I believe that trade has always been “international” in the sense of trading a commodity I have surplus for something I need that someone else has, who could also use my surplus. You can look at the Hebrew Bible for examples. Or documents from China of ancient times. I’ve heard stories of the AnasazisZ¸Z tribe that live for quite some time in the New Mexico/Colorado area.

Often, though, I’ve wondered about trade versus national security. I once had a customer that built tanks for the Army—the M1 Abrams. Always fighting the last war, the Army had them painting all the tanks camouflage. I quoted a robotic system to replace and update that painting line. Then came Desert Storm. The next day they were painting everything “desert sand” and didn’t need the robots. Oh, well.

But I’d think about how our financial geniuses had us moving manufacturing overseas. And I’d wonder, what happens in the next war? If we go to war with the country where our manufacturing moved to, we’d be screwed. What if we built those tanks in another country?

Or look at companies in our industrial technology space like, say, Rockwell Automation who has long ago moved its controller development and manufacturing to Asia. So much of that work is being done in Asia that they moved a Senior VP to Singapore for a while.

Life is full of delicate balances. How to balance the benefits of international trade and national security. We are living through one swing of that pendulum right now. Someday it will swing a different way.

This line of thinking began with an editorial by Gideon Lichfield, editor in chief of MIT Technology Review, who introduced a recent issue of TR:

In the last few decades, the received wisdom among global elites has been that technology tends to make the world flatter, smaller, more open, and more equal. This now seems increasingly false, or at least simplistic. Countries are vying for dominance in technologies that could give them a strategic advantage: communications, energy, AI, surveillance, agricultural tech, cybersecurity, military tech…and now, amidst a global pandemic, medicine and manufacturing. The urge for nations to amass technological prowess and use it as an instrument of geopolitical power is what we mean by technonationalism. The thesis of this issue is that the post-Cold War order was already splintering, and covid-19 is finishing the job.

The biggest driving force in this trend is China’s rise as a tech superpower and the US’s consequent belligerence as its supremacy comes under threat.

We all work in this environment. As we participate in decisions, we have to decide at what point are we an international company (which almost all are) and at what point are we a national company?

It’s complex, but we have to make our way through the complexity to do what’s best for us all.

GeoTechnology Games

I believe that trade has always been “international” in the sense of trading a commodity I have surplus for something I need that someone else has, who could also use my surplus. You can look at the Hebrew Bible for examples. Or documents from China of ancient times. I’ve heard stories of the Anastasi tribe that live for quite some time in the New Mexico/Colorado area.

Often, though, I’ve wondered about trade versus national security. I once had a customer that built tanks for the Army—the M1 Abrams. Always fighting the last war, the Army had them painting all the tanks camouflage. I quoted a robotic system to replace and update that painting line. Then came Desert Storm. The next day they were painting everything “desert sand” and didn’t need the robots. Oh, well.

But I’d think about how our financial geniuses had us moving manufacturing overseas. And I’d wonder, what happens in the next war? If we go to war with the country where our manufacturing moved to, we’d be screwed.

Or look at companies in our industrial technology space like, say, Rockwell Automation who has long ago moved its controller development and manufacturing to Asia. So much of that work is being done in Asia that they moved a Senior VP to Singapore for a while.

Life is full of delicate balances. How to balance the benefits of international trade and national security. We are living through one swing of that pendulum right now. Someday it will swing a different way.

This line of thinking began with an editorial by Gideon Lichfield, editor in chief of MIT Technology Review, who introduced a recent issue of TR:

In the last few decades, the received wisdom among global elites has been that technology tends to make the world flatter, smaller, more open, and more equal. This now seems increasingly false, or at least simplistic. Countries are vying for dominance in technologies that could give them a strategic advantage: communications, energy, AI, surveillance, agricultural tech, cybersecurity, military tech…and now, amidst a global pandemic, medicine and manufacturing. The urge for nations to amass technological prowess and use it as an instrument of geopolitical power is what we mean by technonationalism. The thesis of this issue is that the post-Cold War order was already splintering, and covid-19 is finishing the job.

The biggest driving force in this trend is China’s rise as a tech superpower and the US’s consequent belligerence as its supremacy comes under threat.

We all work in this environment. As we participate in decisions, we have to decide at what point are we an international company (which almost all are) and at what point are we a national company?

It’s complex, but we have to make our way through the complexity to do what’s best for us all.

Share This