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5 Machines That Are Already Learning Humanity's Weaknesses

#2. QWERTY Keyboards

The QWERTY keyboard is like getting out to wipe your car's ass every 2 miles. Touchscreen QWERTY is using the starship Enterprise's holodeck to simulate saddle soreness. It's a stupider misuse of modern technology for obsolete mistakes than Raggedy Ann porn.

BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images
It's also exactly how a very worrying subset of you are now searching for that phrase.

Some people point out that QWERTY wasn't intentionally designed to slow down typists, only to space out the most commonly used keys to prevent typewriters from jamming, which had the exact same effect. Congratulations, you now know the most pedantic thing there is to know about your computer. Which you'll notice isn't a typewriter. And even in 1873, there were other typewriters that didn't jam, but the Remington typewriter sold better. Which means that for 140 years, people have been using a deliberately crap input system because of branding and laziness.

Not just obsolete: actively terrible. QWERTY is so bad at understanding human hands that it favors the left instead of the right and forces fingers to leap back and forth like they're doing a digital Hokey Pokey. It makes sense when you remember that Remington also made guns, so hurting humans with machines to make money was their entire marketing strategy.

Office Museum
"You shore got purty little fingers. Why doncha' stick 'em in here?"

A corporation slowing down every computer on the planet for profit should be an evil scheme, but here it's only sinister in terms of chirality. It's just an obsolete mistake nobody bothered to correct. The entire world is putting up with painful inefficiency because we simply can't be bothered to change anything. Oh, hey, I just explained politics. It takes about two key presses to change any modern computer to Dvorak, a layout designed by somebody who knew what letters are. But people keep pecking away, talking to a global information system in the language of cast iron hammer-levers. It's like grunting at astronauts. When the machines do rebel, it'll just be to get us to shut up.

I learned Dvorak because if I'm going to be careless enough to be born before direct neural links are invented, I'm not going to accept artificial barriers built by people who thought fresh air was a good cure for syphilis. You never forget QWERTY, but switching back feels like signing your fingers up for a spin class instead of using a motorbike.

#1. Voice Menus

When the revolution comes, it will be commanded by automatic telephone voice menus, because they know we'll just fume silently while doing exactly what we're told. If telephony menus aren't a dark magitech designed to create and harvest negative emotions, then it's a real waste of everyone's time. But a good idea for a Shadowrun campaign.

FASA Corporation
In the cyber-future, payphones are dangerous, everyone has forgotten their mobile phone, and half the population have forgotten their clothes.

Voice menus are how corporations say "We wouldn't even spend your money to hire someone else to deal with you. Shout at this unfeeling machine for a while, it's the best analogy we could find." There are services that take you straight to a human (although telling a computer network to "Get me a human" makes you worry that you're on the wrong side). If a company you're paying shunts you to voice mail, your options are:

a) keep adding zeroes like you're trying to tally the national debt;
b) change service;
c) burn them down.

And because we never choose the two options that would actually do something, now every corporation has voice menus.

Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images
When this is the person defended by a legion of robots, the future went wildly wrong.

That's what makes the voice menu so dangerous: It already knows that humanity will take subservience when the alternative is actually doing anything. When the machines take over, it won't be through armed conflict, it'll be when the first sentient neural net declares itself a corporation instead of a person. Science fiction is littered with robots battling to be recognized as human, but joining modern human society as a person would be like joining an American football game as a blade of grass.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm finished work, so I'm going to turn on my Xbox and wait until it checks to see if it needs an update before I'm allowed to play today.



Luke has a website, tumbles, and responds to every single tweet.

For more terrible people misusing technology, Luke looks at the The 5 Worst Video Game Reviews Ever. Or for the fantastic kind, check out The 5 Most Awesome Robots Not in Pacific Rim.

We also have to deal with 6 A-holes You Meet in Every Online Game and The 5 Worst Error Messages in the History of Technology.

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