It's a truism that technology isn't good or evil by itself -- it's all in how people use it. The same technologies that can ensure privacy and security for people living under repressive governments can be used to conduct illegal transactions, and the knowledge that scientists need to fight the next flu epidemic can also be used to make weapons. "The very first technology was probably fire," said Marc Goodman, security expert and founder of the Future Crimes Institute. "It can cook your food or burn down the next village." The difference now, he said, is that the rate of technological change is so rapid that it's easier for people to apply technologies for good and ill.
The following is a list of innovations that were designed to make the world better -- or at least easier to navigate -- and were turned to instruments of harm.
The poison made famous for its use in the Nazi death camps, Zyklon B, was originally a pesticide and disinfectant. Zyklon B's active ingredient is hydrogen cyanide, which was actually a failure as a chemical weapon in World War I. When Zyklon B was developed in the 1920s, it contained a warning odorant so that it would be safer to use. It became a popular method of controlling pests in citrus groves and an industrial delousing agent for clothing. U.S. immigration authorities used the chemical to de-louse the clothing of Mexican immigrants in the 1930s in the wake of a scare over the spread of typhus. Variants of the chemical are still sold in the Czech Republic.