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The treadmill was invented as a torture device
Innovation isn't always the result of invention and discovery. Sometimes the best way to innovate is to rethink something old.
Sometimes an invented object's utility only becomes apparent after time. The Post-it note is an excellent example. Research scientists at 3M sat on the Post-it's "useless" adhesive technology for several years before a series of happy accidents spurred the realization that they had invented one of the world's great office-supply products.
Other inventions with similarly circuitous origin stories include microwaves (a byproduct of radar), Teflon (used by the Manhattan project), and Coca-Cola (a failed headache medicine).
Back in the 1800s, the forerunner to the treadmill was invented so prison inmates could make themselves useful by turning a large paddlewheel by stepping on its spokes.
Here's another: treadmills. A ubiquitous component of the modern gym, the very first treadmills were used as tools for punishment. Here's how Medical Daily sums up the history:
"Back in the 1800s, the forerunner to the treadmill was invented so prison inmates could make themselves useful by turning a large paddlewheel by stepping on its spokes. The wheel would in turn pump out water, crush grain, or power a mill: the source of the name 'treadmill.' Prisoners were often forced to spend up to six hours a day on the wheel, which was the equivalent of climbing about 5,000 to 14,000 feet."
So the treadmill was more or less a torture device, although I suppose that depends on whether climbing Mount Whitney every day constitutes torture. Perhaps "punitive tool" works better. Either way, no one in the 1800s was signing up for a membership.
This informative video produced by TED-Ed offers the whole story of the treadmill's dark and twisted past:
The key takeaway here? Innovation is not a clear-cut process nor does it require new discoveries. It wasn't until the 1970s that we found the best use for our century-old treadmill technology. The Post-it didn't come to fruition until a research scientist discovered that a sticky bookmark would make it easier to sing hymns at church. Each of these examples was the product of rethinking something old rather than seeking something new.
So if you're looking to innovate, perhaps consider the rethink approach.
Robert Montenegro is a writer, playwright, and dramaturg who lives in Washington DC. His beats include the following: tech, history, sports, geography, culture, and whatever Elon Musk has said on Twitter over the past couple days. He is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Twitter at @Monteneggroll and visit his po'dunk website at robertmontenegro.com.
Read more at Medical Daily.
"Deepfakes" and "cheap fakes" are becoming strikingly convincing — even ones generated on freely available apps.
- A writer named Magdalene Visaggio recently used FaceApp and Airbrush to generate convincing portraits of early U.S. presidents.
- "Deepfake" technology has improved drastically in recent years, and some countries are already experiencing how it can weaponized for political purposes.
- It's currently unknown whether it'll be possible to develop technology that can quickly and accurately determine whether a given video is real or fake.
The future of deepfakes<p>In 2018, Gabon's president Ali Bongo had been out of the country for months receiving medical treatment. After Bongo hadn't been seen in public for months, rumors began swirling about his condition. Some suggested Bongo might even be dead. In response, Bongo's administration released a video that seemed to show the president addressing the nation.</p><p>But the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=324528215059254" target="_blank">video</a> is strange, appearing choppy and blurry in parts. After political opponents declared the video to be a deepfake, Gabon's military attempted an unsuccessful coup. What's striking about the story is that, to this day, experts in the field of deepfakes can't conclusively verify whether the video was real. </p><p>The uncertainty and confusion generated by deepfakes poses a "global problem," according to a <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/is-seeing-still-believing-the-deepfake-challenge-to-truth-in-politics/#cancel" target="_blank">2020 report from The Brookings Institution</a>. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense released some of the first tools able to successfully detect deepfake videos. The problem, however, is that deepfake technology keeps improving, meaning forensic approaches may forever be one step behind the most sophisticated forms of deepfakes. </p><p>As the 2020 report noted, even if the private sector or governments create technology to identify deepfakes, they will:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"...operate more slowly than the generation of these fakes, allowing false representations to dominate the media landscape for days or even weeks. "A lie can go halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on," warns David Doermann, the director of the Artificial Intelligence Institute at the University of Buffalo. And if defensive methods yield results short of certainty, as many will, technology companies will be hesitant to label the likely misrepresentations as fakes."</p>
Context is everything.
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a number of new behaviours into daily routines, like physical distancing, mask-wearing and hand sanitizing. Meanwhile, many old behaviours such as attending events, eating out and seeing friends have been put on hold.
A new study looks at how images of coffee's origins affect the perception of its premiumness and quality.
- Images can affect how people perceive the quality of a product.
- In a new study, researchers show using virtual reality that images of farms positively influence the subjects' experience of coffee.
- The results provide insights on the psychology and power of marketing.