Who doesn’t love a little mystery now and then? From reports about the US government faking the moon landings to the JFK assassinations, everyone loves learning all the dirty stuff people aren’t telling you. It’s natural for humans to want to uncover mysteries and debunk myths, and once you go down that road, you fall, and keep falling.
For this post, we’ll be going through some shady theories about technology and the corporations allegedly using them for profit and other dangerous purposes. (Disclaimer: Writing about these things doesn’t mean I believe them for a fact. They might or might not be true. Your call.)
1. Continuous product obsolescence
You know those updates we regularly get on our devices or computers that tell us it’ll make them run smoother or that it will fix security issues? Well, according to some theorists, these updates are designed to make them worse. So much worse that you’ll simply want to upgrade to a newer phone or switch to a better brand. They could do either of two things: reduce performance of your gadget or simply turn it into an expensive brick.
There are also rumours that some companies sabotage their own products to make sure the user spends more to buy new devices or do something beneficial to the company’s product line. One such company that has taken the most recognition for this theory is Apple. Ever downloaded iTunes on a PC and found how… weird it behaves somehow? In theory, this is so that PC users will be frustrated enough to switch to a Mac, thus giving them more conversions. It is also believed this type of design strategy was pioneered by the U.S. auto industry. Yikes.
2. Inkjet Printing dooms users from the start
It goes without saying that printer ink prices are way up the ladder. Some are even more expensive than printers they’ll be used for (ridiculous, right?). If you’ve ever wondered why, it’s because of the “razor and blades” business model of printers. While printers don’t carry much profit, printer inks definitely do, and by a huge line.
Popularly, the high ink price is explained by manufacturers as needed because of certain difficulties during the printing process. While the excuse sounds plausible, most theorists believe that certain printers are akin to light bulbs – made to fail. When manufacturers make a printer, they reduce quality by downgrading firmware. This enables them to reduce costs by manufacturing them all at the same time but selling them at different prices to maximize profit. Some models even have a page printing limit designed into the system, so once you’ve exhausted the indicated number, the printer just stops functioning.
3. Microsoft’s “Halloween Documents”
Microsoft, by the mid to late 1990s, had already been established as the top dogs of personal computing. Of course, such a feat would throw up some conspiracy theories on how they came about and what they were doing to maintain their status. In October and November of 1998, the so-called “Halloween Documents” emerged, raising reactions from the emerging open-source software community.
It contained internal memos from Microsoft executives that showed concern over the rise of free and open-source software (specifically, Linux), and how Microsoft was working to keep it under, something many developers had been suspecting for a time. Publicly, the company could care less about open-source software, but these “documents” proved they saw these threats as more than just a phase. Microsoft’s marketing strategy called Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) was also mentioned as being ineffective against open-source developers.
4. The Cloud and your Privacy
Everything can be done online these days – schedule meetings, plan parties, shopping – and everything relies on data stored in the “cloud”. Some conspiracy theorists believe that the government has complete control of the cloud (and even if they didn’t, what can’t they do to retrieve access) and that they were crossing people’s rights to privacy whenever they wanted.
While not everyone’s lives are interesting enough to provoke government intrusion, this fear has had a lot of people questioning the security of cloud services. This also goes the same for facial recognition apps, one that raises the question, “If apps can scan my face, who’s to say they couldn’t sell that data to the government and have that used against us in the future?”.
Just plenty, plenty of paranoid people out there if you ask me, though this theory is admittedly a little unnerving.
5. Deep Blue vs. Kasparov
If you weren’t aware, Deep Blue is a supercomputer (owned by IBM) that played against Gary Kasparov during the famous chess showdown of ’96 and ’97. As history goes, Kasparov won 4-2 during their six-match game in 1996 but lost during the rematch in 1997.
According to the rules established for the two matches, Deep Blue’s team of technicians and chess experts were allowed to adjust the configurations between games, not during. After his loss, Kasparov publicly questioned IBM’s subjection to these rules, saying he noticed human intervention and creativity during the rematch. Theorists have been all over this case ever since.