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Pavan Soni

Inflexion Point, February 2018

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Welcome back to Inflexion Point, the monthly on the interesting and important ideas from the world of innovation, creativity and strategy.
In this edition, I would like to share breakthrough technologies for the year from MIT, the interesting truth about truth on Twitter, how the global science remains male dominated, testing out the Peter Principle, the interesting story of rise and rise of Tencent beyond Facebook, surprising facts about Amazon Prime, the power of Sanskrit, and seven technologies shaping business.
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The annual list from MIT Tech Review remains one of the most definitive identification of technologies that would shape our work and life in the foreseeable future. Of the ten technological advancements, my favorite is the notion of artificial embryos, the ones grown entirely out of stem cell without any sperm or eggs! Another interesting development is GAN, generative adversarial network, that allows AI applications to be more accurate and learn quickly, and the applications could be numerous. (Source: MIT Tech Review)
Research at MIT suggests that false news travels 70% faster than truth. And that not the bots to be blamed, but instead humans. Retweets are far more for unbelievable and false information, and over time it’s difficult to discern it from the truth. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy, for the news plays on salacious or controversial elements.  What does it inform us about human behavior? (Source: Scientific American)
 
Even with so much talk on inclusion at the workplace, researchers contend that for women working in science, technology, engineering or math jobs, the workplace is a different, sometimes more hostile environment than the one their male co-workers experience. Further, discrimination and sexual harassment are seen as more frequent, and gender is perceived as more of an impediment than an advantage to career success. Gender inequality remains real, unfortunately. (Source: Nature)
 
Do people really get promoted to their levels of incompetence? Study comprising of over 200 companies suggests so, the Peter Principle. It’s like a very good techie promoted to become an awful manager. People do get promoted to their level of incompetence, a paradox articulated by Laurence Peter in 1969. It happens because, while promoting an individual, other parameters are often overlooked attributing the success to oneself, and then the person underperforms in the new role. Does this also apply to entrepreneurs who assume the role of the CEOs? Guess so. (Source: Harvard Business Review)
 
Recently, China’s Tencent overtook Facebook as the world’s most valuable social media company, valued at over $500 billion. Even more surprising is the fact that while Facebook received 98% of its revenues from advertisement, the number for Tencent is less than 20%. The innovation is not so much on the product or the service, but the distribution platform and the mobile gaming, which is fast catching up. Even the advertising potential of WeChat hasn’t been adequately explored. Some business acumen there. (Source: World Economic Forum)
 
For starters, Amazon shipped more than 5 billion items in 2017 with Prime worldwide, and by 2022, there will be 56 million Amazon Prime Video subscribers in the U.S., and 122 million worldwide. The stickiness could only be guessed by the fact that 46% of Amazon Prime subscribers buy something online using the benefits of their subscription at least once a week. And in countries like Germany, Japan and UK, where Amazon previously faced troubles, Amazon Prime is helping get new subscribers and customers. That’s a multipronged business model at its best. (Source: Forbes)
 
Neuroscientists using MRI scans show that memorizing ancient mantras increases the size of brain regions associated with cognitive function. Reciting mantras have shown to significantly improve memory and even intelligence, and needless to say the calming effect produced. The so called ‘Sanskrit Effect’,  enable experts to orally memorize and exactly recite 3,000-year old oral texts ranging from 40,000 to over 100,000 words. Such experts have developed 10 percent more gray matter in both cerebral hemispheres and a substantially thick cortical. Does this show the direction of evolution? Backwards. (Source: Scientific American)
 
Technological advancements have made the access and the impact ubiquitous, across our work, lives and in everything in between. Based on a survey of 300 senior executives across Americas, the following technologies have emerged as widely adopted and impactful across the domains of commerce, health, environment, and learning. These are: biotechnology, 3D printing, machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, pervasive computing and wireless mesh networks. These are even more powerful owing to their intelligence, natural interface, and ubiquity. (Source: MIT Sloan Management Review)

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