Having just come back from an extended trip to Shanghai and Bangkok, some questions linger in my mind about the future of industry, and specifically the future of the technology industry. Much has been written about emerging economies, and much too has been written about emerging technologies, and there are some strong parallels in the analysis of both. Both require, as far as management and operations are concerned, a highly specific attention to certain details — be they cultural or technological — a need for tracking up-to-date information, which can change the competitive landscape of both at any given moment, and most of all, a level of risk assumption which is unparalleled in other industry segments. The parallels are strong, and while analysis dervied from these fundamental principles might give us a contemporary snapshot of what's going on today, they don't tell us a great deal about where either industry segment is headed in the future.
Consider then the following scenario. The Far East — and China in particular — is experiencing a boom on an enormous scale, which is leading speculators to determine when the bubble is going to burst. Shanghai is a fairly spectacular city which has been the recipient of an even more spectacular degree of growth in the last five years; most of the enormous skyscrapers that overshadow the smaller 18th-century maisons built by the British at the turn of the century were only erected in this small time span. One night, sitting on the 48th floor of a rooftop bar, facing this enormous collection of skyscrapers, I began to count the number of companies that in some way must have been involved in the construction of these edificial monoliths; everything from within the hotel — bartops, light fittings, waiter uniforms, elevators, chairs, tables — and then outside gradually — windows, curtains, paints, neon signs...and the sheer number of them began to multiply at an uncountable rate. This is one hotel we're talking about, too, not an entire city or even an entire conglomerate! Let's take a guess too that the hotel's market value is around $100 million.