Cooperating with Nature


I’ve always thought capitalism worked well in the world economy because it aligned perfectly with human nature. To survive, people must be a bit self-centered; a bit greedy. Yet, for free trade to work, cooperation is needed to unite us all.

Here’s how it seems to work in the electronics world. Each country has a specialty. For instance, South Korea concentrates on memory, displays, and handsets. China is known for board assembly. Taiwan features SATS providers, such as ASE, that can make and test advanced packages. Foundries also abound in Taiwan, bringing the front-end process nearer to the back-end. Now India is enjoying a growth spurt as companies such as Nokia have begun production there to take advantage of economies of scale. India is known for software development, and will be soon for assembly.

It’s amazing to see how companies compete over price, yet how OEMs put it all together in a final product. For example, my laptop computer fits the description of how OEMs use the best sources globally to build their final product, and how each piece must be compatible with the latest standards for interconnection, materials, lead-free regulation worldwide, etc. Designs might come from the U.S. to fit the designs of ODMs in Taiwan. The microprocessor comes from an Intel factory in China, Malaysia, Costa Rica, or the Philippines. Flash memory might come from Korea (Samsung), Taiwan (Nanya), Germany (Infineon), or a Japanese factory (Elpida). The graphics card probably came from China (Foxconn). The board came from Korea, and was made in Shanghai. The battery (which at present is running low) was made by Motorola in Malaysia, China, or Korea. The memory stick came from Israel, power adapter from Thailand, etc.

As I write this, I’m also attending the Pan Pacific Conference in Hawaii, sponsored by SMTAI. Attendees come from Taiwan, Japan, China, India, Canada, and the U.S. in fairly equal numbers. The kick-off event was a golf and fishing tournament. Golf, I noticed, reduced us all to a common level of having to fight the wind, the slope, and our tendency to slice and hook. Even the latest hollow-core golf balls by NanoDynamics, which used nanotechnology to create a lightweight/strong sphere to help control and straighten the ball’s path, couldn’t overcome all ills. We ended the event by sitting at the same table and laughing at the same jokes. During the conference, the camaraderie washed over into business and technological discussions.

But will this bring us world peace? I thought about this in Shanghai during a tradeshow. Knowledge and cooperation seem to be working nicely there. Certainly if cooperation teaches us anything, it says that the supply chain doesn’t function unless certain rules are followed. And that’s the beginning of civilization. If the basic demand of survival is greed, then a step above survival is realizing that if someone else cooperates willingly, then you also must satisfy some of the basic needs of others. Maybe it does support world peace after all.

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Gail Flower