Head Coach of Public Invention.
At Public Invention (a 501c3 public charity), we do both, but perhaps more engineering than science.
Our goal is to have a large positive impact on many people; but time and money are always in short supply. How, then, to compromise on which projects to prioritize?
In order to be able to even discuss the humanitarian impact of two projects that may both need attention, it helps to be able to measure humanitarian impact in some way. To do this, we have created “The Fuller Scale“. The “fuller” is a new unit of humanitarian impact, inspired by Buckminster Fuller, the great American champion of invention as a moral good. It is by definition the impact of all of the inventions of his long life.
It is, of course, subjective; the best things in life are.
A team of inventors does not need to agree perfectly to usefully quantify impact. I hope in the future Public Inventors and other will have conversations like:
“Well, I agree your robot technology is a useful search-and-rescue idea. If it is worth 20 millifullers, then surely detecting contaminated drinking water, which kills 270,000 children every year, is worth at least 40 millifullers!”
“Yes, but free software for transparent accounting is equally important, and easier to develop!”
“Well, it may be easier, but it can’t be more important—let’s call it 30 millifullers.”
“Okay. But if we can do it in one year, that about 3.5 millifullers a month of value added to the world; that robot thing is going to take years. I doubt you will get more than 1 millifuller a month doing that!”
And so on.
Note that in our diagram, we have social inventions, such as Universal Suffrage, on the right, and physical inventions on the left. The world is broad, and there is room for improvement everywhere.
Like everything we do at Public Invention, The Fuller Scale and its diagram is Free-libre open source content. In this case it is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license, which means you are free to share it, extend it, and even change it, so long as your retain a pointer back to Public Invention and its inventors (Robert L. Read and Amy Cesal the graphic artist, in this case.)
It is in a GitHub repo that you can fork. Please share everywhere!