Yes, Markus Persson (nominated by Jonathan Butcher) has done something amazing by developing Minecraft, a game that millions of people enjoy. But that accomplishment is widely recognized and praised. The Al tends to recognize the unrecognized, or even reviled. For some reason video game developers tend to be praised while spicy chicken developers do not. We’re more interested in the spicy chicken kind.
Lindsey Burke’s nominee, Ira Goldman, developed the Knee Defender, which prevents airplane seats from reclining to preserve leg room. This nominee is not widely recognized, but falls short for a different reason — the effects of the Knee Defender are zero-sum and do not make a net contribution to improving the human condition. The device benefits the user by preserving legroom but does so at the expense of the person who cannot recline.
My nominee, Thomas J. Barratt, is generally not recognized and greatly improved the human condition by developing modern advertising. But many others made significant contributions to the development of advertising. As beneficial (and wrongly reviled) as advertising is, we cannot properly credit one person for this improvement of the human condition.
Matt’s nominees, Thibaut Scholasch and Sébastien Payen, are strong contenders. They are not widely recognized. Their introduction of scientific irrigation methods into the winery business does significantly improve the human condition. And while French nationals themselves, they face French wine-snob opposition. As fans of The Higgy and Indiana Jones know, everyone loves a French villain. But how tough could these French wine-snob villains really be? They have no legal or regulatory power to block the adoption of scientific irrigation methods. Only tradition and snootiness stand in the way. Scholasch and Payen will hardly need more than 6 weeks to overcome this Maginot Line and conquer all of French wine-making.
Greg’s nominee, Peter DeComo, faces a much more formidable set of foes — the FDA and the Department of Homeland Security. DeComo’s Hemolung Respiratory Assist System might save people’s lives while they wait for lung transplants. But if DeComo’s company, ALung, fails to fill out the equivalent of a 27B/6 Form, you’ll have to die rather than risk using an unapproved device. By overcoming the FDA and Border Guards from Central Services to save a life, Peter DeComo has significantly improved the human condition, done so with insufficient recognition, and succeeded in the face of powerful opposition. That makes him worthy of “The Al.”
As Matt likes to remind us, the movie Brazil is increasingly looking like a documentary rather than a work of fiction.