In MIT Technology Review’s top 35 of 2015 we meet the winners of this years “Innovators Under 35” competition, and dive into the tech industries most favorable achievements and ideas. The 35 winners are split up into groups of Inventors, Visionaries, Pioneers, Humanitarians, and Entrepreneurs. Each of these to highlight the different field, and neatly organizing the applications of work currently being done. The site ends up looking like a sports roster of 2015’s top tech players, complete with artwork, bio, photos, work, quotes, and YouTube links. It makes it very easy to quickly find relevant tech people to inspire you in your own industry.
Each category has its own unique page that adds depth to the article with an informative artwork to embody the ideals of the section, for instance the inventors section features a hand lifting a light bulb, the visionary page has a pair of binoculars looking forward, and the humanitarian page shows a dove resting on an outstretched finger. Another nice touch is that each category is neatly named in the URL: “/inventors/”, “/visionaries”, etc. Through these category pages, we get a sense of how these ideas and people are working together to achieve common goals.
My initial response to this yearly event is always a sigh of relief, at least for now while 35 still looks far off in the distance, but also some anxiety mounts. The daunting aspect is that all of the individuals featured have surpassed exceedingly challenging odds to get to where they are, and come up with incredibly creative solutions, which is luckily the inspirational silver lining. The aspirational aspect of this article comes from the fact that each of the problems that the individuals shown here have addressed have grown to encompass solutions to problems on a scale exponentially beyond their own needs.
Increasing the anticipated reach of a project is the main goal this campaign runs on each year, and achieves by not only highlighting the people working to fix the worlds problems, but also highlights the problems in order to manage global and local expectations for what is currently achievable and what needs to become achievable. One inspirational achievement featured was the 55 cent microscope created by Manu Prakash to address the needs of underprivileged schools and scientists in remote villages and poor countries. This is a key example of a small product to address a developing need that is valuable on a global scale.
Tanuja Ganu, another winner, addresses the problem of underdeveloped power grids in India with an ad-hoc solution of interconnected power-monitors to help predict power-outages. The enticing aftereffect of using this technology is that it will help identify weaknesses in existing grids, and offer technological clues as to how to strengthen them in an inexpensive fashion. The boxes, which she created while working with IBM, will help families save electricity and be prepared for outages that can wipe out AC and refrigeration instantly.
Kurtis Heimerl also addresses the issue of creating reliable networks in remote or underprivileged places by creating the solar powered cellular box, which allows people in poor, rural communities to access airwaves cheaply in a decentralized manner. The catch is that its currently illegal, but this issue did not prevent him from developing it. This idea reminds me — in a way — of the One Laptop Per Child initiative which not only was a very mainstream idea to provide technology around the world, but led to many technical achievements in the wake of its existence. Without the “OLPC” the technology in netbooks would not have advanced so quickly, so we see the effects.
The boldness of these individuals almost overshadows the energy and potential of their ideas, but it shouldn’t. These are the people with their heads turned in the right direction, and we should follow them for their ideas and for their dedication to following those ideas. These people show that its possible to direct creative energy towards creating global solutions, and that solving problems in small ways can often lead to greater successes than first anticipated.