100+ years ago, the mail sent by India’s greatest mathematician was almost sent to spam.

Srinivasa Ramanujan was born in South India in 1887 and taught himself mathematics from GS Carr's now-famous textbook. Dirt-poor and desperate for sustenance, he wrote brilliant letters to mathematicians abroad with proofs of his self-discovered results only to find that most of them simply ignored him. Save one: G.H. Hardy of Cambridge. Hardy recognized his genius, brought Ramanujan out to England, and helped him fill in the gaps in his mathematical education. After which point Ramanujan went on a rampage through pure mathematics, compiling thousands of original results and opening entirely new areas of mathematical research. As Hardy put it later:

Suppose that we rate mathematicians on the basis of pure talent on a scale from 0 to 100. Hardy gave himself a score of 25, J. E. Littlewood 30, David Hilbert 80 and Ramanujan 100.

Tragically, Ramanujan died at the age of 32 from tuberculosis. (While trying to cheer him up, Hardy and Ramanujan had a fun little exchange about the number 1729, which furnishes the name of our site). But in his short life Ramanujan changed the face of mathematical research, and his story shows that the very best may be outside the West.

The Dark Talent, the Mobile Telescope, and the Ascending World

For many years we've been fascinated by the potential of technology to execute a global talent search for the next Ramanujans – not just in mathematics, but in every field. Just like the Hubble telescope was built to search for the dark matter, could we not build new instruments to find the dark talent hidden around the world? There are a few new wrinkles since Ramanujan's time that help this project.

  • First, the recent introduction of billions of smartphones to places like India and Nigeria affords a "mobile telescope", a way to evaluate talent worldwide.
  • Second, many of these places are no longer quite as destitute!

Indeed, in many areas of technology, there are outstanding individuals and institutions outside the US, often outside the West entirely, and off the radar of English-speaking media around the world. Some examples include:

As examples like this proliferate, it’s no longer really accurate to speak of the “developed” and “developing” world. These pockets of innovation – sometimes the size of whole countries – are ahead of much of the globe. We should instead speak of the ascending world and the declining world, recognizing that this designation is not strictly geographical, and that there are those who are ascending even within parts of the world that are currently down on their luck — as Ramanujan did in India more than a century ago.

✅ Task: Earn $25 in BTC

Submit a striking example of the ascending world

Our ask is simple: collect more examples like the above, ideally with images or video, of people or projects you'd consider part of the ascending world. They should be pushing technology forward in unexpected ways or surprising places. They can even be in the US – we just ask that they're outside the usual coastal areas.

🏆 Winners: Best Examples of The Ascending World

Forty submissions received $25 in Bitcoin for their striking examples of The Ascending World. Check out some of the best videos linked below!