After Hours

Technological innovations and conspiracy theories: The perfect storm

New technology sometimes leads to new conspiracy theories, as is the case with the four examples Wally Bahny discusses in this Geekend post.

You might think technological innovations and advancements would help us debunk conspiracy theories, because there are more data present and more ways to analyze a theory. After all, if nearly everyone on the street that fateful day in 1963 had a smartphone with an embedded camera, it might have been easier to spot whose face was in the window of that book depository and certainly someone would have caught video of the man on the grassy knoll. And, UFO "sightings" seem to be on a decline now that cameras are less likely to take fuzzy photographs thanks to digital imaging technology.

Technology has helped us debunk some conspiracy theories that have been around for years (e.g., Contrails/Chemtrails, the moon landing, and the September 11 myths about missiles), but at least four relatively new inventions introduced conspiracy theories.

  • Direct deposit: Nearly every bank in the United States offers a reward/bribe (usually in the range of $50-$200) for opening a checking account at their bank and directly depositing paychecks there. A logical reason for these offers is because a bank's cost of handling a paycheck weekly/bi-weekly/etc. is much higher over the term of your account than a relatively small (as far as a bank is concerned) up-front reward. Conspiracy theorists say the real reason is because your bank gets your money as early as possible on payday and then is able to earn a few fractions of a cent in the time they hold it before you spend it, even if you withdraw the entire amount when they open at 9:00 AM. Over time, those fractions of a cent add up to well over the reward amount.
  • DTV converters: In 2009 when the United States made the push to drop all analog TV broadcasts for the less bandwidth intensive digital TV broadcasts, a video of a DTV converter box showed up on the web that allegedly contained a camera and microphone, thereby letting the government see and hear everything that went on in your house. This video was later revealed to be a hoax, but for a while, it confirmed some people's fears about these boxes the government was, in many cases, giving away for free. Even when the hoax was revealed, conspiracy theorists were still up in arms, and many DTV converter boxes were cracked open, revealing nothing more than what should be in the box.
  • The cloud: If I put all my data in the cloud, what's to stop the government from issuing a subpoena and getting my information? Or just getting it anyway? What will the cloud provider do with my data once they have it? Ever since the cloud has gained popularity, these are some of the questions people ask. In reality, most people's data isn't that interesting or noteworthy; most people's lives aren't that interesting or noteworthy. Nevertheless, people are afraid and spend considerable time sharing their fears on some forums.
  • Facial recognition apps: So, if an app is able to capture my face, what's to stop the government or a big business from putting cameras up on the street and knowing my every move (Google Street View, anyone?)? Add that to data gathered in the cloud and before you know it, everyone will know everything about me. Certain articles about TrapWire, surveillance camera software that reportedly can recognize peoples' faces in footage from security cameras, only add fuel to this fire.

Share some of your favorite technology-related conspiracy theories in the comments section.

11 comments
jimmyhelu
jimmyhelu

I understand you do not agree with my conspiracy. It is just an opinion and I think that the people in power would never tell use there is far more advanced technology. It has always been throughout time the people with the most money have had the best than the rest. Of course they would not give the masses the best. They would give us less advanced technology because we are not the elite and they would convince us the technology is not existent all the while using it for themselves but of course not in the public eye. I mean just because it did not come on the market or they did not tell us or we did not see them develop it does not mean it does not exist. There are films out there that explain about advanced technology. The elite actually put movies out about the future where the technology is advanced. I know I cannot convince anyone because many conspiracy theories are told by the media is loony and tell the masses they are. I found out by watching alternative media about advanced technology already built. Actually if you do not believe me you can read some of the elites books such as the Technocratic Era. This is from an elite about what they intend to do with technology. Why would an insider lie but than again why would he write a book. Anyway I am not endorsing the book but it would be interesting to read

gscratchtr
gscratchtr

about the 'uninteresting' part. otoh, I have two thoughts: if "big government" wants to know anything about me, they either already know everything they want to know, or don't care. Either way, it matters not to me. more seriously, my mother at 80+ y.o. is beginning to worry that 'someone' is using information about her 'inappropriately', and that she'll be held responsible This began when bogus emails were being sent from her email account, and she realised how little she knew about what all was going on at the other end of that wire

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

I'm sort of with the conspiracy theorists on this one. Your notion of [i]it's just not interesting[/i] doesn't take into account time. If archeologists find trash dumps fascinating it stands to reason given enough time anyone's personal record could have value to third parties.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

Wonder what the conspiracy theorists make of the XBOX 360 Kinect. It always creeps me out upon walking into a room where my daughter left the XBox on and it "wakes up" when it sees me...

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

and companies deposit the money in advance, and can be up to two days in advance, but with a release of the pay day. This is a hang over from the early days of inter-bank transfers taking over a day to be processed and the requirement for the money to be available on the pay day. Since then processes have improved to instantaneous inter-bank transfers, but some organisations still deposit early. Some banks now make the money available as soon as it's deposited, while some hold it until the pay day. In some countries and states the banks must now make it available as soon as it's deposited, but not all. In those where they can hold it until the pay day and it's in the bank early, they do get a small advantage in having it the extra day. I should add, that I've NOT heard of a bank doing the hold over of the money for about twenty years, but the early deposit and bank hold was standard practice with direct deposit pays back in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s.

dogknees
dogknees

It seems to me that the number of conspiracy theorists is inversely proportional to the quality of free education available. Something that has declined dramatically in the last couple of decades. Combine that with the rise of anti-intellectualism and you have the perfect storm!

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

You are forgetting how lazy and incompetent the Government is (generally). Strange how super fast and efficient they are at awarding themselves extra perks. Putting everything in "one" location makes it easier for them (if they feel so inclined).

dogknees
dogknees

There was a case about 18-20 years back in Australia where a secure transport business was using the money it held temporarily to make money on the exchange market.

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

Thirty years ago (when electronic banking was just starting) a cheque would clear in 1 day. Now that everything is done by computers, it takes 4 days. Why do you suppose that is?

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

pro computer days. The process was the cheques went from your bank to their local clearing centre, from there to the other branch if a local branch of the same bank; the clearing centre nearest to the branch it's drawn on if another branch off another centre; to the clearing centre of the other bank if on another bank - then copy the same as for your bank. Depending on how many centres it went through, add a day. Eventually it ends up in the bank the cheque is drawn on (over night if a nearby branch of your bank) where a member of staff checks there's enough in the account and the signature is right and there is no stop payment on it. Then the cheque is cleared for payment. If there is an issue they write to the depositing bank and inform them it's being bounced, allow a day for the mail. Now the process for the physical movement of the cheque is exactly the same today as then, except it's a state wide clearing centre where all the banks meet now. So they have a policy to allow the maximum time for a notice of being bounced to arrive. My first job was in a bank back in 1970 and at one time I was the fellow who did the signature checking and the like, so I know how it worked then as I was intimately involved.