Mindworks’ Weblog

Thinking Matters

Go east, young man

Posted by Andrew Cooper on July 16, 2008

I recently stumbled across the chart here, which shows global cement production from 2004-7.

When my eyes had stopped watering, it left me wondering what jobs will be left in the UK for the children currently passing through Sam’s school – and the rest of us – to do.

Given the tidal waves of money washing in and out of China, it seems to me that London is unlikely to be a major financial centre in the future, particularly if some of the changes that Will Hutton argues for in this book come about.  So far as the high street banks are concerned, I bank online and if a Chinese bank was to offer a better service than Natwest (not difficult) there wouldn’t be any obvious reason not to switch.

Other professional service jobs – like most accountancy and solicitoring – could easily be moved offshore: indeed, many have already:  to India in this case.  There’s no reason why mechanical tasks like conveyancing couldn’t be carried out overseas.  I expect they already are.

So far as manufacturing is concerned, I could barely survive without goods that are manufactured in China.  The excellent Dell computer on which I’m typing this (bought from Tesco for £385.00 incuding VAT, incidentally although I see they’ve already dropped to about £360.00) was made in China as is the Philips MP3 player which is playing George Shearing’s Duets through Chinese made speakers as I type.  My Nokia pmobile hone was made in Hungary but it’s only a matter of time.

WordPress, the company that runs the blogging system I’m using, is American but I’m sure that as Chinese universities continue to churn out engineers at an astonishing rate (even if there is some debate about the actual numbers) more and more software development and engineering design generally will move East.

Buying things directly from China is very easy, of course.  A few weeks ago I bought an 8 gigabyte SD rom card from a company in Hong Kong via Ebay.  It arrived, nicely packed and with some very pretty Chinese stamps on its jiffy-bag, a week later.  It cost £11.50 including a ‘free’ USB adaptor and postage: a lot less than Amazon’s current cheapest offering.   I don’t know how the quality compares, but it’s certainly doing its job at the moment.

The list goes on, and with some clever use of the web and other technologies I’m wondering what else could be done remotely.   Operating supermarkets, for example.  They are just warehouses where we do the stock picking.  But the with online ordering, why not turn supermarkets into actual warehouses, rather like Amazon?  All the management, advertising and so on could certainly be moved overseas leaving entirely online/home delivery operations to handle the actual distribution to customers.   No more queuing, fridges belching cold air, checkouts and so on: just automated warehouses assembling orders and a few drivers delivering the actual goods on routes delivered to their GPS systems by computers sitting on the other side of the planet.  If there were no delivery charges I’d use home delivery every time instead of just occasionally.

Obviously things like surgery could never…oh hang on, yes they could.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?  There’s a strong connection between this topic and the Clay Shirkey book I mentioned here but as I’ve just exceeded 500 words yet again I’ll leave that for another post.


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