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The algorithms are everywhere

If current trends in business and consumer culture continue, we may soon have much in common with China's meritocratic and communitarian traditions, writes Mark MacCarthy.

Around 1200 before our time, the Shang Dynasty in China developed a factory system to make thousands of large bronze containers, for everyday use and for ritual ceremonies. In this early example of mass production, the casting required detailed planning and coordination of large groups of workers, with each group performing a separate task in the correct order.

A similarly complex process lay behind the famous army of terracotta warriors as Qin Shi Huang, China's first emperor, unveiled 1000 years later. According to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, "the statues were created using a mounting system that paved the way for progress in mass production and trade." Some scientists have wondered whether these early forms of work-guiding technologies played an important role in shaping Chinese society. Among other things, they seem to have predisposed people to accept bureaucratic structures, a social philosophy with an emphasis on hierarchy and a belief that there is only one right way to do things.


When industrial factories were introduced in England in the 19th century, even staunch critics of capitalism, such as Friedrich Engels, realized that mass production required a centralized authority, regardless of the economic system. . .

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MacCarthy is employed by Georgetown University, and senior president of Public Policy at the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA).

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