If only innovations that had unintended negative consequences could be uninvented, we can fix our mistakes. Let's look at a list of past innovations that I would uninvent if I could.
The Invention of Robocalls
The first invention that I would like to uninvent is robocalls. These calls include anything from selling automobile maintenance contracts to various telemarketing campaigns. In our office, our employees get eight to twelve robocalls every day.
Robocalling results from telephone calls going digital and the creation of voice over IP. This technology opened up the door for the invention of robocalling. The inventors of voice-over IP did not think their invention would be this widely misused. Misuse of the technology has spread more widely, as regulators haven't been able to keep up with it.
The Atomic Bomb, Speed Cameras, and Social Media
The second invention I would uninvent is the atomic bomb. Atomic energy has been very beneficial to society. The creation of the atomic bomb is an excellent example of the harmful use of good innovation. If I could, I'd keep using atomic sciences for medicine and energy but get rid of the bomb.
The next thing I would uninvent is speed cameras that clock your vehicle's speed and send you tickets. These have some positive uses, such as license plate tolls that mail a bill to your address and improved road safety.
The bad thing about the speed camera technology is that many third-party companies install cameras and split the toll money with the municipalities. With a third party in the picture, it opens the door for many unethical practices for these companies.
The fourth technology I would uninvent is social media. I believe social media creates an amplification effect of similarities. Social media algorithms misuse and manipulate data and information and place things in your feed. I prefer to spend my time on LinkedIn and the Innovators Community, which are more professional and don't artificially put stuff in your feed.
Tobacco, Plastic, and other Chemical Weaponry
Number five on my list is tobacco, a hard one for me as the family on my grandmother's side were tobacco farmers in Kentucky. I remember helping with the tobacco harvest in the summers as a kid. The fundamental role of tobacco is damaging, as it is addictive and bad for one's health. My mom was a heavy smoker, so I would love to get rid of tobacco if I could.
The sixth invention I would love to get rid of is chemical weaponry, which started with mustard gas before WW1. Many more dangerous weapons came about because of this invention. Now the world is forced to form treaties to deter abuses of these technologies.
The next thing I would love to get rid of is plastic. Plastic has had many positive uses, especially in healthcare. The early versions of plastic that never decompose are genuine problems. Here's an example of an invention with unintended consequences. We encouraged innovators to solve the problem and resulted in bio-degradable products that are very useful.
In the past, I've shared our work with Lakeside Fish Farm in Rwanda, the largest fish farm in the country. Rwanda has a stringent no-plastic policy. Packaging fish without plastic has proved a challenging task. As a result, there has been a lot of work done on creating alternative packaging that reduces the need for plastic.
Computer Viruses and Chemical Ingredients
Another unintended consequence I wish I could erase is the invention of computer viruses and malware. Many of you may not know that I was doing work in computer viruses and had some engagement with Dr. Fred Cohen in my early days. My work on computer viruses focused on cutting down illegal software copying. The intentions were good, but over time, they led to malware and other dangerous things.
The next on my list is the overuse of chemicals in foods. I've gotten into the habit of reading ingredient lists on the foods I eat and liquids I drink. When looking at the ingredients of food and drink, many chemicals' inclusions solely benefit the producer. These chemicals make foods last longer, cost less to produce, etc. One example is high-fructose corn syrup, a common replacement of sugar that is very unhealthy.
What Invention Would You Like to Uninvent?
For the tenth and final invention, I want the listeners to think of something they want to uninvent and add to the comments.
To know more about the inventions that I would like to uninvent, listen to this week's show: 10 Inventions I Would Uninvent.