with.

  • by Akira Kogami (1566305) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:41PM (#30637210)
    Seriously, giant robots devouring the mangled corpses of our enemies? Yes, please!
    • by shentino (1139071)

      They are still human!

      If they weren't then we wouldn't give a shit about following Geneva conventions.

      • But they're dead humans! I think it would be badass enough to excuse any human rights violations there.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by shentino (1139071)

          Logically speaking you are correct.

          Humans, however, are hardly rational beings. If they were, however, the point would be moot as dead bodies on the battle-field would not exist in the first place.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by oreaq (817314)
            Why do you believe that a "rational being" would not wage war or even kill other people (or other "rational beings")?
      • by mrjb (547783)
        Sadly, who plays by the rules won't win the war.
  • We're already on the 3rd, about to roll over to the 4th day of the year. (And some of our international readers are already there.) We're still doing year-end pieces? CES can't come soon enough.
    • by JustOK (667959)

      Better than before the end of the year. Remember the scramble during the tsunami of 2004? Many of the year end "top" stories had to be re-written.

  • by Rehnberg (1618505) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:59PM (#30637308)
    The day before it powered up, my physics teacher had to field a dozen or so inane questions about how it would destroy the Earth, and more than a few kids decided not to do their homework. Then again, the panic could also fall under "Public Science Knowledge FAIL"
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by broken_chaos (1188549)

      more than a few kids decided not to do their homework

      Hardly surprising, given it's a newer excuse than "dog ate it". Maybe someone will believe they were actually afraid and cut them a break for going out and getting drunk instead of doing their work...

    • by hedwards (940851)
      Then latter they realized that the math was done incorrectly and that the likelihood of the LHC creating an Earth destroying black hole was significantly more likely than previously believed.
      • by Ginger Unicorn (952287) on Monday January 04, 2010 @08:55AM (#30639620)

        The mathematics is largely redundant is answering the question of whether the LHC will destroy the earth. Particle collisions that are exactly the same (as well as some that are more powerful) as the ones in the LHC have been occurring in the earth's atmosphere ever since it first formed. If the earth has had several billion years to be eaten by blackholes or stranglets produced by one of these interactions, and still hasn't, then it's pretty safe to assume that those interactions simply don't produce those byproducts.

    • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Monday January 04, 2010 @10:58AM (#30640682)
      "The world could have ended" would be a rubbish excuse in a physics lesson.

      "My homework is in my bag, but the act of observing it may destroy it" would be much more worthy of being let off.
  • by ScottCooperDotNet (929575) on Monday January 04, 2010 @12:03AM (#30637342)

    How about the incredibly overrated Conficker [certifiedbug.com] / Kido [kaspersky.com] / Downadup [microsoft.com] worm that was going to cause the end of the Internet on April 1st 2009? Big media blew it out of proportion considering Microsoft had patched the flaw and all major AV vendors had protected against it months before April 1st. The only people really affected by it were the patch-avoiders.

    • That was exactly what I expected when I saw the title. It was quite funny to watch Twitter/Facebook on people who "got" the virus and were scared to death. Because, we all know a botnet is going to have little "YOUR COMPUTER IS INFECTED" messages and pop ups...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by zkiwi34 (974563)
      Which of course waves away the observation that more than a few million computers got zoinked with Confiker and its variants. Ah well, I guess if it's only a couple of million then it must be over-rated.
  • Death-by-IPv4 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lq_x_pl (822011) on Monday January 04, 2010 @12:11AM (#30637388)
    It gave me a chuckle to see this story immediately above yet another article on the rapidly diminishing number of IPv4 addresses, and the doom awaiting us when they run out.
  • After the rumors started making their way around the Internet, EATR's designers stepped in to clarify: the "flesh-eating robot" will consume vegetable matter only, and it comes equipped with a suite of sensors and computers to help it determine whether the things it comes across are animal, vegetable or neither. After all, desecration of the dead is against the laws of war and plant matter is a much better fuel source anyway. There are a lot more bushes to feast upon than human bodies.

    Human bodies are bette

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      OTOH, each eaten human can potentially decrase the usage of IPv4

      capcha: brutally

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        OTOH, each eaten human can potentially decrase the usage of IPv4

        OTOH, they can still vote (thank goodness).

    • How about the simple fact that there are a hell of a lot more plants then there are human corpses on and around the average battlefield? Hoping it will find a corpse to chow down on (after it gets through the body armor and so on) seems like a silly move if it can just start munching away on the local foliage.
      • by Plunky (929104) on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:07AM (#30638904)
        On the other hand, a robot that eats dead flesh will do its cleanup then stop when there is no more dead flesh to eat. A robot that eats live plants will continue eating until there are no more plants and we are truly screwed.
      • by hedwards (940851)
        Not necessarily, while not typically, I tend to think that the battlefield at Gettysburg was more filled with human corpses than plants. And likewise in any large battle in some place like Iraq, it doesn't take that many bodies for the rotting dead to outnumber the vegetation.
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        Except the robots designed to eat human flesh will be there only to eat the humans. And there will be plenty of human flesh to fuel their eating frenzy.

        What kind of a war are you running where your robots scare the shit out of the bushes, not the enemy soldiers?

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        A lot of the recent conflicts seem to have taken place in desert regions, which don't have a lot of foliage. If we were currently fighting in Vietnam, your comment would make a lot of sense, but with Iraq and even worse, Afghanistan, it doesn't. There isn't a lot growing in those places.

        And remember, it takes a lot less energy to digest meat and get energy from it, than to eat plants and digest them. That's why cows have 4 stomach chambers and rabbits have to eat their own shit, and predators like cats h

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
      Let me get this straight - you are actually arguing for the propositions in the linked article? You're saying we're not sufficiently terrified of killer cannibal robots, and we need to link this with terrorists somehow? BAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Seriously, I'm laughing so hard right now. Everybody panic!
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        Yes, killer robots will eat us. And I posted that specifically so that you would panic. Thanks for playing.


    • Human bodies are better fuel, because it has more energy available per bite. That's why top predators eat meat, though it costs so much energy to get. That mere assertion is no defense.

      That is bullshit.
      First of all, calories in meat mainly com from fat, no fat means only a very few calories. Low fat meat has roughly half the calories more fatty meat has.
      Even with fat taken into account (e.g. a fatty T-Bone steak, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meat [wikipedia.org] NOTE THIS ARE CALIRIES) meat has roughly 15% of the calo

      • by ColaMan (37550)

        meat has roughly 15% of the calories e.g. potatoes have

        Hmmm. Looking at those figures, I would suggest that it's the tedious kilocalories = Calories issue [google.com.au] raising its ugly head again.

        Eg. other tables of meat kilocalories [weightloss...rces.co.uk] suggest it's on par with your potatoes.

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        Red herring. Potatoes are not a food that most herbivores can eat; they're roots. Most herbivores, like cows, eat only plants growing above ground: leaves, grass, etc. Only a few animals, like wild pigs and moles, eat tubers naturally.

        More importantly, tubers like potatoes are very hard to digest by most animals, including humans. That's why humans invented "cooking", to make the starchy tuber turn into something more easily digested and absorbed. Some believe this was an important part of human evolut

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        Tree wood has about 2300 (kilo)calories per pound, while human meat has somewhere from 800-2000 (kilo)calories per pound. But bones have even more calories than wood. And I don't think the flesh-eating robots we've seen can eat wood (or bone), but rather leaves. Which have about 100 (kilo)calories per pound [about.com]. Meat is a better fuel.

        Bullshit, I couldn't find the calories for.

        Potatoes have some of the highest calories of any staple plant, which is why Europe went through a population explosion after bringing th

  • When a hard drive died on one of the servers at my startup... According to management that was definitely the biggest of 2009.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday January 04, 2010 @12:35AM (#30637520)
    This really ignores a lot of panics that are more relevant in both mass-media and tech circles alike. The main one is the LHC. Even non-geeks were talking about it and the end of the world. Another one is Conficker, you know the virus/botnet that was supposed to destroy the world in April 2009 when it.... did nothing. Then everyone got worried that it would strike the next month... and nothing.
    • by GF678 (1453005)

      Another one is Conficker, you know the virus/botnet that was supposed to destroy the world in April 2009 when it.... did nothing.

      I wouldn't say that it did "nothing". It caused a lot of pain for IT folks trying to clean that shit out of their networks, that's for sure. On the other hand, it was not as dramatically serious as the media would have you believe (but then the media always blows things out of proportion - that's their job apparently).

  • by fermion (181285) on Monday January 04, 2010 @12:37AM (#30637540) Homepage Journal
    If one works on any piece of machinery without turning it off one is likely to get maimed. Try changing the blades on a lawnmower without disabling it. Or working on the innards of the refrigerator. This has much less to with killer robots than humans that are not nearly scared enough of machinery. I always check twice.
    • Sure, but combine AI, the ability for robots to consume food (plants or us) to continue to operate and the military and you basically have all the ingredients for a robot apocalypse. Robot is programmed to do its mission at all costs, robot needs fuel, robot eats human and continues on its task.
      • by timmarhy (659436)
        it's nonsense really. the digester is total inefficent, the killer robot is merely a pipe dream.
  • by gmuslera (3436)
    Windows 7 got released.
  • Obviously they have not battle tested this yet. I have been in a couple of engagements. All I can say is that after the fact there is not much "green stuff" left. The battlefield is mostly burned down. As for deployment in a desert... Well, I'm sure you can figure that out on your own :-)
  • The rocket booster weighs two tons where? On Earth, the moon, space? I wonder how much the Earth weighs. Oh yeah, it's weightless, because it's in space.

    Submitter gets an 'F' for failing to understand basic physics.
    • by Make (95577)

      How ironic. You too fail to understand basic physics, because you don't seem to know that tons is not a unit of weight (neither does the editor/submitter).

    • There's gravity in space as well you know, which is why the Earth still circles the Sun and the Moon still orbits us. Which means the Earth isn't weightless.
    • by tehcyder (746570)
      Mod parent +5 pedantic.

      In normal English we say something "weighs" two tons, rather than "masses" two tons.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Mod parent up, he's the only one who gets it. If a thing weighs two tons on earth, its mass is two tons whether it's on earth, on the moon, or in microgravity.

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Depends on what kind of tons, doesn't it? After all, in English measurements, a "pound" is a unit of weight (not mass), and a "ton" is defined as exactly 2000 pounds. But then there's also the "metric ton" (or "tonne"), which of course is derived from the kilogram, and is a unit of mass.

  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Monday January 04, 2010 @03:26AM (#30638274) Journal

    LHC isn't on the list for the simple reason that there was nothing to panic about.

    In 2009.

  • First I was like.."Wow"...then I was "Oh Shit"...Then I was all "Phew"
    THEN I was like.."Wow"...then I was "Oh Shit"...Then I was all "Phew"
    THEN I was like.."Wow"...then I was "Oh Shit"...Then I was all "Phew"
    THEN I was like.."Wow"...then I was "Oh Shit"...Then I was all "Phew"
    THEN I was like.."Wow"...then I was "Oh Shit"...Then I was all "Phew"

    Dude, what a rollercoaster!

  • Sad comparison (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CFBMoo1 (157453)
    73,477,000,000,000,000,000.00 (Moon weight in tons)
    00,000,012,162,748,511,374.98 (US Debt) ** Only 6 more decimal places to go! **

    I think it's sad that when I look at numbers referring to things like moon weight or number of stars in the galaxy that the first thing that comes to my mind is my countries national debt in relation to those numbers. http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/ -> $12,162,748,511,374.98 as of January 4th, 2010.
  • laws of war? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Monday January 04, 2010 @12:00PM (#30641610) Homepage Journal

    ... and desecration of the dead is against the laws of war -- and plant matter is a much better fuel source anyway ...

    The torturing of war prisoners of war in Iraq and the interviews with the involved army personal clearly showed that the US military have no clue about "laws of war". Several convicted US soldiers admitted frankly they never had heard about the convention of Geneva.

    angel'o'sphere

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