Of Networks and Decentralised Power

The failure of the electrical grid in the US and Canada has a couple of interesting discussion threads. Paul Philp writes about the impact of networks on our lives: “The lesson of this loss is that networks arent machines. We cannot control networks the way we control machines. We must decentralize our control, distribute intelligence and allow the network to learn and adapt. We will find someone to blame and throw some bums out of office. We will serve ourselves well if, at the same time, we add to our ability to trust innovation…The machine era is over. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”

The Rocky Mountain Institute suggests: “Americans should look to distributed, diverse, and resilient clean technologies to power their industries, homes, and communities. America’s existing systembased on a hundred years’ worth of heavily centralized generation and distribution policiescan trigger a cascading series of errors that leaves us vulnerable and should be corrected.”

RMI also has published a book: “Small is Profitable“. It may be worth a read in this context. From the introduction: “[The book] describes 207 ways in which the size of electrical resources devices that make, save, or store electricityaffects their economic value. It finds that properly considering the economic benefits of distributed (decentralized) electrical resources typically raises their value by a large factor, often approximately tenfold, by improving system planning, utility construction and operation, and service quality, and by avoiding societal costs.”

Shourie on the New India

Arun Shourie writes in the third and concluding part [1 2] of his series on the opportunities for the India:

On the one hand, we have unbounded opportunities and incomparable advantages to seize them. On the other, there is the fate that will surely befall us if we falter. Unemployment will reach such proportions that social unrest will become unmanageable. Similarly, if the rates of growth of India and China continue to differ by the margins of the past 15 years, within the next 15 years the

Chinese economy will be six times that of India. And the consequences will be worse than we can imagine.

we have many things working for us. In many ways, this is Indias moment, even vis a vis China. For the first time, observers have begun to voice questions in public about Chinaits statistics; the fact, for instance, as a German investor said recently at a conference I was deputed to attend, that, If you want your factory to come up quickly, go to China; if you want to make money, go to India. On the other side, everyones noticing Indians make a mark in every sphere: writers, scientists, doctors, IT, cricket, beauty pageants, chess…

So it is the moment for India. It is a moment. But, it is only a moment. What should we do to ensure we grasp it?

A dramatic event happened yesterday in hockey in India’s first match in the Champions Trophy in Amsterdam. India led 3-0 with six minutes of play left, and ended up on the losing side as the Dutchmen scored 4 goals in the final minutes. I hope that is not a reflection of the New India – snatching defeat from the jaws of victory has been an old Indian habit. The New India has to power home its advantage. Today, we have the world looking at us. Can we capitalise on this and become as Vajpayee says in the ads “a developed nation by 2020?”

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and Biotech in India

An inspirational story in the NYTimes calls the founder of Biocon as “India’s Mother of Invention”. Biocon was founded 25 years ago in Bangalore.

Twenty-five years later, Ms. Mazumdar-Shaw, 50, has become a symbol of sorts for that industry. Her now independent company, Biocon India Ltd., of which she is chairwoman and managing director, employs almost 900 people, making it among India’s largest biotechnology companies.

From this capital of the southern state of Karnataka, which is now home to 85 biotechnology companies, Ms. Mazumdar-Shaw is among those trying to shape a nation’s approach to uncharted scientific and commercial terrain. It is both promising and risky.

Across India, states are racing to set up biotech parks, hoping to mimic the success of the information technology industry that defined India as a global knowledge powerhouse.

But biotechnology touches human lives in a way that information technology does not, and that is at the heart of the debate over its benefits and risks for developing countries.

[Kiran] passionately believes that India must embrace biotechnology, with the proper precautions. She believes it can change the way this country of more than one billion people, at least one-fourth of them deep in poverty, eats and farms, researches and cures disease.