Monday, March 31, 2014

Innovation Series - II

The age is of start-up. At least for Indian entrepreneurs. Be it Fusioncharts, Videonetics, GomoloCapillary or Voxomos - I happen to hear every now and then from friends, friends of friends or strangers of our generation, who took the plunge. This is definitely a ripple of liberalization and a feeling of confidence to rule the world with ideas. Ideas that turn a simple tool into a craze. Ideas that change the way we look into an ordinary thing. Why this is necessary ?

First, an old story.

The youngest brother of Swami Vivekananda, Sri Mahendranath Datta wrote a nice memoir on his famous brother. In the third volume, he wrote about the incidents that took place on board, during Swami Vivekananda's voyage to Chicago. The ship went from Bombay to Yokohama, Japan and from their to Vancouver, Canada. During the journey from Yokohma to Vancouver, Swami met Jamshedji Tata. Among several things discussed, Swami pointed out to Tata on the importance of having local industry. Tata used to import Japanese matchboxes during that time. Swami exclaimed why he does not manufacture those locally and in that process generate some local employment. Despite being international in many of his ideologies, Swami Vivekananda was deeply patriotic. This was, but, one chance incident that possibly ignited some spirit in Tata.

I will not argue if it makes a difference to have an international brand with a local presence or a local brand with international presence. That is the realm of economy.

I will not argue if we need to solve, the so-called, first-world problems, residing in a developing nation. That may well be a topic of another blog.

My argument is simple. There are millions of ideas that one may chase. Why pocket through a small range of instruments, what we call job assurances.

Let me discuss another idea here. I take a simple example that plugged me down for sometime today. How to solve a non-homogeneous, linear recurrence relation. 

For example, it is an equation of the following type, where the function is expressed in terms of the lower-order function values added with few terms.

f(n) = f(n-1) + f(n-2) + n + 3.

I did not know how to solve it. I found excellent materials, which taught me how to solve it. One such site is here . This is for the math lovers of Malaysia. What about the solutions to X-XII standard problems that we would be looking around from our bright fellow students in India ? Online education (against payment) is one of the booming industries. At the same time, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), like Khan Academy, are also making its strong inroads. This is an area, where no amount of customization is enough. One needs course materials to adapt to the skill of the student. One needs worked out homeworks. One needs course contents as per the exam syllabus. I remember, during our undergraduate years, there were many students tutoring young talents for cracking entrance examinations. Cannot this whole thing be web-centric, customized and free ? The model would be like stack-exchange ( but, with a specific community that social networks ignore. The fact that this needs closer inspection is evident from the fact that questions like this, here, goes unanswered.

Once this first step is cut, one may imagine building a web-server to quickly solve the non-homogeneous, linear recurrence relations for me. As long as it can be automated, it is better to learn it by working out the problem for me and not solving the fixed ones available in a static webpage. More on that, later.

The photograph is taken from here .

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