One of the things which tickle my fancy is when author’s write and say the world, activity or geography isn’t “Zero Sum”, as the basic law of physic say matter cannot be created nor destroyed . Well, in actuality it’s simply popular high school science slang for the “first Law of Thermodynamics” which states that the amount of energy in a closed system will not change. In essence ENERGY can neither be “created” nor “destroyed”, however “energy” makes up matter but can exist in its own right. So the amount of matter in the universe now is not necessarily the amount there was a second ago or a thousand years ago, however neither is the energy as they live in a symbiotic dance.
So when I read in the Economist: The red menace, reconsidered the author calls out “One reason for this is that innovation is not a zero-sum game. One company or country can benefit from the development and marketing of a clever invention, while the robust diffusion and adoption of such inventions can also benefit many others”. This in a way makes me shutter as they clearly do not understand the concept and ramification of a zero-sum game, as the story based on the review of a new pop-culture business book from Adam Segal and published by W.W. Norton titled “Advantage: How American Innovation Can Overcome the Asian Challenge”.
As Segal in his work, discusses the rote reality of Asia educating a “physically” vast number of human minds to set them forth into a unified direction to drive innovation. This concept is supported in the book by the quote “South Korea, China and India are pouring tens of billions of dollars into scientific fields that range from genomics to nanotechnology. They are producing staggering numbers of engineers and scientists, who in turn are publishing lots of papers and acquiring ever more patents”. However to counter this, Segal also proposes that: “he [Segal] remains skeptical about the foundations of Asian innovation. He points to troubling evidence that challenges the quality of the many patents, papers and engineering degrees seen in India and China”. Unfortunately Segal’s age may impede his points of reference as in my childhood, “made in Japan” was a joke for poor quality, however in adulthood (some 30 years later) “made in Japan” became a moniker for just the opposite as in providing high quality.
So as in the moment, Segal could be correct in his observation, however he is clearly missing the potential of what is coming down the road and the fact that once the “snowball” gains momentum there will be no stopping. However the question is should it be stopped? Also, people typically relate “Zero Sum” with having a “winner” and “loser” in simplistic terms is not far off, however culturally apply connotations to the words “winner & loser”. Whereas in fact it’s really a study in the concepts of “equilibrium”, as in the world of physics we all remember the formula E=mc2 which in short says Energy = Mass. As where ever man creates an inequity within the equilibrium of a system, it will seek to reset itself and does anyone need to be reminded of the mortgage debacle….