Edition 129: Will we ever miss screens?
Hello. It’s been a while, for various reasons, but it’s good to be back. I hope you’ve all stayed as safe as possible through the pandemic era we’re living in.
For the majority of this year, I’ve been working on commissioning and launching a series of sci-fi stories set in 2031 to celebrate Storythings’ 10th anniversary. The stories are set across the world, written by talent in those countries. Along with the stories, we published thoughts from experts in the areas the stories are about, from digital identity and climate change to machine learning and healthcare. The writers include researchers, university professors, entrepreneurs, journalists and authors and they’re all brilliant minds to learn from. I couldn’t quite pick my favourite story - maybe it’s the one about a poetic robot set in Latin America (which the author adapted for us from an in-progress novel being released next year), or the one about coffee and augmented reality in India (I had a great Zoom chat with Malavika Raghavan and Emrys Schoemaker related to it), the one about family relationships in a commune in the US, or the one about healthcare in the UK. Have a read and let me know what you think. This tweet about sci-fi beautifully describes why we briefed the writers as we did:
How Pakistan’s biometric ID scheme is stripping citizenship from thousands of people - particularly relevant given Storythings’ work on identities.
Read ‘Robot Poet’ above, and then read this piece on Delphi, a programme at the University of Washington in Seattle which aims to teach AI bots about human values.
A BBC Sounds audio piece on women entrepreneurs in Kochi, India.
From L’Atelier BNP Paribas, the second part of a digital report on social mobility in the digital age, that chronicles the history of technology growth and summarises a number of the technology-related phenomena we’re grappling with today, from surveillance capitalism to the gig economy to ride-sharing and more. See Part 1 here.
China’s social scoring system is now reasonably well-known; the system where the government tracks your data and then ranks your credit worthiness, with ‘punishments’ ranging from slower internet speeds to bans from flying. Apparently this week, China signed off on a UNESCO pledge to get governments to stop using AI for pervasive mass surveillance. Of course, signing declares intent but not action, and we can debate till the cows come home whether the Communist Party will actually act on this.
Having just finished watching Squid Game on Netflix, this piece on the importance of accurate culture-specific translations in AI and ML hit home for me. I didn’t know this, from the piece, which viewers of Squid Game will also resonate with: “For example, the English title of the first episode of “Squid Game” is “Red Light, Green Light.” This refers to the name of the children’s game played in the first episode. The original Korean title is “무궁화 꽃이 피던 날” (“Mugunghwa Kkoch-I Pideon Nal”), which directly translates as “The Day the Mugunghwa Bloomed,” which has nothing to do with the game they’re playing. In Korean culture, the title symbolizes new beginnings, which is the game’s protagonists’ promise to the winner. “Red Light, Green Light” is related to the episode, but it misses the broader cultural reference of a promised fresh start for people down on their luck — a significant theme of the series. Some may believe that naming the episode after the game played because the cultural metaphor of the original title is unknown to the translators may not be a big deal, but it is.” Yes, it is. 🦑
Based in Cape Town, South Africa, Linx is a low-code platform for developers which follows a programming paradigm that makes it easy for developers and IT professionals to pick up.
Another open-source platform but from India, Appsmith is one of the platforms that has gained traction in the country recently, following other similar platforms like Postman and Hasura. Appsmith is an open source platform for building internal tools that connects to multiple data sources.
Japan’s Financial Services Agency is hiring more women graduates than men for the first time, as part of the government’s efforts to improve the gender balance in policy making. 👏👏
Linked to that, female participation in the gig economy is low in India - only 1,000 of about 220,000 workers at food delivery company Swiggy are women, and competitor Zomato has only 0.5 percent women in their workforce. They want to improve this to 10% by the end of the year, an ambitious goal.
From the community
Peter Dujan spent 2 years working on building his VPN company with a friend. Oeck provides “automatic channel unblocking, highly customisable DNS filtering, advanced port forwarding and extremely high privacy”. The company is headquartered in Hong Kong for now and may move to Singapore, though the team is Australia-based. The entity isn’t Australia-based because of Australia’s privacy laws not being up to scratch. Peter did a Reddit AMA earlier this year, if you’d like to take a look. Long story short, if you use VPNs, maybe give Oeck a look.
3 Questions With…
Roshan Paul and Ilaina Rabbat, co-founders of Amani Institute, a global social enterprise for entrepreneurs who want to make a difference, have their first book out: The New Reason To Work. I’ve known Roshan for years, and have been watching Amani Institute grow from afar since its inception in 2011. Amani Institute has offices in Brazil, Kenya and India. The book itself is a very hands-on project, which includes worksheets to help those of us who want to try their well-tested advice. It’s about what they’ve learned - over nearly two decades each - about making social change.
Roshan was kind enough to be the pilot respondent to my ‘3 Questions With…’ segment here in the newsletter. Let’s go:
What's been the most inspiring part of writing the book? There is probably a lot, given the 10+ years of running Amani Institute! - but if you had to pick one, what would it be?
The challenge to reflect on the last 20 years and try and distill everything we'd learned about careers in impact into an easy-to-read and engaging narrative for others. It was super interesting to do this, and also to do it as a team.
Who surprised you the most when you were researching the book, in terms of the interviews you've done for it?
It was when Celia Cruz, a Brazilian social impact leader, said that one of her biggest strengths was being able to see opportunities that others didn't. That was like an a-ha moment and it partly led to us adding an extra "key to unlock your impact career" in the conclusion that we hadn't talked about before.
What book is on your bedside table (or Kindle etc.) right now?
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
Thanks Roshan! You can buy A New Reason To Work here.
Antler India is inviting applications to their Fellowship for student founders: $20,000 x 16 weeks for 10 people. Deadline 12th December.
That’s it for now. If you know any interesting entrepreneurs who might want to answer 3 questions for me, as long as they’re doing work that’s relevant to emerging markets, and particularly if they’re women, send them my way! And sharing this newsletter is always appreciated.
Till next time,