Jargon watch: Eroom’s Law

Eroom’s Law is a metaphor that compares other business processes to the virtuous circle of Moore’s Law. It is literally Moore’s Law in reverse. Industries have developed processes that are getting ever more expensive.  Once could consider that is inversely proportional to the way semiconductor manufacture  reduced the relative cost of computing power over time.

Some see this as a potential opportunity for the use of computing in a sector to reduce costs. As with most circumstances, what seems like a great idea inside an Excel spreadsheet doesn’t work out in the real world. But that doesn’t stop the management consultants, investment bankers or venture capitalists from trying.

Eroom’s Law and the pharmaceutical industry

The poster child for Eroom’s Law cited would be the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry developing new drugs.

Here’s how Nature Reviews Drug Discovery put it:

Eroom’s Law indicates that powerful forces have outweighed scientific, technical and managerial improvements over the past 60 years, and/or that some of the improvements have been less ‘improving’ than commonly thought. The more positive anyone is about the past several decades of progress, the more negative they should be about the strength of countervailing forces. If someone is optimistic about the prospects for R&D today, they presumably believe the countervailing forces — whatever they are — are starting to abate, or that there has been a sudden and unprecedented acceleration in scientific, technological or managerial progress that will soon become visible in new drug approvals.

You could argue that the defence industry would also fall into this, despite the benefits of technology. (The origins of the semiconductor industry lie in the development of missiles during the cold war. Integrated circuit technology is more robust and lighter than discrete transistors or vacuum tube based systems).

More information

Diagnosing the decline in pharmaceutical R&D efficiency | Nature Reviews Drug Discovery (paywall)
Eroom’s Law | In the Pipeline | Science magazine
EROOM’s Law of Pharma R & D | buildingpharmabrands
More posts on the pharmaceutical industry on this blog.

Jargon watch: zhuāng bì (装B)

Newspaper collage featuring Mao Zetong

China has developed a deep and constantly evolving language online. It is fascinating to study how Chinese netizens use emoticons in a distinctly different way to westerners and the language constantly morphs in a way that leaves Chinese expatriates baffled even after a short time outside the country.  zhuāng bì (pronounce the zh as a short j) is a case in point.  It means poser.

Christine Xu gives an in-depth explanation of how 装B came about, given that western characters aren’t generally used by Chinese.

Jargon watch: generation glass

I noticed this descriptor appear in an article about iPad obsessed children and how Mattel was looking to adjust to the market.

M, using iPad

The name relates to the ‘pictures under glass’ interface that these children have grown up with.

More information
How Toymaker Mattel Plans To Win Over iPad-Obsessed Kids | Time

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Jargon watch: black technology (黑科技)

An all-compassing phrase that I’ve heard being used by Chinese friends Hēi kējì in Pinyin or black technology. It’s been around for a couple of years but recently gained more currency among people that I know.

Microsoft Hololens 💥

It is used as a catchall for disruptive / cool innovative products. What constitutes ‘black technology’ is subjective in nature but generally Chinese would agree on some examples such as:

  • Magic Leap
  • Microsoft Holo Lens
  • Bleeding edge silicon chips with an extraordinary amount of memory or machine learning functionality built in
  • Tesla self-driving cars

The key aspect is that the product as ‘magical quality’ in the eyes of the user. Technology companies have tried to use it in marketing to describe the latest smartphone and app features like NFC, gesture sensitive cameras and video filters. Your average Chinese consumer would see this as cynical marketing hype. Xiaomi had been guilty of this over the past couple of years.

As technology develops, the bar for what represents black technology will be raised higher.

According to Baidu Baike (a Quora-like Q&A service / Wikipedia analogue) it is derived from the Japanese manga Full Metal Panic! (フルメタル·パニック! |Furumetaru Panikku!).

In the manga black technology is technology far more advanced than the real world. An example of this would be ‘Electronic Conceal System’ – active optical camouflage used on military helicopters and planes in the manga. It is created by the ‘Whispered’ – people who are extremely gifted polymaths who each specialise in a particular black technology.

In the manga they are frequently abducted and have their abilities tested by ‘bad organisations’ who support terrorism. Whispered also have a telepathic ability to communicate with each other. If they stay connected for too long there can be a risk of their personalities coalescing together.

More information
黑科技 (动漫中出现的词语)- Baidu Baike
Full Metal Panic – Amazon

Jargon watch: 996

As with many things in China, numbers become important. Chinese start-up culture has a reputation for flogging the guts out of people to a degree that would even make Sports Direct blush.

996 is a summary of many Chinese tech companies core working house 9am – 9pm, six days a week. Apparently it’s already implemented at companies like Xiaomi and there are claims about its spectacular benefits in terms of productivity.

9/9/6 – Does The New Chinese Startup Work Practice Help Or Hurt Productivity? – TechNode