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What Trade History Reveals About the Internet,and How Ketchup Can Teach Us to do our Jobs Better


Baki. A. & Zhang, G.


As technologists, we’re in love with the idea of novelty, of firsts, of doing things that have never been done before. The very idea of the “high tech ”industry” is based on a presumption of novelty, the idea that we’re transforming the world in ways that no one before us could have imagined. In our effort to support our own need for novelty, we often miss many of the lessons learned by those who came before us. We confuse product for process, we get lost in complexities that don’t matter to consumers and often miss the significance that local discoveries can be of global importance. Our need for novelty can sometimes force us to learn lessons the hard way.Asian trade networks transformed our world, creating global relationships between producers, consumers, and innovators. Trade along some of the earliest routes created vast fortunes, formed empires, and drove European ambitions westward, giving shape to the world we know today. What drove this trade? What enabled Asian commerce to become so pivotal in world history? History is complex, but we see two simple, eminently human desires as keys to this story: the desire to have nicer clothing and tastier food.Silk and spice are prized because they can be adapted to so many uses that they quickly come to be indispensable to people who had never before seen them. In our talk, we’d like to challenge the presumption of uniqueness and propose a few provocative comparisons with the past that we think speak volumes about who we are and what we’re trying to do today. We believe we share many of the goals of those who have plied the trade routes between Asia and the world for centuries, but we sometimes need a reminder.

Original publication:

Minoi, J. & Yeo, A. & Abdelnour-Nocera. Designing for Global Markets 10, 5-6. 10th International Workshop on Internationalization of Products and Systems. Kuching, Malaysia. July 11-14, 2011.


© 2011 Product & Systems Internationalisation, Inc. ISBN: 0-9722184-6-7


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