Thomas Edison, "The Wizard of Menlo Park," was a vigorous proponent for direct current (DC) power distribution—a technology in which he was a patent holder. George Westinghouse, an American entrepreneur, had licensed Nikola Tesla's alternating current (AC) technology, and argued that it was superior to Edison's DC power. The two visionaries engaged in a bitter competition that would come to be known as the War of Currents.
Edison was so determined to discredit alternating current that he devised a public display to demonstrate how dangerous it was. In 1903, Edison sent 6,600 volts of AC through Topsy, a condemned circus elephant, in front of a crowd of onlookers. Topsy died "without a trumpet or groan."
This bizarre story illustrates what happens when competition and innovation—both good in and of themselves—become more important than moral integrity. In a time when technology advances at breakneck speeds, it is vital to consider the implications that technological progress will have on human kind.