Has the dystopian future we all feared already happened?

REMEMBER 1999, when we innocently feared that the turn of the century would trigger a millennium bug in computer systems and modern civilization would come to a halt?

Airplanes falling from the sky, healthcare systems collapsing, ATMs not working…it was all a dreadful prospect on the horizon as the year 2000 loomed.

Teams of “Y2K” computer scientists from all over the world worked like fighters to avoid catastrophe.

Then 1999 moved to 2000 and…everything was fine. Well done computer programmers, crisis averted!

Survivors and preppers who had prepared for a doomsday scenario found themselves with plenty of canned beans to eat.

The Millennium Bug is just one example of humanity envisioning a dystopian future. The threat was real and immediate, so governments took steps to protect countries from adverse consequences.

However, the books and movies are full of pessimistic fictional predictions of what will happen when the worst happens. Societies where robots rule, or transnational super corporations rule the world, or humans have been hijacked by technology, or megalomaniac crazies wreak havoc on society.

Reading the news lately, I’m starting to wonder if the dystopian future is already here.

Cybercriminals

Last year, a major ransomware cyberattack on HSE IT systems caused a nationwide shutdown, and we got a real sense of the chaos that could have unleashed if something like the millennium bug went wrong. was materialized.

It was one of the biggest cyberattacks on a healthcare system, but it was just one high-profile example of a mountain of cybercrime, ranging from corporate ransomware attacks to credit card fraud. credit and debit.

According to a report by Grant Thornton last year, the overall cost of cybercrime to the Irish economy in 2020 was €9.6 billion. That’s almost half of Ireland’s health budget lost to cybercriminals!

This type of immaterial crime does not generate the same visceral reaction as a pensioner being robbed in her own home, but it has serious societal and financial costs.

Cybercrime is estimated to cost the world $10.5 trillion a year by 2025 – a world where anonymous criminals under the guise of a laptop extort trillions of dollars from the world seems pretty dystopian to me.

Extreme heat

If you’re someone who gets hot and bothered when temperatures hit the mid-20s in Ireland, reading about the sweltering temperatures currently being endured by one-eighth of the world’s population in India and Pakistan will definitely make you sweat.

Thermometers hit 50C in parts of Pakistan after a very hot March and the hottest April on record.

This part of the world is no stranger to extreme heat, but this current heat wave started early and is relentless, with many heat-related deaths reported.

Artificial cooling is needed to survive these kinds of temperatures, so people are turning on fans and air conditioning units in droves, creating a huge demand for electricity.

Electricity is primarily generated by burning coal, which as we should all know releases carbon dioxide and drives the global warming that requires additional air conditioning in the first place.

The energy crisis exacerbated by the megalomaniac leader in Russia means that India and Pakistan cannot access the volumes of coal they need to meet this heat-related electricity demand, and the long blackouts are common.

The poorest people in this region do not have access to cooling, shelter or sufficient water. How frightening it must be to see the mercury rise without having the means to cool down and having to make the decision to go to work to put food on the table in insurmountable temperatures.

To me, it feels like a hellscape worthy of the central narrative of the best dystopian or post-apocalyptic fiction.

The fact that this is happening in 2022 and is a situation that climate scientists have been predicting for decades only adds to the misery.

Smart Glasses

If you were a science fiction writer 100 years ago, you might have imagined that we would now be rolling around in flying cars in a utopian world where robots worked hard and humans played.

That didn’t happen, but I thought the full-page ad in the newspaper for Metaverse, the company formerly known as Facebook, explaining how the smart glasses work, looked like an advertisement for a future of dystopian science fiction.

Now you can splash £360 of your hard-earned cash on a pair of glasses called Ray Ban Stories, allegedly the ‘latest wearable technology’, allowing you to ‘take photos and videos, listen to music and calls, and share content directly to your social media channels”.

The Irish Data Protection Commission is so concerned that the glasses could invade people’s privacy that it ordered Metaverse to run a public information campaign explaining that the glasses could film someone without their knowledge.

The ad explains that the cameras are built into the frame of the glasses and that an LED light on the frame is a sign that the glasses are recording.

So the next time you’re tossing shapes on a dance floor, keep an eye out for watchers wearing smart glasses, they might be broadcasting your eccentric moves to the world.

Reports of people being attacked in the US for wearing smart glasses take the promise of high-tech in a more sinister direction, but developers seem determined to blur the lines between real life and online life. a way that comes straight out of science fiction.

With the state of the world right now – climate, energy and the Ukrainian crisis – you really have to ask yourself: how smart are these so-called smart glasses?

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