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You know their creations, but these inventors aren’t proud of their handiwork.
1. Victor Gruen: The Shopping Mall
Back when cities were smaller and more concentrated, everyone lived downtown, so everyone was close to all the shops.
But as suburbs developed, it became harder and harder for people living outside the city core to shop.
In 1954, Victor Gruen’s solution first appeared in Detroit. It was meant to be a communal area where people could easily walk around and do all their shopping and other errands. It was meant to have green spaces, art, and other happy things. It was the shopping mall.
It caught on like gangbusters. Then some smarty pants decided it would be even better if it was enclosed in a single building, and if all the green spaces and art and pretty things were removed to make room for more stores. It became the shopping mall we know today.
Gruen, the father of the shopping mall, was appalled. In 1978, he said: “I would like to take this opportunity to disclaim paternity once and for all. I refuse to pay alimony to those bastard developments. They destroyed our cities.”
He died in 1980, and perhaps mercifully: one can’t help but wonder what he would have thought about things like Black Friday and online shopping.
2. John Sylvan: The Keurig K-Cup
John Sylvan hated the office coffee. More than anything, he hated having to dump most of it down the sink. So he thought, why not find a way to make good coffee one cup at a time? So he did. The Keurig coffee maker, with its ubiquitous K-cup pods. And he sold billions of the things, but therein lies the problem.
Those little pods are not recyclable.
And they’re not biodegradable. All they do it sit there in landfills for a long, long, long, long time. Billions of them. Sylvan feels bad about it. And you know what? He doesn’t even own a Keurig himself.