The Worst of the Worst Technologies of 2023

Technology Review published its annual worst technology list for 2023. One of the year’s tragic, entirely preventable disasters was the Titan submersible diving to see the original disaster of the Titanic. Five died because of unwarranted chances and poor engineering. The sub’s creator ignored many pre-dive warnings before a catastrophic implosion destroyed the deep-sea robot

Other Contenders

Lab-grown Meat

After raising over half a billion dollars, Upside Foods in Berkeley, California, showed off rows of big, gleaming steel bioreactors. Journalists, however, learned that the big tanks weren’t producing its “whole textured chicken.” The company grew chicken skin cells in much smaller laboratory flasks, then manually scooped them up and pressed them into chicken pieces.

Upside responded that it had successfully demonstrated it could scale its technology to make delicious ground-textured and blended products and that its platform is the basis for the commercial plant that will enable large-scale production pending regulatory approval. Lab-grown chicken has FDA approval.

Driverless Cars

The Cruise Robotaxi made headlines when it offered driverless taxi rides in San Francisco 24/7 with a fleet of 400 cars. More headlines followed, such as Tesla’s massive software recall after cars set on self-driving mode slammed into emergency vehicles, and Cruise’s sensor-laden Chevy Bolt dragged a pedestrian for 20 feet. The company says it temporarily paused driverless service.

Plastic

Humans are estimated to make 430 million tons of plastic annually but only recycle 9% of it. The rest ends up in landfills and in the environment. Whales have kilograms of it in their belly, and bits of “microplastic” are found in soft drinks, plankton, and human bloodstreams and even floating in the air. Researchers say the best way to cut plastic waste is not to make it in the first place.

AI Pin

Humane AI developed a $699 AI pin that requires a $24-a-month subscription. It uses voice commands to send messages or chat with an AI and weighs as much as a golf ball (choose sturdy clothing). Reviews so far concur that the AI Pin is “neat” but not competitive with a screen, at least not yet.

Summer’s Superconductor

In July, there were reports from Korea that a substance called LK-99 was “the real thing.” It was hailed as “the Superconductor of the Summer.” However, after physicists couldn’t replicate the work, the conclusion was that LK-99 is not a superconductor. Impurities in the recipe seem to have misled the Korean researchers.

Reflective Skies

Solar geoengineering is the idea to cool the planet by releasing reflective materials into the atmosphere. Mexico banned geoengineering trials early this year after startup “Make Sunsets” decided it could commercialize the effort. The startup decided to launch balloons in Mexico to disperse reflective sulfur dioxide into the sky. Injecting particles into the sky is theoretically cheap and easy, but the company is said to be violating the rights of communities to dictate their own future. It seems the UK was next…will their reaction be different than Mexico’s?

Doesn’t it seem like this list should be a lot longer?

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