[FoRK] The World Is Not Flat
jbone at place.org
Tue Jan 19 17:53:06 PST 2010
Again, too many excellent comments to respond to individually.
I should clarify one thing, though; I think I undermined clarity in
one of the problems I'm attempting to sketch out by mentioning actual
geographic distances in supply chains. It's not actually the physical
distance that's a problem per se, nor is the transport between hops a
value-subtracting proposition necessarily. The problem I have is when
the "finish" process (from raw material to consumer good) is
artificially factored into a larger-than-necessary number of hops in
order to optimize costs in an artificially-distorted landscape. This
should be intuitive to a lot of folks: your shoes get "assembled" in
China because, basically, labor is essentially free there. This
underwrites and justifies the logistical costs involved, but it's not
necessarily any kind of desirable optimum; there's actually value
being "stolen" along the way from the laborers involved.
Really, it's not the miles, it's the hop count metric that matters,
and whether that hop count makes sense, and the "distance" (in cost)
between them. The network self-organizes in a distorted space not to
optimize for minimum cost-add between the inputs and outputs, but
rather for exploitation of local characteristics for maximum value
extraction at each hop.
One quick response to Dave, who asks what kinds of things might
technologically "flatten" this sort of network out further, as e.g.
packet-switched networks did for information. Two possible suggestions:
Robust, general purpose, and local fabrication facilities --- think
RepRap 10.0, on steroids --- and a thriving market for useful design
templates for same, including open source templates. You don't need
nano-assemblers to get some of the benefits of local assembly,
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