What Technology Killed The Most People? The Answer Will Surprise You

Dhir Acharya - Jun 27, 2020


What Technology Killed The Most People? The Answer Will Surprise You

Experts gave answers to what technology killed most people, some of them are obvious but others will shock you.

In the history of mankind, it’s undeniable that technology and its development have innovated our life in every aspect, in many ways. However, we have also seen a lot of tragedies involving the use of technology, around the world.

Gizmodo did a survey asking experts what technology killed the most people, and we have compiled their answers here for you.

Guns

“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

A machine gun in World War I
A machine gun in World War I

While this statement is technically true, guns and other technologies have helped people killed much larger numbers of lives that they otherwise could. When it comes to the fraction of the population killed, the ocean-going vessel is the deadliest technology. But in terms of total numbers of lives taken, the combustion engine is much worse.

The US is infamous for a country with a serious gun violence problem. On average, each year, 36,000 people in this country die from being shot, meaning 100 people per day. On a global scale, there are about 500 people dying from gun violence every day. And these numbers are recorded in recent years only, excluding wars in the past.

I don’t think we need to do the math to imagine the damage that guns have caused to the world population.

Railways

This technology has killed people by accident more than on purpose, I mean, who would go through all the trouble to ride a train to crush people?

Indian railways were used to transport grain to other markets
Indian railways were used to transport grain to other markets

During the Indian famines over the past few decades of the 19th century, the British colonial railways transported grain away from drought-affected areas. The global railway and telegraph system allow for Indian grain to larger markets rather than local needs. The famine that lasted until the early 20th century killed over 60 million people.

Automobile

According to Professor Jonathan Coopersmith from Texas A&M University, this technology has killed a lot of people over the past century. Globally, there are over 1.35 million people dying from road crashes, meaning one person dies every 25 seconds.

Cars kill a lot of people
Cars kill a lot of people

Printing press

This answer from Assistant Professor Raja Adal at the University of Pittsburgh caught me off guard. According to Adal, it’s been noted that nationalism is the reason for most modern wars, including the two World Wars. It’s also linked to the Holocaust genocide, the Rwandan genocide, and the expelling of Rohinga from Bhutan. In these cases, a group of people thinks of themselves have an (imaginary) link that binds them together, like religion, race, language, or history. They then killed many people that they thought belonged to another group.

The printing press and how it created wars
The printing press and how it created wars

And Benedict Anderson, among others, said that the printing press played a crucial role in spreading nationalism in the modern world. The printing press allowed for printed newspapers, novels, as well as other forms of literature that convinced people to believe they belong to one community.

So, though difficult to believe, the printing press technology, in some way, killed large numbers of people.

The mechanical cigarette roller

The mechanical cigarette roller boosted the mass production of cigarettes
The mechanical cigarette roller boosted the mass production of cigarettes

The invention of this machine, in collaboration with the appearance of flue-curing in the middle of the 19th century, posed a global public health disaster.

We all know the negative impacts of tobacco on our health. The mechanical cigarette roller allowed for mass production of this harmful product while flue-curing encouraged deep inhalation rather than holding the smoke in the mouth.

According to WHO estimates, every year, there are more than 7 million people dying from tobacco-related causes. The ironic thing is that everyone knows how bad tobacco is for their health, yet many choose to smoke anyway.

The slave ship

A slave ship design
A slave ship design

The Atlantic slave trade began in the early 16th century, ships designated for transporting slaves did peak until the 17th century. Basically, these ships are mobile prisons and some sort of machines that turn free men and women in Africa into slaves in another land.

There are different estimated numbers of deaths during the Middle Passage but a recent study suggests that about 1.5 million people leaving African died on the way. But the actual number could be much larger.

The technology of exploration

Smallpox
Smallpox

This seems indirect but ships and machines that helped people discover new lands, find new lands, also helped transmit diseases to new lands and back. The most deadly diseases on the list were smallpox and measles.

If you cannot imagine the danger of measles, just think of COVID-19 at the present but without any hospitals or medical equipment available now. Just in the 20th century, there were 300 million deaths from smallpox.

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