Taiwan (its capital Taipei shown in the featured image above with one of the tallest buildings in the world) is an island in the East China Sea, north of New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the Philippines. It’s south of Korea and Japan in the southern part of the North Pacific Ocean. It is east of Viet Nam, Thailand and China. Russia hovers above it all. India, Africa, South America and North America are continents away to the west.
A young man who spent several years working at one of Taiwan’s largest electronics companies agrees: “I think Taiwan’s companies are bad at making big breakthroughs in technology. But they are very good at taking someone else’s idea and making it better. This can be done by trial and error, continuously tweaking small things.”
What they’re so good at making is microchips.
An integrated circuit (also known as an IC, a chip, or a microchip) is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece of semiconductor material, usually silicon. Large numbers of miniaturized transistors and other electronic components are integrated together on the chip. This results in circuits that are orders of magnitude smaller, faster, and less expensive than those constructed of discrete components, allowing a large transistor count.
By now most of us know that there are thousands of microchips in every new car, dishwasher and Smart phone on the planet. What’s interesting about the people in Taiwan is that they have chosen not to compete with the end-suppliers of products (cars for example); rather to contribute to their manufacture and success. And secondly, they work day-and-night upon making a good thing better. Underlying this model of proven success is the conviction that we must all work together.
I am not an engineer. And this business of microchips is far beyond my comprehension. But I do relate to the paradigm which these creative engineers have fashioned. First, I understand the quip, “If you do what you like, you’ll like what you do”. This to me speaks to confining one’s application to what inspires you. The Taiwanese talent from the beginning lay in its engineers who understood microprocessing.
The second element of the Taiwanese model which is irrefutable is, “Do what you do best and outsource the rest”. I first encountered that particular advice when reading about Apple entrepreneur Steve Jobs. This was before his unfortunate early demise. It is a simplified description of what might popularly be called “niche marketing” often reflecting the particular bias of the supplier. It eliminates the burden of having to accommodate a broader market and permits elevation of the remaining constituent elements. But as the Taiwanese engineer mentioned (above) it is a process “done by trial and error, continuously tweaking small things”. Basically, hard work is a requirement.
niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focused. The market niche defines the product features aimed at satisfying specific market needs, as well as the price range, production quality and the demographics that it is intended to target. It is also a small market segment. Sometimes, a product or service can be entirely designed to satisfy a niche market.
Not every product can be defined by its market niche. The niche market is highly specialized, and aiming to survive among the competition from numerous super companies. Even established companies create products for different niches; Hewlett-Packard has all-in-one machines for printing, scanning and faxing targeted for the home office niche, while at the same time having separate machines with one of these functions for big businesses.
In the end all of this points to the emerging consciousness of world cooperation. It is a politcal ambition which is beginning to surmount local identity which, while still important and sustainable, should no longer compete with the larger ambition of working together to the same end. Partnership and compromise are the new fashions. This extends its influence of collaboration, concord and mutual support into the realm of any number of other abstract identities such as those described not only by citizenship but more basic ingredients like colour, sex and sexuality, religion, race and age. I am reminded of the image of diverse people in the bar scene of the movie Star Wars.
It is clear that the Mos Eisley cantina both broadened the scope of Star Wars while also introducing the underbelly of the galaxy, and without it, A New Hope would have defaulted to a binary story. Having no third party with its own interests, Star Wars would simply be about the Rebels overthrowing the Empire. Characters like Han Solo — who is initially only after money — wouldn’t exist or be a focus of the story. Star Wars needs characters like Han Solo and Cassian Andor who come from shady backgrounds and are won over and join the cause for good in the end.
The Mos Eisley cantina serves to contrast the heroes of the story by placing them in the midst of an unsavory crowd. Luke and Obi-Wan don’t go there by choice, but out of necessity. Similarly, Obi-Wan and Anakin are forced to chase Zam Wesell through the Outlander Club, and Han and Rey are forced to go to Takodana Castle for Maz’s help. All of this is done so that the audience can see the heroes in uncomfortable settings. The Mos Eisley cantina, the Outlander Club, and Takodana Castle all exist to challenge the heroes.