Lise Meitner, Bibha Chowdhury, Andree de Jongh, Irawati Karne, Jean Purdy and Anandibhai Joshi and in a sense Alan Turing inspire me to my theme for this week. While each of their stories in unique and beautiful, let me give you a couple of small anecdotes. Lise Meitner along with Otto Hahn discovered the process of nuclear fission of Uranium in 1939. Not only did this lead to the development of nuclear weapons but it was the base on which electricity from nuclear power came to be developed. The Nobel Prize for the same was only given to Otto Hahn. Similarly, Bibha Chowdhury was an Indian physicist who completed her PhD in the 1940 ! In fact her contributions to the study of physics and cosmic radiations have led to books being written about her in Germany. A little further away, she also has an actual star named after her. It is sad that she has close to zero recognition in modern India.
March is celebrated in various parts of the world as Women’s history month. For me the most important thing that needs to be celebrated or remembered this month is the fact that we not only celebrate the modern women icons in different arenas of society but also remember and rediscover the lost icons who paved the way for equal rights and equal recognition
But that brings me to the theme of today. The theme that I wanted to write about today is “Unnoticed”. The people, the stories and the topics that go unnoticed. Not limited to women, or history, today we look at a collection of articles from the business and economic world on topics that largely are out of focus or as the marketeer in me would say, not Top of Mind.
So to start off we have a beautiful list of technologies that one should watch out for in 2021. It is a list that has been coming out for more than 2 decades, but unlike the Forbes and Fortune lists, remains largely niche in circulation. We then move on to he Winklevoss brothers. Have you heard of them? They were in a legal battle with Zuckerberg over whose idea Facebook was and they actually won the case. They are upto something interesting next. We move on a relationship that hardly ever makes the front page, the relationship between Germany and China and how this would define the future of the world economy. We move on to an unknown story of the auction of DNN Research and how it laid the foundation for our tech world of today. We end with looking at the philosophy that has guided Japanese businesses over the decades and how the model needs change in our modern fuzzy world. The article is an example of how nothing is really even close to perfect.
These are stories that don’t come to light everyday, are not on the front page, and are fascinating stories that need to be known.
Happy Women’s History Month ! So let’s get started?
1.This article is one of those lists, which should make for mandatory reading. First published a couple of decades back, the mecca of tech MIT publishes an annual listing of the breakthrough technologies of the year. So here is your list for 2021. Will Natural Language processing be free of biases, will mRNA which is the base for the COVID vaccine, find a cure for HIV and Cancer. Will other companies be able to replicate the recommendation model that made Tik Tok so successful. Will green hydrogen finally become a viable alternative to other renewable energy sources. Do go through this. It is a wonderful primer to the tech of the next few years.
2. The Winklevoss twins, were thought off as villains by everyone who saw the movie the Social Network.The movie showed them as trying to steal the idea off Zuckerberg. But reel and reality have their differences. The social media has varying stories of how Facebook came to be formed, but the world has since largely ignored the Winklevoss twins. Well it turned out that they have been busy working on something far more important. The future of social media and the internet in a way is the future of money. The twins have been busy legitimising the concept of digital money including crypto currency and by the end of it all, they might just solve the biggest problem of the internet. It is one of those stories that you might not come across, but this is the platform which will support all the fancy tech that you hear of like bitcoins etc. I had no idea of the twins before this article, nor did i know they were building something so important. Do read it.
3. For the ones interested in the topic of globalisation, the relationship between USA and China has been one of vital interest and the ups and downs of the Trump administration on the topic have been well documented. Similarly, in India, the relationship between India and China and the border skirmishes have been top of mind and space in every publication. But whether the world actually isolates China, economically or not is dependent on another relationship. That is the relationship between Germany and China. It is this ignored relationship by the rest of the world that will come to the fore in 2021. USA cannot isolate China without the help of Europe. In matters of business and economics, the entire power of Europe, is essentially that of Germany. Taicang, a small town north of Shanghai, is home to more than 350 German factories, has german bakeries, which makes Pretzels that would remind you of Berlin or Munich and the new malls and hotels being built in the town are modelled on german architecture. This is the relationship that will determine how the world looks and treats China.
4. Geoff Hinton is the name that you would not have probably heard of. But he will probably make his entry into school history books in the next decade. He is the man who invented the process and coined the term of deep learning. Yes, the same term that everybody throws around to be seen as new age. The idea of a neural network while being around since the 1950’s had never been practically solved and towards the end of the century it seemed like a theoretical idea that would never become practical. In fact Hinton in 2000 was one of the only few people in the world who was still working on building a neural network. In the end he and his students did teach machines to learn and identify images through pure learning. It had never been done before and neural networks had just become a practicality. In fact it was such a big win that Google, Microsoft, Baidu, everyone wanted him. And to sell his new invention and work he actually created a new company with just him and two of this students called DNN Research and conducted an online auction between the four companies (Baidu, Google, Microsoft and Deepmind). Essentially it was an auction about which company would he work for. In the end, Google won. It has been many years since that auction, but tech lore known to the common man, has missed the size of the achievement of Hinton and that auction which brought AI to the lands of the Big Tech. The future that we are seeing and still waiting for, was started by a man unwilling to accept that an idea could not be translated to reality.
5. “Sanpo-Yoshi” is a popular philosophy which was coined by Shibusawa a 19th century industrialist in Japan. It simply means “three way good”, meaning that businesses should profit, the buyers, sellers and society. While the world has been recently looking at societal good in the past few years, Japan has implemented it as scale for over decades and has seen results. While the economy grew, inequality counterintuitively came down and social cohesion increased. The benefits and the changes, which came through this approach mostly after the second world war have done wonders for Japan. Executives maintain long term relationships with suppliers and consumers even when it doesn’t help the bottom and top-line and businesses have been stable for long durations of time. What mostly is not spoken about is the disadvantages of the system. Corporate growth is at an all time low, return on investment for a long time was not a top priority. In the last few years, Shinzo Abe did launch a slew of reforms at this concept trying to retain the good, while ensuring that the private sector starts driving growth again for the Japanese economy. Some initial signs are there, but the final results of the changes will take time to show. Do read this, because usually we are predisposed to a solution. So when we think of Japan, we think of a great economic system that grows and removes inequality. We tend to ignore or not notice any flaws. This article gives perspective on the other side of the system. Old school USA style Capitalism may soon be making a comeback in Japan.
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