Tech Tease: Dangerous tech

When geeks talk about the end of mankind, nine times out of 10 it boils down to an argument over the impending robot uprising or zombie apocalypse. We imagine a killer strain of super-engineered bacteria. High-intensity radiation. Lasers. The common theme: a self-induced, Promethean panacea with an unforeseen dark twist.

For everyone who hasn’t had at least one late-night conversation mulling over the last great technological advance that eventually does us in: think 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Terminator, Resident Evil, I Am Legend or any number of post-apocalyptic sci-fi thrillers. Sans that typical Hollywood ending with the lone, lucky bastard who lives to recreate the human race with a sexy co-star after defeating the last of the (insert plague here).

Now, as far as I can tell, my toaster’s not scheming with the PS3 yet. However, if you’re a news watcher, you may have noticed a few tech-related mishaps, missteps, and manslaughters. As distant as we still are from the synchronicity and ultimate merging of human and machine, we’re already our own worst enemies with just a dollop of tech in hand.

Take the woman who, while texting and walking through a Pennsylvania mall, manages to walk straight into a fountain. Now, I’m not in a position to be giving out a Darwin Award here (considering her continued presence among the living), but really? It’s a fountain. Even if you’re not looking where you’re walking your ears just might pick up on the splashy splash of that pit of water you’re lumbering toward. Don’t even get me started on her latest act of stupidity: suing the security guards who “let her” fall.

Next in line: train kid. Yes, he’s 10 years old, and I’ll admit to having a “Where were your parents?” moment, but come on. Even my cat stops chasing the laser pointer before she falls off the coffee table. Someone needs to sit this kid down and explain the concept of “look both ways” before his brain melts into his PSP and he wanders into a fountain.

Remember the Tamagotchi? I do. Remember the absurd numbers of Tamagotchi-related car accidents worldwide after its release? There was the French woman who careened into a bank of cyclists while frantically trying to remove the beeping egg from her key ring so her passenger could feed the pixilated pet. How about the dozens of Japanese professionals who ran down pedestrians and other motorists as red lights, stop signs and, well, traffic in general took a backseat to the hunger cries of their digital pets.

I’m not advocating that you bar your doors and Y2K yourself in the basement, but sometimes there’s a choice to make: it’s either you or the tech. For the South Korean man on a 50-hour StarCraft bender, dehydration and cardiac arrest came before the thought of food, water, or his own life.

Back to home sweet San Antonio, we’re in the midst of our very own Brain vs. Tech scenario. After passing laws and giving grace periods, SAPD is now on full alert, watching to make sure you don’t pay more attention to the phone in your hand than to the two-ton death wagon you’re speeding through a school zone in.

The rationale seemed sound enough: texting distracts drivers; the threat of punishment deters illegal actions; outlawing texting while driving will keep people from doing it. Fine. But what’s going to change the systemic problem of a distracted culture with an unhealthy attachment to constant electronic stimuli?

Have we really gotten to the point where we’re so incredibly mesmerized by tiny, blinking electronics that we need to be told there’s a world to watch out for beyond the batteries and plastic in our hands? At this rate, forget having to wait around for the machines to organize and rise up against us: we’re already doomed. •

San Antonio residents and media justice activists DeAnne Cuellar and Rebecca Ohnemus blog throughout the week at They welcome your questions and feedback and can be reached directly at [email protected] Follow Tech Tease on Twitter at @thetechtease.