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The World Turned Upside Down

58 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 12 October 2013

Peter Day has now presented Radio 4's In Business programme for 25 years, and he uses this wealth of archive to argue that during that time, the world of manufacture and trade has been turned upside down.
We've gone from mass production for mass markets, as started by the Ford assembly line 100 years ago, to a world of customised trading for individuals. This has largely been caused by the internet, which is revolutionising the world of manufacture and commerce in a way that's as profound as that caused by the advent of printing 500 years ago.

As the Silicon Valley executive Joe Kraus once told In Business, instead of "dozens of markets of millions", we now have "millions of markets of dozens". Just think E-bay.
Companies have started to listen to mass-customisation guru Joe Pine, who spoke on the programme a few years ago and said that "consumers don't want choice, they just want exactly what they want".

The internet makes individualised trading possible, and technology is increasingly making individualised manufacturing possible, too. Not just by companies, but ultimately by consumers themselves: in a few years' time, we may be able to buy "smart sand", that can be digitally programmed to shape itself into one tool, and when you're done with it, you dissolve it before re-assembling the "sand" into another tool, as per your needs.

Producer: Arlene Gregorius.

  • The World Turned Upside Down: Imagine a world without shops or factories

    BBC News

    When you are in the middle of a torrent of change, innovation eclipsing innovation, it can be hard to know what is passing and what will last. But the BBC's Peter Day believes that, here, in 2013, we are in the middle of a revolution so great it could turn our old familiar world upside down.


    Read Peter Day's article on BBC News website


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