For a long time, the idea that language might shape thought was considered at best untestable and more often simply wrong. Research in my labs at Stanford University and at MIT has helped reopen this question.
Around the time that Apple Computer was making it big in California, Andrey Shtorkh was getting a first-hand look at the Soviet approach to high tech: he guarded the fence keeping scientists inside Sverdlovsk-45, one of the country’s secret scientific cities, deep in the Ural Mountains. Today, he is the publicist for an improbable new venture. The Russian government, hoping to diversify its economy away from oil, is building the first new scientific city since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Even more improbably, it is modeled, officials say, on Silicon Valley.
On the desk of Jim O’Neill, chief economist for Goldman Sachs, stand four flimsy flags. They look out of place among the expensive computer terminals of the investment bank’s plush London office, like leftovers of a child’s geography homework or cheap mementos from backpacking trips to exotic parts of the world. But these flags hint at a more interesting story – of the latest way in which money and ideas are reshaping the world. The small scraps of fabric are pennants for big countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China. And almost a decade ago, O’Neill decided to start thinking of them as a group – which he gave the acronym Bric.