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Opinion: Dual geographic paths to the tech future

By Ivan Franco · 6 replies
Jul 11, 2018
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  1. Even in the realm of technology advancements—which are generally considered to be apolitical and seemingly independent of geographical boundaries—important regional differences are starting to appear. More importantly, I believe these differences are starting to grow, and could end up leading to several distinct geographic-driven paths for technology and product evolution. If this geographical splintering happens, there will be a profound impact on not just the tech industry, but industries of all types around the world.

    Having spent the last week in Beijing, China to attend the Create AI developer conference hosted by Baidu (commonly referred to as the Google—or more precisely, the Alphabet—of China), some of these geographic differences started to come into focus. In the realm of autonomous driving, for example, it’s clear that Baidu’s Apollo platform for autonomous cars is targeted at the Chinese domestic market. While that’s perfectly understandable, the distinct character of everything from the slower speeds at which Chinese cars tend to drive, to Beijing’s nearly impassable hutong alleyways are bound to create technology requirements and developments that may not be relevant or applicable for other regions.

    In addition to autonomous driving, there’s been an increasing focus by the Chinese government to create more native core tech components, such as unique semiconductor designs, over the next several years. The “Made in China 2025” plan, in particular, has put a great deal of attention on the country’s desire to essentially create an independent tech industry infrastructure and supply chain.

    One of the reasons for the appearance of these regional fissures is that technology-based products have become so integrated into all aspects of our society that governmental agencies and regulatory bodies have felt the need to step in and guide their deployment and development. Whenever that happens in different countries around the world, there are bound to be important differences in the directions taken. Just as several hundred years of local cultural norms have driven trade policies, business rules and the evolution of unique societal standards in each country, the local interpretation and guidance of key technology advancements could lead to important variations in future technological culture and standards around the world.

    While these regional technology differences might not happen in a truly united world environment, they still could in one that’s merely well connected. In other words, old-world historical and cultural differences between countries or regions could prove to be a much bigger factor in the evolution of technology products than many have previously considered.

    "Old-world historical and cultural differences between countries or regions could prove to be a much bigger factor in the evolution of technology products than many have previously considered."

    A practical example is being highlighted by the current trade wars between the US and China. Admittedly, when you consider the issues at a high level, there are a wide variety of concerns underlying the latest trade maneuvering, but for the tech world, much of it boils down to each region wanting to deter the influence or participation of major companies from the “other” side in their home country. We’ve already seen this play out with companies like Google and Facebook being banned in China, and the US blocking the use of Huawei and ZTE telecom equipment and China Mobile from participation in US markets.

    In addition to these big picture differences, there other more subtle factors that are influencing tech-related relations between the countries as well. For example, many large Chinese tech companies, including Baidu, are squarely focused on Chinese domestic market needs and show little concern for other potential regional markets around the world. Given how large the Chinese domestic market is, this certainly makes business sense at many levels, but it’s noticeably different from the more global perspective that most major US tech companies have. (For the record, some Chinese-based companies, like Lenovo, do have a global perspective, but they tend to be in the minority.)

    The practical result of this region-specific focus could end up being a natural selection-type evolution of certain technologies that creates regional “species” which have crucial differences from each other. Hopefully the gaps between these regional technological species can be easily overcome, but it’s not inconceivable that a combination of these differences along with regionally driven regulatory variances (and a dash of politically driven motivations) end up creating a more technically diverse world than many have expected or hoped for.

    To be clear, the vast majority of current technological developments are not being geographically limited. Plus, there are still many great examples within the tech industry of companies from different regions working together. At the Baidu event, for example, Intel was given a large chunk of time during the main keynote speech to highlight how they are working with Baidu on AI. The two companies talked about the fact that Intel silicon is still a key part of how Baidu plans to drive its Paddle Paddle AI framework and overall AI strategy moving forward—despite the announcement of Baidu’s AI-specific Kunlun silicon.

    We are, however, reaching a point in the worldwide tech industry’s development that we can no longer ignore potential regional differences, nor assume that all tech advancements are following a single global path. Given the incredible potential influence of technologies like AI on future societal developments, it’s critical to keep our eyes wide open and ensure that we guide the path of technology advancements along a positive, geographically inclusive route.

    Bob O’Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting and market research firm. You can follow him on Twitter . This article was originally published on Tech.pinions.

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  2. Puiu

    Puiu TS Evangelist Posts: 3,230   +1,665

    I can see countries using local products for their more important systems due to increased fears of hardware backdoors (or when they are the ones that want to implement backdoors).
  3. Boilerhog146

    Boilerhog146 TS Evangelist Posts: 619   +217

    we all remember what the U.S. did in Iran. there are good reasons to have different hardware and software that's not compatible with another countries.wars will also become more tech advanced.a new FRONT is upon us.we will have to learn to fight and to defend on this new front.
    TempleOrion likes this.
  4. gamerk2

    gamerk2 TS Addict Posts: 185   +117

    I disagree.

    Between major nations, any serious non-nuclear war will be decided within a week, for the simple reason that one side will lose air superiority. Once that happens, the end result is all but certain.

    Point being, cyber attacks will certainly ruin civilian infrastructure for a period of time, but it won't have any meaningful impact on the overall war effort, since military systems are (mostly) stand alone.
  5. Puiu

    Puiu TS Evangelist Posts: 3,230   +1,665

    I seriously doubt that a week of "air superiority" will decide the war between superpowers.

    Crippling the economy and information network of a country? That can be done in a few days. Just slightly adjusting the navigation systems the army uses can also deal a serious blow to any air superiority a country might enjoy. (this includes missile precision strikes)
    TempleOrion likes this.
  6. Boilerhog146

    Boilerhog146 TS Evangelist Posts: 619   +217

    I'll agree for agreements sake.HOWEVER. Korean war, allies had the air advantage .still haven't figured out who won that one yet.
    Viet Nam, Allies had air power. how did that turn out again?
    Afghanistan, Russia had the air power .had their Azzes handed to them on their way out.by Guys on HORSEBACK lolz.you put too much faith in dem dar Generals.
    TempleOrion likes this.
  7. thews86

    thews86 TS Booster Posts: 40   +42

    All of those wars you listed were proxie wars between the USA and USSR, both sides were supplying weapons, SAMS, and fighter jets. Not as simple as you may think.

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