Every year scientists who have made great inventions receive Nobel Prizes recognizing their “benefit to humankind.” Yet for all the profound ways scientific progress has impacted our lives, many inventions have affected the world in ways that their creators did not imagine. Some innovations, created for peaceful purposes, have been used in war; others have had unintended environmental or health effects. More recently, the seemingly beneficial blue LED light has been found to interrupt sleep patterns and make roadways unsafe for senior drivers. What is it like to be an inventor? Are inventors responsible for the societal ramifications of their creations? And how could a more holistic approach to innovation lead future scientists to create change with fewer unintended consequences?
Ainissa Ramirez, a scientist who did research at Bell Labs before writing The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another, and Issues in Science and Technology senior editor Lisa Margonelli visit Zócalo to discuss why great breakthroughs demand greater understanding.