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7 most terrible myths about the Internet and computers: where is the truth?

The Internet is not safe, but many users are looking for danger in the wrong place – this is how all sorts of myths and legends about deadly viruses, total espionage and the uprising of machines appear.

1. A powerful virus will destroy all computers 

The day will come when all computers will be stopped by a powerful virus or something else – a kind of apocalypse will happen. Computers in hospitals and police, ordinary users, air traffic controllers, etc. will stop working. It looks like a hackneyed script for another blockbuster about the end of the world, but the version is very popular among conspiracy theorists.

Computers are used really everywhere and they are partly tied to life support systems in hospitals, they are used by air traffic controllers to breed planes, they are used at nuclear power plants and in spacecraft. Even televisions and washing machines already have their own computer brains.

But the reality is that computers that are installed at potentially dangerous and important facilities are not connected to the global network. It’s just a matter of security. Therefore, it is very difficult to “bring” the virus there. And if this does happen, then without communication with the outside world, other computers will not become infected, so the catastrophe will be local.

In addition, computers around the world run on different operating systems, including specialized ones. How many viruses would a hypothetical hacker need to write to infect more than just Windows ?

Yes, viruses are improving, but security software manufacturers are not sitting idle either: vulnerabilities are quickly fixed, antiviruses are self-learning, and nothing fundamentally new among viruses has appeared lately.

2. The overmind will enslave us all

Worry that artificial intelligence will eventually be smarter than humans is stirring public minds. However, it has no scientific basis, despite the authority of the authors of loud statements that AI will enslave the world.

In fact, this myth is about superintelligence – artificial intelligence with intelligent behavior that surpasses human. The catch here is that machines do not have empathy, an important human quality, and most likely, it is technically impossible to obtain it (at least not yet).

Everything is pretty boring: the machine learning algorithms that AI learns from are designed to decipher the relationships that exist in the input data. A person cannot always see them, and here AI algorithms come to the rescue. We train the machine to recognize objects in a photo by showing it images and correcting it many times; we teach to understand the context of our requests as part of interaction with a smartphone (call a taxi home, show the way to the office, order pizza). But this does not mean that the machine will simultaneously learn to recognize constellations in the sky or handwriting – after all, it did not have templates. And if she learns constantly and a lot, she will become faster and more accurate in performing a specific task, and will not gain versatile experience.

And, finally, we do not know for certain the algorithm for the emergence of human intelligence. Even if we understand it, this does not mean that it will be possible to develop an AI that will become more successful than a person.

3. Video games provoke violence in real life

Psychologists, sociologists and criminologists are actively looking for a connection between the passion for video games, especially violent ones, and aggressive behavior in real life. But aside from private opinions, student surveys, and the association between low grades and video game addiction, the summary of scientific papers reveals interesting results:

  • With each new generation, people become less aggressive and violent, although in general they pay more attention to games (study in European Psychologist, covering 25 years of studying the connection between video games and the increase in violence, 2014).
  • There is no evidence of accumulation of aggression over time, and the long-term impact of violent games on youth aggression is close to zero (meta-analysis of 28 global studies from previous years, 2020).
  • The popularity of video games has reduced the level of street crime among young people – they have lost interest in robberies and vandalism. There is a correlation between the decrease in the number of crimes and the release of new games in the Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto series (Understanding the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime, 2011).
  • People who play video games for a long time feel happier than those who don’t. Adolescent aggression is more influenced by domestic violence, and there is no association between it and the amount of time spent playing games ( Oxford University , 2007, 2019 and 2020).

There is also evidence in various smaller studies that games develop empathy, concentration, responsiveness, self-control, altruism, and reduce depression. Video games help to cope with stress, and are also a modern way of socialization, which was especially noticeable during the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.

4. Anyone can “find you by IP”

Despite the persistent misconception that in response to any insult on the Web, you can be identified by IP and rush home with torches and pitchforks, this is unlikely in the modern world. For ordinary users, it is not possible to determine the exact location of a person by IP address. 

By IP address , you can only find out the data of your provider, country and city (sometimes even district) of residence, in some cases, email and phone number, but not the exact address and other personal data. As for the username and passport data, they can only be obtained from the provider by special services upon request.

Your IP is most often dynamic, that is, it changes with each new connection to the Network, and upon request from the police, the provider will raise the logs and match the address with the contract. Therefore, if you are engaged in illegal activities, you can indeed be identified by IP, but this will not be done by another user with whom you just quarreled on the forum, but by law enforcement agencies.

Of course, if you set a goal, then you can try to find other data using your IP: for example, the address on bulletin boards by phone number, social media accounts where the user can leave a lot of personal data. But it will depend on how you follow the rules of safe behavior on the Internet – another reason to think about it.

5. Watching “death” videos leads to madness or death 

Scary photo and video files with specially created effects, the so-called creepypastas – this genre is more alive than all living ones. Although it has been 35 years since the Wyoming Incident that started them.

In 1987, during the broadcast of Doctor Who, a strange set of symbols appeared on TV screens in Wyoming , and then a poor-quality video with part of someone’s face and head and a very unpleasant sound. The video was accompanied by strange inscriptions: “Why do you hate?”, “We are outside the door”, etc. 

The facts are as follows: there was an interception of the broadcast by a hacker, although his identity could not be established. Immediately after this incident, people began to contact local hospitals who complained of headaches, nausea, anxiety and hallucinations, but the investigation showed that the video itself had nothing to do with it – the suddenness of its appearance and the impressionability of viewers played a role.

After 20 years, someone allegedly launched the same video on the Web. The video quickly spread, seasoned with a story about a huge number of people who went crazy after watching.

Such myths are still relevant, but they should not be believed. For example, Mereana Mordegard Glesgorv, after which people allegedly gouge out their own eyes and die, the Smile.jpg file with a dog that causes acute psychosis or terrible nightmares, and other legends turned out to be fakes.

By the way, many of the myths are somehow based on the influence of the 25th frame on the human psyche, but this pseudoscientific theory has long been debunked. Even its creator admitted to the fiction.

6. There are computer viruses that kill people. 

Myths about the existence of viruses capable of killing people through the screen come from two legends. Firstly, allegedly in the DPRK , a whole “hacker department” exploded because of a virus sent from an unfriendly country, but this story is not confirmed by the facts.

The legend about the “666” virus is more popular: a 666-byte program is embedded in a video file, and when you watch it, due to a certain changing combination of colors, your heart may stop or your breath may stop due to hyperstimulation of the heart and brain.

As for the facts, in 1984, in Voronezh , a friend of his friend died of a brain hemorrhage while visiting a programmer. The programmer said that before his death, a friend looked at one point on the screen for a long time. The story was promoted and even tried to create (and sell) software that protects against an insidious virus.

But color combinations cannot hyperstimulate heart and brain activity in this way – only pharmaceuticals can do this. You can find fault with a few more points in this legend, but the most important thing is to try to write a program that can cause at least a slight psychedelic effect, also generating color spots, and fit it into 666 bytes.

7. The myth of digital drugs

In 2006, the world was talking about digital drugs – audio files that, when listened to, create an effect akin to drug intoxication. The recordings, which were labeled as known drugs, could only be listened to for a fee on a specific program and a limited number of times.

Of course, over time, the files were copied into familiar formats and various sites began to sell them. Buyers were promised euphoria after listening, explaining its occurrence by the binaural effect: when sound with different frequencies is fed into the ears, the brain tries to smooth it out and thus its rhythms change. By the way, the binaural effect really exists, but attempts to prove that it works in the described way are not very convincing.

The audio recordings themselves were a hiss, overlaid with sounds like rattles and squeaks. Buyers of digital drugs reported headaches after listening to them, memory loss and worsening of mental illness. But headache and irritability are normal reactions to such sounds. Sound noise leads to sensory overload, which causes dizziness, headaches, and other unpleasant consequences.

Now most of the sites selling audio drugs have closed, and the curious can find files even in free access. We do not recommend abusing their listening, but you still will not get any narcotic effect.

In conclusion, one thing can be said: every year there are more and more new services, gadgets and scientific theories, and with them new myths. One must be able to distinguish reality from fiction in time, but do not forget that there is still too much unknown in the world, and at some point something incredible may turn out to be true.

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