“As we’re set out to find new, unexpected things, failure is inevitable. You must fail early so you can grow”, Prof. David Neil Payne – said one of five winners of VinFuture Grand Prize 2022.

You will never know you were right, unless you dare to try

On the evening of December 20th, the $3 million VinFuture Grand Prize 2022 was granted to 5 scientists: Professor Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, Doctor Vinton Gray Cerf, Doctor Emmanuel Desurvire, Doctor Robert Elliot Kahn, and Professor Sir David Neil Payne to honor their groundbreaking layers of invention in connecting the world wide web technology.

Being amongst humanity’s greatest minds, dedicating game-changing inventions to society that reshaped our very ways of life, these scientists have chosen the paths that were never easy to trail.

In the 1960s, Doctor Vinton Gray Cerf came up with the idea of a new model of telecommunications system, which was expected to put an end to the need for humongous telephones and fax machines. But as he proposed the initiative, every company turned him down because they perceived it to be “impossible”. Even his own colleague had no faith in the potential of this idea. They told him that he’d better go back to teaching at Stanford University.

However, Doctor Vinton did not give up. Over a decade later, in the year 1977, he only successfully experimented with the first 3 networks on the Internet – one of the crucial components of world wide web technology. Another decade went by, and in 1989, he and his partners commercialized the Internet for the first time. And it took him another 15 years, which was in 2004, to get his Internet protocol programs deployed in outer space. It was a 5-decade long journey of trying and failing and trying again with no end.

“I can’t remember how many times I failed. When we designed the Internet, we couldn’t know what it would become in the future. Our calculations said that 2 networks were enough for each country, and 16 million computers were a very big number. But as you can see, we kept calculating wrong. The latest addressing system for the Internet will actually allow up to 340 trillion trillion trillion computers or devices to be on the Internet. None of my bosses believed that the Internet could grow this much. The more mistakes you make, the more knowledge you gain,” said Doctor Vinton Gray Cerf.

Doctor Emmanuel Desurvire also shared his story of failure where he studied the erbium-doped fiber amplifier – the ground to build a billion-meter-long undersea fiber optic cable system, currently long enough to connect the Earth to the Moon, boosting the Internet access and transmission speed to the highest level ever. “When I asked for the funds to manufacture the optical amplifier, no one was interested enough to invest. Even my boss said: Emmanuel, I am not convinced at all. But I persistently pursued my research path,” said Doctor Emmanuel.

Doctor Emmanuel tested every possible physical method. At times, he nearly tasted success, but when he preached his approach to his leaders, he failed: the amplifier did not amplify anything at all. It took him tons of time and unsuccessful attempts to figure out the problem. He emphasizes: “The path from idea to successful execution is rough. The erbium-doped fiber amplifier we see today is a success born out of bitterness and failure, not just the commissions.”

Professor Sir David Neil Payne has some addition to that: “You must fail early so you can grow. We’re set out to find new, unexpected things. So how can we dodge failure? I always tell my students that nothing on PowerPoint can turn into any invention. No one will give you millions of dollars if you simply say something nice out of a PowerPoint. You may experiment on a small scale, but you have to try.”

Professor David raises a note to the young with great passion for science: “Youth is a kind of power. Its foolishness is a great source of motivation. You will never know that you were right, unless you have tried many a time. Be brave. Just try and fail.”

Global outlook after the Internet

After half a century, the world now will never be the same, thanks to the world wide web technology. The controversies around the dark sides of Internet never end, even when its significance has become more explicit than ever during Covid-19 pandemic. The creators of world wide web technology confirm: There will never be an algorithm perfect enough to eliminate all toxic contents on the Internet, but we can change it by educating the users.

Professor Sir David Neil Payne shares: “The Internet is a giant window that lets not only gold and jewels, but also trash to your house. There’s a digital difference among every nation, which leads to inequality in the use of Internet resources amongst the people. The only solution to this is education.”

Meanwhile, Doctor Emmanuel said, the negativity of the Internet can be fixed to some extents if everyone shares helpful content on it to form a healthier user community. We can’t just stay focused on its dark sides and reject it.

“Internet will reach even further away from the Earth. Maybe your generation will witness the Internet covering multiple planets, and it’s pointless to try and delay this future,” said Doctor Vinton Gray Cerf.

For the question, “After the world wide web technology, which invention will change the world?”, scientists have given different answers. Doctor Vinton says it should be astronomical research related to dark matter and dark energy. Professor David predicts that the next noteworthy invention should be something about big data archives in the new era. And Doctor Emmanuel has strong faith in data encryption methods to lower the error rates in information transmission to 0%, which will substantially change human life.

VinFuture Sci-Tech Prize Award Ceremony 2022 honored the scientists who created world wide web technology. According to Prof. Sir Richard Henry Friend, Chairman of the VinFuture Prize Council, this outcome is possible not only because of the benefits from these inventions towards humanity at present, but also its boundless potential in reorganizing the world after the pandemic.