Technology Review reporters presented their own ranking of technology files of the past year. He was rich in problems, and the most notable ones were on this list.
Problems with the Boeing autopilot
Boeing’s new 737 Max, the Lion Air Flight 510, crashed shortly after takeoff. Then the situation repeated – another plane crashed. None of those on board survived in any of the disasters. As it turned out, the autopilot of the system was acting incorrectly, and the human pilots could not do anything in each situation.
They had disastrously little time to react to the action of the MCAS system, a new function that they knew very little about.
Newer aircraft featured more powerful jet engines. In order to help pilots cope with them, the developers installed a new autopilot, believing that it will make it possible to easily control the aircraft. But the second car accident, with Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March 2019, showed that the problem was not only in this system, but also in the fact that Boeing was gaining more and more trust from US regulators.
All this in aggregate has led to a number of disasters.
The company’s losses currently amount to billions of US dollars, and all Boeing 737 Max aircraft are still chained to the ground.
Fake “food computer”
MIT Media Lab is often called the factory of the future. But her “food computer” is clearly not part of the future.
In 2015, one of the TED Talk videos gained 1.8 million views. It talked about a hydroponic cell controlled by AI. She, according to her developer, is able to pick up millions of combinations of lighting, temperature and humidity to create optimal conditions for crops grown.
The developer of the “food cell” called his project “cybernetic agriculture.”
As it turned out, this is just a fake, richly flavored with phrases like “climate hack”, “open sourse”, “microbiome” and other clever words that attracted the attention of investors. The absurdity reached its climax in April, when the developer of the “food computer” announced machine learning, which made it possible to grow basil, the taste of which was called “outstanding” by MIT.
But then the project staff showed the ins and outs. It turned out that the whole project is a fake. Plants were not grown, but bought, in order to demonstrate results to investors. In October, the MIT administration closed most of the project’s work.
Cow DNA Editing
Recombinetics introduced the world of hornless cows, stating that this is a new species that is not GMO and should not be subject to GMO regulation. The company received cows without horns.
But after analyzing the DNA of these cows, it turned out that the company accidentally introduced a portion of the bacterial DNA into the animal’s DNA. The result was random.
Actually, the modification was harmless, but still the animals were considered genetically modified, which did not allow the project to develop further – the rules for regulating GMOs are very strict.
How Gay Are You App
In the same year, the How Gay Are You application was developed. For five US dollars, using the results of DNA tests (for example, from 23andMe), the user could find out how gay this DNA carrier is.
“Level of gayness”, in Russian it can be translated approximately like this. But the application caused a storm of indignation, so that it disappeared from the radar. Whether its results were accurate or just hype is unclear.
Space free riders
This year, Israel launched the country’s first lunar station, which, unfortunately, crashed in April this year. Fortunately, there was no one on board. More truly, almost nobody.
As it turned out, the American organization Arch Mission Foundation, without notifying anyone, included a capsule with tardigrades in the mission. As you know, these organisms can survive almost everywhere, perhaps they are able to endure the conditions prevailing on the surface of the moon.
But this was against the rules, if only because scientists fear the “pollution” of other worlds with earthly life. In particular, because if we are going to someday discover life outside the Earth, we need to be sure that we ourselves did not cause it to appear on other planets.
Most likely, the tardigrades died, because without water they cannot exist. But this case showed how unreliable the rules established for space research can be.
The goal of the Arch Mission Foundation was to create a kind of “repository of terrestrial DNA” as a backup of life. The decision to introduce a capsule with tardigrades was made at the last moment.
Samsung Galaxy Fold
Samsung was one of the first to launch a foldable flexible display phone. But because of the rush, the design of this very expensive device turned out to be very vulnerable to external factors. Under normal use, many phones that were sent to testers are out of order.
Dust, clicking on the screen, removing a film from it, which seemed to many testers as a normal protective film – all this led to a partial or complete inoperability of the device.
Now the company has prepared more reliable phones, taking into account the detected problems.
Apple Card and Gender Discrimination
Several Goldman Sachs customers have complained of discrimination when setting credit limits on an Apple Card. It turned out that women receive a credit limit, the size of which is several times smaller than that of men.
So, Steve Wozniak said that his wife received 10 times less credit limit than he. And this despite the fact that their accounts are combined.
The bank said that the size of the limit is determined by an algorithm that objectively assesses the level of solvency of the client. Depending on gender, age, race, etc. not.
Internet switch in India
In December of this year, India turned off the Internet for 60 million people. During the year, she limited network connectivity about 90 times. Similar actions were taken by Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, Sudan and other countries, whose governments decided that the lack of the Internet can solve many problems, including the protests of the population.