The biggest technology failures of 2016

December 27, 2016 by David Glance, The Conversation
Samsung. Credit:

2016 has been a watershed year for technology. There has been some spectacular fails that have brought a more realistic perspective to the fundamental belief that technology improves with time. In part, this is because we have now pushed hardware and software to its limits, and certainly beyond our ability to guarantee that it will work as promised, or even secretly hoped. 2016 was the year that technology hit a wall, with significant challenges that will need to be overcome before it can pick up again and start to bring any of its promised future benefits.

When batteries fail

This was certainly the case with batteries, as Samsung was forced to abandon an entire product, the Galaxy Note 7 because of faulty batteries that spontaneously caught fire. In the end, the problems with the batteries were brought about because of the drive to each year produce new model phones that are thinner and have greater . With each cycle, the engineering challenge becomes greater and the margin of error smaller. Samsung just happened to push beyond that point this year and it ended up costing them around US $3 billion with untold damage to its brand.

Samsung were not the only phone company with battery problems however. Apple has had ongoing battery issues where iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S models of iPhone abruptly shut down with the battery percentage still showing anywhere from 30% to 50%. Apple maintained that the problem affected only a small number of iPhones and offered a limited replacement but has now admitted that the problem is more widespread than it first thought.

Battery issues are not confined to mobile phones however. Apple's new MacBook Pro has failed to be endorsed by the US Consumer Reports because its battery life was so erratic in tests that the consumer organisation was not able to determine what a reasonable consumer expectation would be for the product. In a set of tests of the 13-inch TouchBar model, Consumer Reports found that battery life varied from 19.5 hours to 4.5 hours. This mirrored what MacBook owners themselves were finding. Apple has now acknowledged the issue and is working with Consumer Reports to replicate its tests.

Toxic Twitter and Facebook fake news

2016 was also the year where the world realised that social networks were not only not infallible but also suffering from problems so systemic that it has rendered them almost toxic. Twitter failed to find a buyer this year basically because of its reputation as being a haven for bullies, trolls, racists and misoginysts. The fact that Donald Trump and his followers found their element in Twitter only seemed to confirm this. Twitter's troll problem dwarfed its other fundamental issue which was that it still hasn't worked out how to make any money.

Facebook and Twitter became the principle purveyors of during the US election and like Apple and Samsung with their battery issues, eventually "'fessed up" to the fact that it had it was responsible for this new, and socially damaging, phenomenon. Facebook was trying to stave off admitting that it was responsible because it now has to find a solution and it is really not clear that there is one.

This was the year in which Yahoo proved once and for all that it really didn't care about its customers' security in admitting that it had been hacked at least twice and lost details of 1 billion accounts to unknown hackers. Yahoo insiders talked of a culture that refused to properly fund security in the period before the hacks happened. The hacks may be enough to jeopardise Yahoo's sale to Verizon, or at least shave billions off the already low price.

Nazi AI

Artificial Intelligence proved this year that it is a way off from dooming humanity as Microsoft unleashed a chat bot Tay that quickly became offensive, sending out racist, Nazi and anti-feminist tweets. Of course, one could argue that the chat bot was simply adapting to its Twitter environment but as the point was produce an AI with real intelligence, the experiment failed. 2016 was the year chat bots were due to be the next big thing in customer engagement but Microsoft illustrated quite dramatically the limitations of the technology.

When things attack

Probably the biggest wake-up call of 2016 was the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that succeeded in bringing down a large part of the Internet. The DDoS attack was launched from large numbers of infected Internet of Things (IoT) devices which have been rushed to market with poor to non-existent security. As the number of these devices is already in the billions, the risks that compromised devices may pose is only really becoming fully appreciated.

The list doesn't end there of course. The US election was hacked by Russia, the Australian government proved it couldn't run a website to conduct the census, and the movie industry continued to believe that spending money on ineffective blocks of torrent sites was better than making good movies universally available to customers.

We can only hope that 2017 proves a better year for tech.

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2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 27, 2016
This artificial is the biggest load of bullshiX I have ever seen! Not only is it vary badly written the writer has even thrown in his political agenda. I am truly not trying to be a bully but the writer should go get a job at mickey d's.
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 27, 2016
I can't even read a tech article without some butthurt douchy writer injecting his politics. You lost, get over it.
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 02, 2017
This artificial is the ... Not only is it vary badly written...

Hello, pot - meet kettle.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 03, 2017
Yes I love the constant reminder that Trump and his followers are racist scum. Every regular writer will act like this is well known fact and act like you think that too.

If you say someone is racist, I say Prove It.

Truth is, hardly anyone is racist ever since schools were integrated and its just a stupid and pointless accusation.

Anyway, Yes technology has had a tough time. I wish they wouldn't feel the need to make phones thinner. They are thin enough and we just want them to Fit in our Hand and WORK. If it stays the same thickness, who cares?
5 / 5 (4) Jan 03, 2017
If you say someone is racist, I say Prove It.

I dunno. His tweets and speeches are out there for anyone to look up. If those don't look racist to you then I guess you have a different definition of what racism is from everyone else.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 03, 2017
Yeah some of the things he said and did was somewhat racist. Primarily the failure to rent apartments to black people and being sued for it a few times, among other things.

But that doesn't mean that people that voted for him are racist.

But anyway give me a thick, long lasting iPhone any day! A Thin phone that breaks and has battery issues is Not Better than a thin, nice looking, chunk of problems!
4 / 5 (4) Jan 03, 2017
somewhat racist

Is that something like "a little bit pregnant". How exactly is someone "somewhat racist"?

But that doesn't mean that people that voted for him are racist.

Well, if they're not racist then they're too stupid to have noticed. I dunno who I despise more. racists or stupid people who support racists through ignorance. How about you?
5 / 5 (1) Jan 03, 2017
That's the kind of divisive crap that cornered people in this election. Like you are a complete non-racist and anyone who is even slightly preferential in any way is a complete 100% racist and there are no gray areas. Please.

And let the attack begin. Look! He disagrees! Get em!
5 / 5 (2) Jan 04, 2017
Like you are a complete non-racist and anyone who is even slightly preferential in any way is a complete 100% racist and there are no gray areas. Please.

Anyone who judges by race is a racist. If you don't see it that way - fine. But I don't subscribe to that view.
Yes, it's sometimes funny to trot out stereotypes for a laugh. But the stuff Trump said/tweeted do not suggest that any of it was meant to be funny. I mean: have you actually looked at any of it?

How can you say this guy is just 'so-so' with stuff like this on his record? Would you shake hands with anyone like that? Seriously?
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 04, 2017
Anyone who judges by race is a racist
Did he? He said that some people from Mexico coming across the border are criminals. Is that racist? He said that some moslems coming here are terrorists. Is that racist?
How can you say this guy is just 'so-so' with stuff like this on his record? Would you shake hands with anyone like that? Seriously?
"After leaving Italy, Amri spent three weeks in Switzerland, according to his sister, before moving on to Germany in search of better opportunities, finally arriving there in June 2015 as the European migrant crisis was developing, but a month before Angela Merkel had opened the country's borders to asylum seekers."
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 04, 2017
I think people should be judged with an even hand don't you? If so, you ought to call other politicians racist in the same vein.
not rated yet Jan 04, 2017
Yes antialias, but you have Implicit Bias that you do not consciously control. Everyone judges others on race, if only subconsciously, to some degree. I just get tired of people saying "I'm not a racist" and then acting like that is that. I'm not racist either, but I am a realist. It is incredibly naïve to say that all races are the same. If they were, they wouldn't be races, would they? The fact that they have characteristics that differ makes them different.

I always say that different races are like different flavors of Ice Cream. One is not superior to the other.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 04, 2017
I'm not racist either, but I am a realist. It is incredibly naïve to say that all races are the same. If they were, they wouldn't be races, would they? The fact that they have characteristics that differ makes them different.

"Race" is an arbitrary, sociopolitically constructed concept that doesn't measure the differences between people well. Racism is basically insisting in these make-belief categories that have very little to do with actual differences in character.

For example, have 100 people. If 50 of them have flat noses and the others have pointy noses - by this very obvious difference you then call them two different races.

Then you discover 30 of the flat nosed people are cheaters vs. 20 of the pointy nose people, you then conclude that the characteristic of the flat nosed race is higher propensity to be cheaters. However, isn't this arbitrary? Why not instead ignore the nose and divide the people into races according to whether they cheat or not?

5 / 5 (1) Jan 04, 2017

After all, there are dozens or hundreds of traits that could equally well be used to put people into groups - no "race" has a monopoly to any of them.

Of course you can't do that in practice, because the nose is the visible feature, while cheating isn't, so race categories invariably become about superfical features which is the least informative and most irrelevant aspect of a person in terms of their psychology, character and temperament.

That's why "race realism" in practice collapses to the age old pseudoscientific idea that you can tell a criminal by the look of their face or the shape of their skull. This it does because it isn't really about people's interest in finding out what others are like, but in their interest to define in-groups and out-groups - friends and enemies.

5 / 5 (1) Jan 04, 2017
Then there's also the issue that genetic groupings do not easily lend themselves to racial groupings, because the effect and function of any one gene is influenced by all the other genes.

So pointing out that some people are genetically similiar doesn't predict how they will behave, because the part which isn't the same changes the function of the part that is the same.

And more still, the function and expression of genes is modified by the environment, even by the society and culture the people live in, through epigenetic effects so the whole thing is a mess.

So effectively, you can tell by looking at an individual what "race" they belong to, but you can't look at a race and predict what the individual will be like. The population which you use to define ther race can have certain distribution of features, but the features - genes and whatnot - which you observe do not necessarily create that same distribution of people if applied backwards.

4 / 5 (4) Jan 05, 2017
. Everyone judges others on race, if only subconsciously, to some degree.

Which makes it all the moer important to consciously keep our subconscious in check. Consciousness can (and should) overrule subconscious.

It is incredibly naïve to say that all races are the same. If they were, they wouldn't be races, would they?

Phenotype/genotype is not the same as character. Racism is disparaging character based on race. That's just idiotic.
not rated yet Jan 05, 2017
Consciousness can (and should) overrule subconscious.

Try it, and you'll find out it's impossible.

You can't think everything all the time, or you'll become practically paralyzed, and conscious thought is subject to cognitive biases just the same. It instead becomes dangerous when you forget to apply the de-bias, or you don't notice the existence of your bias, and start to believe your thought processes are rational simply because you're doing it consciously. I.e. "I think, therefore I'm right."

Then you have to be superconscious to keep your consciousness in check - to think about thinking about thinking about thinking...

That's the problem with trying to rationalize and philosophise your way to perfect morality. If you can't trust yourself or other people to behave without constant effort to control themselves, you've already lost it. It doesn't work.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 05, 2017
Or as Penn Jillette put it when asked what prevents him from raping and murdering if there's no God to make the rules; "Nothing: I rape and kill all I want."

That is to say, he doesn't.

If he should want to, there's no argument to prevent him anyhow. Likewise, if you want to be a racist you will be racist, no matter what other people keep telling you. The question is simply why do you want to be racist - that's the fundamental issue. What's in it for you?

And when you examine that, you find the usual politics: us vs. them. Good vs. bad. Even the liberal guy who is anti-racist and derives his position by seemingly rational means is still harboring the same biases against people who look different or are otherwise branded different - he's just re-defining the game into "us progressives vs. them regressives".

Or: "I'm morally superior to you because I have all these complicated rules that I designed to deal with injustice by my own definition, therefore I get to rule."
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 05, 2017
Try it, and you'll find out it's impossible
Like our pets we are a combination of instinct and domestication. We have been taught to ignore all sorts of natural impulses. Like our dogs we can learn to accept the new cat in the house. Usually.

"An unexamined life is not worth living"

"According to Eibl-Eibesfeldt (1970 et seq.), destructive intergroup aggression in humans depends, to a large extent, on "cultural pseudospeciation". Owing to this process, first analyzed by Erikson (1964, 1966, 1984), ethnic groups tend to perceive one another as different species and to behave accordingly. Therefore, war appears to be the result of our innate repulsion for outsiders, not a simple effect of aggressive drive. By instigating intergroup aggression, pseudospeciation favors intragroup solidarity, friendship, and altruism."
3 / 5 (2) Jan 05, 2017
But in actuality war is simply the competition over resources. No 2 species can occupy the same niche. This includes pseudospecies.
Captain Stumpy
3 / 5 (2) Jan 13, 2017
Everyone judges others on race, if only subconsciously, to some degree
i disagree - perhaps this is true with more of a primitive "tribal" aspect

perhaps we all subconsciously judge other cultures, foreigners or those we don't know or understand, like white people

but not everyone judges others on race


just in case yall didn't get it... thats a joke


on a more serious note
Consciousness can (and should) overrule subconscious.
this is physically impossible at this stage in our evolution, and you should already be aware of that one

were you poking fun or attempting to make a different point?


It is incredibly naïve to say that all races are the same. If they were, they wouldn't be races, would they?
uhm... that makes no sense

all humans are part of a single "race"

so racists are actually using arbitrary physical, political, cultural, or other reasons to prejudge someone

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