6 Geniuses Who Saw Their Inventions Turn Evil
We have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that it's entirely possible for one person to completely change the world with the power of their mind. The bad news is that it almost certainly won't be in the way they envisioned. History is full of examples of inventors who've seen their noble, genius intentions go the Frankenstein route and bring the world nothing but pain and misery, such as ...
Alfred Binet's IQ Test Got Hijacked by Eugenics-Obsessed Racists
The whole concept of using a simple number to score somebody's brainpower goes back to French psychologist Alfred Binet, who developed the precursor to the IQ test in 1905. It's the sort of thing that doesn't seem to have the horror potential of your average mad science experiment; Binet had merely noticed that different children of the same age learn at different rates, so why not tailor the classroom to them by putting them through a series of cognitive tests to see what they can handle?
After all, how could that information ever possibly be misused? Even if, say, children of certain races or backgrounds consistently scored lower, surely everyone would simply realize that was a sign that the system was failing them. Surely.
"What's that word you're using? You-genics? I'm afraid I'm not familiar."
Noooo! You Maniacs!
First, Binet himself knew his test wasn't all that scientific. It came with tons of disclaimers stressing that the test does not measure static intelligence and should not be used to label people in any way. And, for the single purpose of figuring out a kid's level of development, it worked pretty well. But then American eugenicists got hold of his work. The eugenicists loved the idea of intelligence tests because they wanted to use them to identify and weed out "the idiots" from the gene pool, which, by sheer coincidence, all happened to include anyone who wasn't a white American. Never mind that the score can absolutely be improved with education -- why burden the system with teaching children when we can just breed superior intelligence into them!
Thus, immigrants at Ellis Island were tested using the Binet scale (which was never meant for adults) so that eugenicists could rank races of people like they were Pokemon, but without acknowledging that they could level up with experience. The "results" naturally showed that intelligence was closely linked to how white your skin was, which was then used to propagate the idea that people from southern and eastern Europe were barely smarter than well-trained horses, and about as useful.
"How good are you at pulling carts?"
It went even further downhill after Binet's invention was used to mess with people's junk. After intelligence tests took off, 30 states used them as the basis of forced sterilization, which by the 1960s affected 60,000 Americans, all because an old-timey BuzzFeed quiz determined that their Simpsons character was Ralph Wiggum.
Binet died in 1911, thankfully missing the worst of this. But not long before his death, he complained about the "brutal pessimism" of "deplorable verdicts that affirm that the intelligence of an individual is a fixed quantity." And if he wasn't such a gentleman, he probably would have added "you unbelievable assholes" to it.
Victor Gruen's Shopping Mall Became Everything He'd Ever Hated
The shopping mall is as American as whaling on an apple pie with a baseball bat, so you probably wouldn't guess that its inventor was an Austrian socialist named Victor Gruen.
Landing in New York in 1938 after Austria and Germany had gotten a bit too "Hitler" for his Jewish tastes, Gruen looked around and decided that he loved just about everything about his new home, except maybe for its suburbs, considering them butt-ugly wastelands with no community.
"I mean ... shit."
The shopping mall was his plan to civilize that motherfucker. Gruen envisioned a giant building that would house a bunch of shops under one roof and also feature sculptures and music so people had somewhere nice to get out of their stupid cars for a while and actually talk to each other. And buy all the things, of course, or the project wouldn't get funded, but that was beside the point for Gruen. The mall he envisioned was the center of a whole "shopping town," a more sociable and European-like community with schools, parks, and theaters in all the right places.
When his Southdale Mall opened in 1956 in Edina, Minnesota, it made the local suburbanites feel like goddamned pharaohs.
Noooo! You Maniacs!
So how did the mall go from Little Vienna on the prairie to somewhere zombie hordes congregate when they're feeling metaphorical? Mostly a change in tax laws.
In the 1950s, the U.S. government finally acknowledged that stuff breaks down, allowing businesses to set aside some tax-free money for a rainy day. This meant that complex, money-eating projects like shopping malls suddenly became much safer investments. Soon, greedy ripoffs of Gruen's vision sprouted everywhere, and because of the lack of risk, they said "Screw you" to the man's financially sound and aesthetically pleasing socialist vision, instead wanting their shopping malls to be bigger, gaudier, and built on the cheapest land you could buy, way, way outside of town.
North Dakota wasn't even a state until people built a mall there in 1958.
America had Temple of Doom-ed the heart of downtown from the suburbs, leaving just a "gigantic shopping machine." Years later, Gruen distanced himself from the modern shopping malls, commenting on them bitterly: "I refuse to pay alimony for those bastard developments." Man, how do you think he felt when, after coming back to Vienna, he discovered that the city had just acquired a brand new shopping mall? That wasn't a joke.
Peter Jensen Saw His Loudspeaker Used for Hitler's Propaganda
Now here's an invention that couldn't possibly be used for anything more evil than keeping the old lady downstairs up at night.
Peter Laurids Jensen was an early 20th century inventor from Denmark often referred to as "the Danish Edison" despite none of our research suggesting that he was a thieving piece of shit-flavored bastard cake. In 1909, Jensen moved to the U.S. to work, and he and his business partner, Edwin Pridham, invented the first loudspeaker, which they called Magnavox.
"Loudspeaker" sounds like a joke name that a kindergartner made up.
On Christmas Eve 1915, Jensen and Pridham demoed their invention by playing popular carols to a cheering crowd of 75,000 in San Francisco, with the loudspeaker allegedly carrying the music as far as a mile away. Everyone's lives were instantly improved, because a device that lets you loudly broadcast any message across vast distances to thousands of people could never have any potential downsides whatsoever.
Noooo! You Maniacs!
Here's something you never think about -- in Braveheart, how did anyone in Mel Gibson's army hear his inspiring speech? He was just shouting it; the whole thing would have been lost on anyone standing more than 30 feet away. Same goes for similar "old-timey leader rousing a massive crowd" scenes in Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings, and the Bible. We kind of just assume their voice was being amplified by ... magic, we guess? But a charismatic leader actually had very little ability to whip a huge crowd into a frenzy before the Magnavox came along. So ... want to guess who was the first guy to see the brainwashing potential of this device?
Hint: His initials are "JG," and it isn't John Goodman.
Well, as Hitler's minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels was tasked with making sure that everyone heard the Fuhrer's message about the Jews being responsible for all of the country's problems. Seeing as cloning technology hadn't been perfected yet, Goebbels settled for the next best thing: loudspeakers, setting them up on every street corner and then drowning them in Hitler's soothing shrieks of hatred. The loudspeakers soon became important symbols of Hitler's image, and the people loved them, though Jensen did not share in their enthusiasm.
It's not like he could have seen it coming (and it's not like we wouldn't have eventually found a way to create funky-ass floor-shaking bass without him), but the inventor admitted that he utterly regretted creating the loudspeakers after he'd found out how Hitler and other dictators used them for evil. Especially after realizing how effective it was -- it's important to note that the Nazis had previously been unable to win majority support, but they really did get a boost by just being louder. Seriously, look at this asshole's speaking style:
Up to about 2:00 in, he's speaking in a normal voice, then he gets a little louder, and a little louder, the crowd going apeshit every time he raises his voice. Now fast forward to the 9:00 mark and listen to him screaming his little mustache off, yelling himself hoarse, the speakers rattling the sound off the walls, pummeling the ears of a sea of white faces.
Hitler steadily gained prominence, the Nazi Party's influence grew, and Jensen presumably went on to invent "getting blackout drunk to silence the voices in your head."
Wally Conron Invented a New Kind of Dog/Method of Torturing Dogs
In 1988, a blind Hawaiian woman needed a guide dog that wouldn't trigger her husband's allergies, causing Aussie guide dog breeder Wally Conron to swing into action. Or more accurately, to swing a couple of dogs into some action until a Labrador and a non-shedding poodle successfully boned and created the world's first hypoallergenic guide dog.
"Also, in an emergency, it makes a pretty great mop!"
But there was a problem. Guide dog puppies are billeted out to volunteer families to learn the basics of good-dog-ology, and those families all wanted a purebred Labrador. Putting on his best fedora hat, Conron went all Don Draper on the problem and rebranded his creation as a new breed called the labradoodle, setting off a squee that echoed around the world.
Noooo! You Maniacs!
Want a reagle (beagle/Rottweiler), a chusky (chow/husky), or a chiweenie (Chihuahua/Dachshund)? You got it, and it's all thanks to Conron, whose labradoodle kicked off a global fad for adorable portmanteau "designer dogs." Today, though, he is concerned less with the precious abominations that he inspired and more with the inhumane breeding practices that make them possible: "I opened a Pandora's box, that's what I did. I released a Frankenstein."
"Who's an affront to God and nature? You are! Yes you are!"
You see, as the popularity of Conron's breed grew, so did the demand for crazier mixes, together with their prices. Before long, backyard breeders who had no idea what they were doing -- and puppy mills that just didn't give a shit -- started pumping out anything with a cute hybrid name, with no regard for the dog's well-being or viability.
Creating whole generations of puppies with innate health problems (with epilepsy leading the charge) is bad enough, but sadly it did not stop there. According to Conron, the biggest sin that those people committed was marketing their mixes as being docile and hypoallergenic, when in most cases they clearly are not. It turns out successful breeding isn't as easy as leaving two dogs a plate of spaghetti and looking away for 10 seconds, and if you don't know what you're doing, you end up with "half crazy and untrainable" beasts that, oh yeah, also shed fur like crazy.
Still, even Neil Young owned a labradoodle, and if they can warm his surly old heart, then who are you to resist?
Tony Wild's Promotion of an Exotic Coffee Led to Horrifying Acts of Animal Cruelty
In case you've never seen The Bucket List, kopi luwak is a type of gourmet coffee made from coffee beans that have been eaten and crapped out (undigested) by the Asian palm civet, a type of mongoose/cat hybrid endemic to Southeastern Asia.
That has to be at least twice as weird as drinking cow's milk.
The critters stalk coffee plantations and eat the ripest coffee cherries there, which are then processed through their digestive system and infused with the aroma from their anal glands, giving them a complex, rich flavor. On the other hand, they do come out of a cat's ass, which is probably why the coffee never made it as a commercial product before 1991. That's when Tony Wild, a British tea and coffee importer, first brought 2 pounds of it to the U.K.
Initially, he thought that the coffee's weird origin would bring some local publicity to his company, but to his complete shock, the whole damn country went nuts over kopi luwak, which inexplicably took off as the most expensive coffee on the planet and now goes for anywhere between $100 and $600 a pound.
Noooo! You Maniacs!
Nowadays, the gourmet coffee industry doesn't want to waste their time by running after bloated civets with a pooper scooper. They decided that it would be simpler to catch a few hundred of them and cram them into tiny cages where they can be force fed more than 7 pounds of coffee beans a day to poop out their brown gold. In human terms, that's like drinking 250 shots of espresso in a tiny room while soiling yourself out of fear.
And that has to be at least twice as cruel as caging chickens.
Even more depressingly, civets like their space and don't care for captivity. Locked together in cruel civet-prisons, they've even been known to chew their own paws off. We know this because Tony Wild, horrified at his gimmick gone feral, led a documentary crew to Indonesia and filmed all this depressing stuff himself, later comparing the fad he's created to "a grotesque cancer that constantly mutates into yet more vile and virulent forms."
As a result, British department stores promised to check out their supply chain, and the Indonesian government is working on a proper certification scheme. In the meantime, we're afraid that kopi luwak fans really have no way of knowing whether their poop coffee is disgusting or not.
Arthur Galston's "Plant Viagra" Got Turned into a Horrifying Weapon of War
In the 1940s, a graduate student at the University of Illinois named Arthur Galston was working on a way to make soybeans grow faster, and he was having some success with something called 2,3,5-triiodobenzoic acid. However, he discovered that when applied in large quantities, it would cause the plant to die.
"Honestly, without plant boners, what's the point of going on?"
Still, the discovery earned him a doctorate in botany because, hey, he did find a way to speed up the growth of soybeans. Yes, in concentrated doses it pretty much dissolved vegetation, but nobody really cared about that. Why would anybody want to murder literally every single plant in a given area?
Noooo! You Maniacs!
Military researchers messed around with Galston's soy steroids, eventually leading to the invention of Agent Orange, the deadly Vietnam War herbicide that was dropped over huge swathes of land to kill everything that was green and could be used to hide or feed enemy combatants. When Galston went over there to investigate the effects of mishandling his invention, he was so lost for words regarding the destruction of plant, animal, and marine life that Agent Orange caused that he had to invent a whole new one to describe it: "ecocide."
But the Air Force insisted that Agent Orange didn't hurt people. That's why it technically didn't count as illegal chemical warfare and was really more like strategic gardening when you think about it. And indeed, the tree-smiting chemicals themselves weren't that harmful. The catch is that synthesizing those up creates dioxins, a byproduct so spectacularly bad for humans that just reading about them can probably give you cancer.
We could show you photos of the people, instead of the plants, but you're probably on your lunch break. You're welcome.
Back home, Galston rallied his scientist pals, and together they did pretty much everything besides mass streak at the Super Bowl with "dioxins" Sharpied on their dongs to raise awareness of the dangers of Agent Orange. Finally dioxins were proven to be carcinogenic, which was enough evidence to make Richard Nixon order to stop the sprayings in 1970. And thus the military never did anything horrifying or morally reprehensible ever again.
For more inventors who saw their innovations go wrong, check out 6 Geniuses Who Saw Their Inventions Go Terribly Wrong. And also be sure to check out 7 Inventors You Didn't Know You Wanted to Punch In the Face.
Have any friends who want their coffee pooped out by cats? Click the Facebook share button below and we can help.