• Question: Do you think your work will change the world or will it only affect a few people?

    Asked by crazychick to Alan, Caspar, Diana, Murray, Sarah on 15 Mar 2011 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Alan Winfield

      Alan Winfield answered on 14 Mar 2011:

      Hi Crazychick

      Well like most researchers I would like to think that my work will change the world, but – if I’m honest – it’s unlikely. As I said in a previous answer to a similar question (http://ias.im/35.313) very few scientists really change the world. Most (hopefully) make small contributions to making the world a better place. My current work in robotics will – I hope – lead eventually to robots that help people in all sorts of ways. But I say ‘eventually’ because my work is on the basic principles of robotics – not on final real-world robots – so I hope that the new principles I develop will be used by others. Also, like most scientists, I work in teams so my contribution is part of a big team effort. A good example is the Symbrion project – a project to design robots that can self-assemble into new 3D shapes. If you look at the project web pages you will see there are 10 universities in the Symbrion project: http://www.symbrion.eu/

      So if I’m honest I think my research will probably not change the world, but it will – I hope – affect more that just a few people – eventually.

      ps. In an answer to another similar question I talked about how my work in industry has helped change peoples lives (a bit) http://ias.im/35.473

    • Photo: Murray Collins

      Murray Collins answered on 14 Mar 2011:

      I don’t think my own work will change the world. But the area I am working in, in tropical forest research for carbon management could change the lives of lots of people working in tropical forest countries. There is a big movement to make sure that anyone who currently depends on tropical forests, such as indigenous groups, and poor farmers, benefit. That might mean providing direct agricultural assistance for instance, so that they can become more efficient at producing more food, and so have to clear less forest.

      If it’s a success, reducing deforestation would be a major step towards reducing the impact of climate change. (But that’s not down to me – I will just try to do my little bit!)

    • Photo: Sarah Thomas

      Sarah Thomas answered on 14 Mar 2011:

      No I don’t think my work will change the world sadly… If my blood test works, then it will be great and help catch cancer early. But a lot of people increase their risk of cancer by being unhealthy: drinking too much, smoking, obsessively sun bedding… and if we can’t get people to stop doing those things, we’re always going to have a problem fighting cancer.

    • Photo: Diana Drennan

      Diana Drennan answered on 15 Mar 2011:

      On any given day over 2 billion people use my company’s products. That’s a lot of people that we’re hopefully helping. The world health organization estimates that 2.2 million people die of diarrhea every year, and diarrhea is the single largest cause of preventable death. So, if everyone washed their hands properly, preferably with our soap =), less people would die. So, hopefully it will change the world. Did you wash your hands today ?

      Wow. That sounds like a commercial, doesn’t it ? But, yes, I do believe that. Although, my work is mostly in finding ingredients for anti-aging, and that isn’t going to save lives – just make them more attractive….