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The immediate threat is AR and not AI

Posted at — Sep 8, 2017 by Abishek Muthian

Disclaimer: This is an attempt at trolling and satire.

Don’t just tag me under technology fear mongerer, I’m going to present an acute scenario in which AR could be misused to inflict significant damage to a large population.

As a technology evangelist, I’am very excited to see the core support for Augmented Reality (AR) in iOS ARKit & android’s ARCore which has made the technology earlier accessible to only select enterprises; now available free of cost for any developer.

Those who are new to the term — AR, there are chances where you’ve already witnessed it if you had been playing Pokemon Go.

If not, perceive it as your reality being augmented by software (e.g ARCore, ARKit) & hardware (e.g cameras, accelerometer, gyroscope) to present you with things which are not necessarily present in your actual field of view but available only on the device running the said software & hardware.

So why do I say it holds immediate threat and compare it with Artificial Intelligence. To do justice to the context, I must come clean with my preception of AI. Here is my take on that in my earlier post & I’ll limit this post to AR for the sake of brevity.

AR could do things, which was just science fiction few years back. Even for those who are up to date with latest in tech, the first experience with AR could be pleasantly appalling.

Like this kitchen moon landing,


but then again, AR could also be used to do this —

Ghost from The Grudge movie Just a Japanese ghost/daemon stating behind. Picture credits : The Grudge 2004

Now you might be wondering whether I’m doing a bad job at writing a satire or just plane out my mind; I like to belive it’s neither and there’s valid reason backed by facts to say AR could be misused in a very specific scenario.

World Health Organisation (WHO) report in 2017 says 7.5 % of Indians suffer from minor to major mental disorders which require expert intervention. A 2016 study by National Institue of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) puts incidence of depression is roughly one in every 20 Indian or 5 % of the population.

Mental health workforce in India (per 100,000 population) include psychiatrists (0.3), nurses (0.12), psychologists (0.07) and social workers (0.07) says WHO.

When basic health facilities are still a luxury for rural population in many parts of the world, mental health is often treated by quacks & subjected to witch hunting.

And there’s no shortage of quacks & baba’s in a country like India,

As brilliantly depicated by Satyajit Ray’s Kapurush Mahapurush.

Watch video on YouTube

Augmented Reality could give brand new ammunition to these people to swindle gullible in broad daylight often resulting in physical harm and that’s exactly what I’m worried about.

For some readers, especially those who aren’t from India this could sound bit far-fetched; rest assured visiting google news ( ) would show you enough evidence to back me on this.

They constantly keep up with technology to innovate their trade of exploiting others & often it’s rural women or sometimes even educated well-to-do who are just vanilla stupid.

Imagine this —

Someone who is in need of urgent medical care for mental illness walks into the trap of a quack, the latter just needs access to a decent smartphone and AR powered app to make convincing story of the patient being possessed by a daemons & what not.

If you think building such app would be counter intuitive for their business model, apps demonstrating the similar USP are already available in market even before Google, Apple made it very easy to develop Augmented Reality apps.

Novum Analytics raised ~ 50,000 $ in Indiegogo for the AR survival horror game — Night Terrors which is available for iOS and similar game Ghost Snap available for android.

Watch video on YouTube

Those are indeed fun or should I say scary games for those who are scared by ghosts for cheap thrills. Unfortunately it could also create life-threatening environment for someone who hasn’t used a smartphone in their life which is at 83 % according to a Pew survey.

So, ban AR?

No! banning is never the answer for anything in a civilised society. Further the advantages which AR bring to the table such as in medical sciences, outweigh everything else. At the same time, it’s a moral responsiblity to ensure that no one is affected by it; when there’s credible chances that it will be exploited by a certain faction.

NGO’s who work on rural healthcare should be made aware of what’s plausible with AR as they constantly work along with government to prevent & rehabilitate victims of quacks & baba’s.


Arthur C. Clarke

or at-least to those believe it.

Change log

28-May-2022 Removed affiliate links, One less package to be delivered by the poor amazon delivery personnel.


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