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Inventions That Were The Worst For the World

Updated March 25, 2020 12.7k votes 3.4k voters 127.4k views15 items

Inventions that were the worst for the world, for the most part, are all things created with good intentions that have changed the world for eternity. While few inventions are perfect, these stand out as among the best that created the worst outcomes. These are not just products nobody needs, these are inventions that made the world a worse place to live.

Few can deny that the invention of automobiles and airplanes made traveling much more efficient, but it's hard to forget that cars pollute and airplanes can be used for war. The same goes for rockets. They launched people into space but also carried nuclear warheads that caused mass destruction. Television and the internet changed how we interact and share information, but sitting in front of a computer monitor or TV for countless hours, along with corn syrup, isn't helping fight obesity. Nuclear fission creates power but can also wipe entire populations off the globe when used for evil.

Then, there are other inventions where it's hard to find a benefit. Cigarettes are a proven cause of death in roughly half who smoke. How many other products that are so widely used can say the same? Along the same lines, there is very little good to say about gas chambers, whose sole purpose is to kill humans and animals.

Unlike the most useless inventions, which aren't so much harmful as they are just plain dumb, these inventions changed the course of history forever and are thought of by many as the worst inventions of all time. Think of a world with no gun deaths if gunpowder never been invented. That's not a bad reality to consider.

  • Photo: NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Electric Chair

    Execution by electrocution, usually performed using an electric chair, is an execution method originating in the United States in which the condemned person is strapped to a specially built wooden chair and electrocuted through electrodes placed on the head and leg. This execution method, conceived in 1881 by a Buffalo, New York dentist named Alfred P. Southwick, was developed throughout the 1880s as a humane alternative to hanging and was first used in 1890.

    This execution method has been used in the United States and, for a period of several decades, in the Philippines (its first use there was in 1924, last in 1976).

    Did this make the world worse?
  • Photo: Evan Kirby / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain


    Created by the Dow Chemical Company in 1941, styrofoam AKA extruded polystyrene foam, is light, boyant, and can insulate things very well.

    Cups, plates, pipe insulations, and numerous other uses of the product do not outweigh the fact that styrene, one of 57 chemicals released during the creation of styrofoam has been deemed by the EPA as a possible carcinogen.

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  • Photo: Roberto Uderio / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Nuclear Fission

    Nuclear power is everywhere these days, and all thanks to the scientists who learned that splitting the nucleus of an atom creates a release of a large amount of energy.

    Great for providing power but not so great when the same process also can be used to create nuclear weapons, which we all can agree are bad news.

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  • Photo: RidgebackAttack / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0


    Back in the seventh century, alchemists in China discovered gunpowder by accident when searching for an elixir of immortality. They soon also discovered that this combination of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate could create explosions and power weapons.

    Today, hundreds of thousands die and are injured each year from gun violence.

    Did this make the world worse?