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Top tech cock-ups 2014

Expert Reviews Staff
27 Dec 2014
Kim Jong Un Sony Hack
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2014 really wasn’t a very good year for some, as this list shows

While 2014 will be remembered fondly in some quarters, not every one and every company was having a stellar year. Here we’ve rounded up the best (worst?) tech cock-ups of the year.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Robots are going to take over the world and kill us all. Sounds like a film, but these are the words of Stephen Hawking, warning about the dangers of AI.

"The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate," Professor Hawking said. "Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete, and would be superseded."

Given the state of the world that we live in, it could be argued that this is actually a good thing.

HOME CAMERAS HACKED

When the internet first came online it was full of live camera sites, where you could pay to watch the live stream of someone doing something a bit naughty. In 2014 there’s no need to pay, as homes across the UK have been happily streaming their own lives for free. Visitors to a Russian website were greeted with hundreds of live feeds from inside UK homes, as insecure baby monitors, CCTV cameras and webcams were hacked, largely because people were using default passwords or none at all.

Webcam Russian hack

SELFIE STICKS

The selfie craze peaked in March 2014, when Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres took a selfie with a bunch of celebrities (the second most viewed image of Jennifer Lawrence). Since then the craze has hit an all-new low and selfies have become a bit wrong. When you’re at the Tower of London Poppies installation and overhear people going, “Ooh, I’m going get me a selfie here”, you think that the 888,246 people who died during the war probably weren’t thinking, “Oh well, at least this will make a nice back drop for someone to take their own photo against”.

Definitely a sign of the impending apocalypse, the craze has peaked with device that saps the collective sole from the world with every single click of a smartphone camera: selfie sticks. Essentially a pole that you put your smartphone on, so you can take your own picture without holding your own arm out in front of you, selfie sticks are all that’s wrong with the world. To our mind, there’s only one place that these sticks should be shoved.

THE APPRENTICE WEARABLE TECH

As bad as the selfie stick is, it’s a work of genius compared to what the failed estate agents, bland corporate robots and cliché machines that make up The Apprentice hopefuls came up with. This year, Lord Sugar, asked the teams to go out and develop some wareable tech.

Team Summit came up with the ‘On Air’ jumper, which had a camera mounted in it, so you can spy on your friends. Its only use would be to record the final moments of the inventors as they’re thrown out of the window of Sugar’s fictional office.

Team Tenacity (renamed from Decadence, as nobody knew what the word meant) came up with Inspector Gadget-style jacket, which was heated, had some horrible lights in it and solar panels that would charge your phone in around a week if you stood outside in blazing sun; well that is, if its solar panels weren't covered in fabric. The only wearable tech we'd like to see near the candidates are app-controlled exploding neck collars.

THE FAPPENING

Internet perverts had a great 2014 thanks to The Fappening: the leaking of celebrities’ nude photos. What celebs Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Brown Findlay and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, among others, didn’t realise was that any photos and videos that they took of themselves were backed up to iCloud automatically. All the hackers had to do was break into their accounts using their email addresses and brute-force attacking using common passwords. Once in, the hackers could download the backups and leak photos and videos, even ones that had been deleted from the iPhone. Apple has tightened security and is asking people to turn on two-factor authentication, although anybody worried by the hack can delete photos and videos from iCloud.

BARBIE: I CAN BE A COMPUTER ENGINEER

Any thoughts that the creators of Barbie were turning her away from being a blonde bimbo, into a strong role model for girls were cruelly dashed when reading the book, Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer. The picture book starts off with Barbie developing a game about a robot puppy, only when questioned about how she’s getting on with it, shows that she’s not actually doing anything remotely technical. “I’m only creating the design ideas,” she says. “I’ll need Steven’s and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!”

Steven and Brian also come in handy when Barbie crashes her computer and, of course, couldn’t possibly fix it herself. Still, at least Elsa and Anna from Frozen redressed the balance by appearing in Code.org’s Hour of Code challenge.

Barbie needs help programming

GAMERGATE

The computer games industry managed to degrade itself in 2014 with Gamergate. It started when Zoe Quinn released a game called Depression Quest. Many people thought that the game, which was positively reviewed, was given far more attention by critics than its quality deserved. What followed, was a period of horrendous harassment of Quinn and other women, with people using the hash tag #gamergate. Supporters of Gamergate have said that they’re concerned with ethics in video game journalism, although they've got a funny way of showing it.

It started a massive argument about what constitutes a game, how games journalists work and how gamers see the media. As far as we can tell, there’s a simply solution to the entire problem. Developers, release any game you want on any platform you want, and charge what you want; games journalists, get a copy of the game and give it a fair review; gamers, stop reading a publication if you think that it’s corrupt, start writing your own fair reviews if you can’t see any online, and stop bothering everyone else. The end.

SONY HACK

The Sony Pictures Hack has to be the worst of its kind ever, with employees threatened, private emails stolen and unreleased films leaked online. It all started on November 22nd, when Sony employees turned on their computers to find skulls on their screens, making that scene in Independence Day suddenly seem incredibly realistic.

As the hacker group Guardians of Peace (GOP) took responsibility for the attack and starting releasing stolen information, the full extent of the hack became clear. Among the leaked emails and scripts, GOP unleashed one of the worst forms of cyber-warfare, putting the new Annie film online.

It was thought that North Korea initiated the attack as a response to the Seth Rogan/James Franco film, The Interview, where the lead characters try and assassinate Kim Jong Un. Cinemas in America have pulled the film in response in what’s a clear victory for quality and a defeat for freedom. However, North Korea has denied any involvement and it's not clear who's really to blame.

The hack also opened up a broader debate on ethics, with many news sources happy to report the details of stolen emails. It’s clear that the fallout from this is going to keep running way into 2015.

Kim Jong Un Sony Hack

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