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Dhaka Tribune

Examining the biggest tech failures of 2023

As we reflect on the technological failures of the past year, it becomes evident that innovation must be guided by responsibility and a commitment to ethical practices

Update : 10 Jan 2024, 08:01 PM

As we welcome the new year with high expectations for innovation in technology it's crucial to reflect on the failures that have captured headlines and, more importantly, the lessons they offer. 

In 2023, a striking example stood out—the catastrophic implosion of the Titan submersible during a daring dive to explore the Titanic wreckage. This incident serves as a stark reminder of the delicate balance between innovation and responsible engineering. In this article, we delve into some of the most significant technological missteps of last year, ranging from submersibles and lab-grown meat to robotaxis and revolutionary wearables.

Titan submersible

The Titan submersible, an ambitious project by OceanGate, aimed to revolutionize deep-sea exploration. Designed as a minivan-sized carbon fiber tube operated with a joystick, the Titan was meant to usher in a new era of underwater tourism.

However, Stockton Rush, the aerospace engineer behind the project, dismissed warnings about the vessel's ability to withstand the immense pressure at 3,500 meters below the ocean's surface. Rush's belief in breaking rules for innovation tragically ended with the sub's catastrophic implosion, claiming the lives of five individuals, including tourists and a Titanic expert. This incident serves as a stark reminder that innovation should not come at the cost of sound engineering principles.

Cruise Robotaxi

While the concept of self-driving vehicles holds immense promise, setbacks in 2023, particularly at Cruise, General Motors' autonomous vehicle division, underscore the challenges of implementing such technology. Despite proclaiming the superiority of robotaxis over human drivers, Cruise faced numerous mishaps, including an incident where a pedestrian was dragged for 20 feet. The California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Cruise's robotaxis, citing an "unreasonable risk to public safety." 

Cruise Robotaxi

This setback resulted in layoffs, the resignation of Cruise's CEO, and a temporary pause in their driverless service. It's a stark reminder that the road to autonomous vehicles is fraught with challenges.

Lab-grown meat

The idea of lab-grown meat promises a humane alternative to traditional farming practices. However, the reality behind the scenes at companies like Upside Foods reveals a different story. The problem is making the stuff at a large scale.

Despite raising substantial funds and showcasing impressive bioreactors, Upside Foods faced allegations of misleading practices. 

Lab grown meat

Journalists discovered that the company's touted "whole textured chicken" was not produced in the large tanks on display but rather in small laboratory flasks using labor-intensive methods. 

The disparity between promises and practices raises questions about the feasibility and sustainability of lab-grown meat as a widespread solution.

Plastic proliferation

The ubiquitous use of plastic has led to a global crisis, with only 9% of the 430 million tons produced annually being recycled. As plastic waste continues to pollute the environment, the need for a comprehensive solution becomes more urgent. While calls for a "plastics treaty" gain traction, researchers emphasize the importance of reducing plastic production altogether. The challenge lies in finding alternatives that are both cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

Plastic

Humane Ai Pin: A silicon valley misstep

The Ai Pin, heralded as Silicon Valley's next-gen smartphone replacement, falls short of expectations. Developed by startup Humane Ai and backed by former Apple executives, this $699 plastic badge with a camera, sensors and a monthly subscription fails to address smartphone addiction effectively. 

Humane AI

Despite significant investments and engineering efforts, the device's awkward design and limited functionality raise doubts about its viability in a market dominated by sleek and versatile smartphones.

Social media superconductor

The quest for a room-temperature superconductor, a material with zero electrical resistance, took an unexpected turn when social media amplified claims about a substance called LK-99. Despite initial excitement and online videos showcasing seemingly miraculous properties, real physicists failed to replicate the results. If it existed, it would make possible new types of batteries and powerful quantum computers, and bring nuclear fusion closer to reality

Social Media Superconductor

The incident highlights the risks of social media hype and the importance of scientific validation before embracing groundbreaking claims.

Rogue geoengineering

The concept of solar geoengineering, while offering potential solutions to climate change, faces ethical dilemmas. The startup Make Sunsets faced criticism and a ban in Mexico for attempting commercial geoengineering trials. Cofounder Luke Iseman decided to launch balloons in Mexico designed to disperse reflective sulfur dioxide into the sky

Rogue Geoengineering

The idea of releasing reflective materials into the atmosphere to cool the planet raises concerns about unintended consequences and the need for global regulations to govern such endeavors.

As we reflect on the technological failures of the past year, it becomes evident that innovation must be guided by responsibility and a commitment to ethical practices. Whether exploring the depths of the ocean, revolutionizing food production, or ushering in autonomous vehicles, the lessons from these failures underscore the importance of balancing ambition with practicality. As we embark on another year of technological advancements, let these cautionary tales guide us toward a future where innovation aligns seamlessly with safety and responsibility.

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