The human race often creates things that could potentially harm them in the future

The human race often creates things that could potentially harm them in the future

Reya Mehta, Staff Writer

   The human race is the most intelligent species to ever walk the Earth, but there are times when this “intelligence” can be questioned. One such instance is how we create things that have destructive potential.

   Many inventions seem to have the slogan of “Create it first; worry about usage later.” Yet this mindset has had devastating effects in the past.

   Take the invention of leaded petrol: 

   Tetraethyllead, or TEL, was combined with gasoline in the 1920s. The volatile compound, when added in small amounts, improved engine performance in cars. 

   However, TEL causes lead poisoning when inhaled or absorbed, and many factory workers suffered horrible deaths due to the poison. All the while, officials convinced health authorities that the trace amounts of TEL were harmless to the public, and production continued.

   It wasn’t until 1972 that the US Environmental Protection Agency started phasing out its use. In 2011, it was announced that the use of TEL had all but ended, but even now, people are still suffering from lead poisoning. According to Vox, 1.2 million children have lead poisoning just in the US, but it is unclear if these cases are related to petrol or some other substance, such as lead paint.

   Though the compound TEL has all but disappeared, lead is still a toxic chemical, and it is still a major cause of death in the world.

   Of course, on the topic of destructive inventions, it is impossible to overlook nuclear fusion and the making of the atomic bomb. The Manhattan Project resulted in the conception of the first atomic bomb, and the effects were devastating. Dropped on Hiroshima first and Nagasaki three days later, these bombs killed almost 230 thousand people in total.

   Even though this bomb has never been used again, the knowledge of it is still out there, and it could still potentially be used once more. 

   Another example is a relatively new innovation: the invisibility cloak. This prototype bends light to shield an object from view, and may even have other potential military uses. The US Army Research Laboratory, or ARL, is funding this University of Missouri project.

   In an interview with Forbes, US Army Research Office’s project manager Dr. Dan Cole said this technology could “have implications for soldier protection, vehicle protection, even autonomous vehicles.”

   However, it has already raised questions about proper usage and security. 

   Army spokesman Tom Moyer said this research is “not presently subject to restrictions on foreign participation,” and a Chinese institution is known to be involved in the study. Christian Basi, a university of Missouri spokesman, says that there are espionage concerns, but they are being closely monitored.

   These concerns are certainly valid, and it makes us wonder how long it will take for humans to think about usage first. There have already been so many instances in the past that suggest that the usage of our inventions needs to be worried about more. 

   After all, the creation of leaded petrol was supposed to be a positive change, meant to improve engines. And while the atomic bomb was developed with the intent of doing harm, it brought even more catastrophe than initially intended, leading to the development of today’s nuclear threats. The “invisibility cloak” hasn’t caused any damage yet, but it is only in the prototype stage as of now. 

   The human race as a whole must consider the consequences of our actions before they are performed, not after. For the sake of the future, it is essential for us to look at what can be changed today, and accept the responsibilities that come with creating something in an advancing world.