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Книга The World is Flat. Содержание - THREE: The Triple Convergence

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“We believe that the mobile phone will become the essential contrailer of a person's life,” added Mitsuishi, oblivious of the double meaning of the English word “control.” “For example, in the medical field it will be your authentication system and you can examine your medical records, and to make payments you will have to hold a mobile phone. You will not be able to lead a life without a mobile phone, and it will control things at home too. We believe that we need to expand the range of machines that can be controlled by mobile phone.”

There is plenty to worry about in this future, from kids being lured by online sexual predators through their cell phones, to employees spending too much time playing mindless phone games, to people using their phone cameras for all sorts of illicit activities. Some Japanese were going into bookstores, pulling down cookbooks, and taking pictures of the recipes and then walking out. Fortunately, camera phones are now being enabled to make a noise when they shoot a picture, so that a store owner, or the person standing next to you in the locker room, will know if he is on Candid Camera. Because your Internet-enabled camera phone is not just a camera; it is also a copy machine, with worldwide distribution potential.

DoCoMo is now working with other Japanese companies on an arrangement by which you may be walking down the street and see a poster of a concert by Madonna in Tokyo. The poster will have a bar code and you can buy your tickets by just scanning the bar code. Another poster might be for a new Madonna CD. Just scan the bar code with your cell phone and it will give you a sample of the songs. If you like them, scan it again and you can buy the whole album and have it home-delivered. No wonder my New York Times colleague in Japan, Todd Zaun, who is married to a Japanese woman, remarked to me that there is so much information the Japanese can now access from their Internet-enabled wireless phones that “when I am with my Japanese relatives and someone has a question, the first thing they do is reach for the phone.”

I'm exhausted just writing about all this. But it is hard to exaggerate how much this tenth flattener-the steroids-is going to amplify and further empower all the other forms of collaboration. These steroids should make open-source innovation that much more open, because they will enable more individuals to collaborate with one another in more ways and from more places than ever before. They will enhance outsourcing, because they will make it so much easier for a single department of any company to collaborate with another company. They will enhance supply-chaining, because headquarters will be able to be connected in real time with every individual employee stocking the shelves, every individual package, and every Chinese factory manufacturing the stuff inside them. They will enhance insourcing-having a company like UPS come deep inside a retailer and manage its whole supply chain, using drivers who can interact with its warehouses, and with every customer, carrying his own PDA. And most obviously, they will enhance informing-the ability to manage your own knowledge supply chain.

Sir John Rose, the chief executive of Rolls-Royce, gave me a wonderful example of how wireless and other steroids are enhancing Rolls-Royce's ability to do work flow and other new forms of collaboration with its customers. Let's say you are British Airways and you are flying a Boeing 777 across the Atlantic. Somewhere over Greenland, one of your Rolls-Royce engines gets hit with lightning. The passengers and pilots might be worried, but there is no need. Rolls-Royce is on the case. That Rolls-Royce engine is connected by transponder to a satellite and is beaming data about its condition and performance, at all times, down into a computer in Rolls-Royce's operations room. That is true of many Rolls-Royce airplane engines in operation. Thanks to the artificial intelligence in the Rolls-Royce computer, based on complex algorithms, it can track anomalies in its engines while in operation. The artificial intelligence in the Rolls-Royce computer knows that this engine was probably hit by lightning, and feeds out a report to a Rolls-Royce engineer.

“With the real-time data we receive via satellites, we can identify an 'event' and our engineers can make remote diagnoses,” said Rose. “Under normal circumstances, after an engine gets hit by lightning you would have to land the plane, call in an engineer, do a visual inspection, and make a decision about how much damage might have been done and whether the plane has to be delayed in order to do a repair.

“But remember, these airlines do not have much turnaround time. If this plane is delayed, you throw off the crews, you drop out of your position to fly back home. It gets very costly. We can monitor and analyze engine performance automatically in real time, with our engineers making decisions about exactly what is needed by the time the plane has landed. And if we can determine by all the information we have about the engine that no intervention or even inspection is needed, the airplane can return on schedule, and that saves our customers time and money.”

Engines talking to computers, talking to people, talking back to the engines, followed by people talking to people-all done from anywhere to anywhere. That is what happens when all the flatteners start to get tur-bocharged by all the steroids.

Can you hear me now?

THREE: The Triple Convergence

What is the triple convergence? In order to explain what I mean, let me tell a personal story and share one of my favorite television commercials.

The story took place in March 2004. I had made plans to fly from Baltimore to Hartford on Southwest Airlines to visit my daughter Orly, who goes to school in New Haven, Connecticut. Being a tech-sawy guy, I didn't bother with a paper ticket but ordered an e-ticket through American Express. As anyone who flies regularly on Southwest knows, the cheapo airline has no reserved seats. When you check in, your ticket says simply A, B, or C, with the As boarding first, the Bs boarding second, and the Cs boarding last. As veterans of Southwest also know, you do not want to be a C. If you are, you will almost certainly end up in a middle seat with no space to put your carry-ons in the overhead bin. If you want to sit in a window or aisle seat and be able to store your stuff, you want to be an A. Since I was carrying some bags of clothing for my daughter, I definitely wanted to be an A. So I got up early to make sure I got to the Baltimore airport ninety-five minutes before my scheduled departure. I walked up to the Southwest Airlines e-ticket machine, stuck in my credit card, and used the touch screen to get my ticket-a thoroughly modern man, right? Well, out came the ticket and it said B.

I was fuming. “How in the world could I be a B?” I said to myself, looking at my watch. “There is no way that many people got here before me. This thing is rigged! This is fixed! This is nothing more than a slot machine!”

I stomped off, went through security, bought a Cinnabon, and glumly sat at the back of the B line, waiting to be herded on board so I could hunt for space in the overhead bins. Forty minutes later, the flight was called. From the B line, I enviously watched all the As file on board ahead of me, with a certain barely detectable air of superiority. And then I saw it.

Many of the people in the A line didn't have normal e-tickets like mine. They were just carrying what looked to me like crumpled pieces of white printer paper, but they weren't blank. They had boarding passes and bar codes printed on them, as if the As had downloaded their boarding passes off the Internet at home and printed them out on their home printers. Which, I quickly learned, was exactly what they had done. I didn't know it, but Southwest had recently announced that beginning at 12:01 a.m. the night before a flight, you could download your ticket at home, print it out, and then just have the bar code scanned by the gate agent before you boarded.

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