Legg Mason Conference Transcripts

[via Yuvaraj Galada] Here. Read/watch Bill Gurley and Jeff Bezos on IT and the Internet, respectively. Both draw upon history in a rich story-telling format.

Gurley: “(1) Evolution is a model or decent metaphor to think about business, and companies evolve with their tools. (2) technologies are business weapons, but there are no guarantees. (3) You can’t choose not to play without risking extinction-heading out onto the field with a wooden racquet is a really bad idea.”

Bezos: “I personally believe that with respect to the Internet we are at about the 1908 Hurley Washing Machine stage…We haven’t invented the equivalent of the off switch, we haven’t invented the electric outlet, people are still having to choose between phone calls and using their web browser…As the fundamental technology advances, as disk drives become even cheaper, as bandwidth becomes even cheaper, as CPUs become even cheaper, as the raw ingredients in our business continue to get cheaper and cheaper we will layer on top of that innovation to figure out how to take the now much cheaper raw ingredients and do something special that actually serves customers…What I see is that the rate of innovation on the Internet in general to my eye appears to be accelerating rather than decelerating. I don’t know how long that will continue. I think it’s very early, and we’re basically in 1908.”

Munnabhai MBBS

Its not often that I see Hindi movies (or English, for that matter) and recommend one to others. But you’ve just got to see “Munnabhai MBBS.” I haven’t laughed like this in a long while. Sanjay Dutt is quite brilliant, as are the other key characters (his sidekick Circuit and the hospital-college Dean). The story may have been inspired by Patch Adams, but it doesn’t make a difference – this one is as original as you get in Hindi movies! So, watch the movie, laugh and tell others to do the same.

Linguistics and Thinking

The Economist writes that “languages may be more different from each other than is currently supposed. That may affect the way people think.”

A project that Dr David Gil, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, is just beginning in Indonesia, in collaboration with Lera Boroditsky, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is examining correlations between the way concepts are expressed in languages and how native speakers of these languages think. This is a test of a hypothesis first made by Benjamin Lee Whorf, an early 20th-century American linguist, that the structure of language affects the way people think. Though Whorf’s hypothesis fell into disfavour half a century ago, it is now undergoing something of a revival.

Dr Boroditsky’s experiment is simple. People are shown three pictures, one of a man about to kick a ball, one of the same man having just kicked a ball, and a third of a different man who is about to kick a ball. They are then asked which two of the three are the most similar. Indonesians generally choose the first two pictures, which have the same man in them, while English speakers are likely to identify the two pictures that show the ball about to be kickedan emphasis on the temporal, rather than the spatial, relationship between the principal objects in the picture.

Dr Gil believes that this might be because time is, in English, an integral grammatical conceptevery verb must have a tense, be it past, present or future. By contrast, in Indonesian, expressing a verb’s tense is optional, and not always done. In support of Whorf’s idea, Dr Gil half-jokingly cites the fact that Indonesians always seem to be running late. But there is more systematic evidence, too. For example, native Indonesian speakers who also speak English fall between the two groups of monoglots in the experiment. Dr Gil supposes that their thought processes are influenced by their knowledge of both English and Indonesian grammar.

Demonstrating any sort of causal link would, nevertheless, be hard. Indeed, the first challenge the researchers must surmount if they are to prove Whorf correct is to show that English and Indonesian speakers do, in fact, think differently about time, and are not answering questions in different ways for some other reason. If that does prove to be the case, says Dr Gil, their remains the thorny question of whether it is the differences in language of the two groups that influences their conception of time, or vice versa.