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Volume 31, Issue 1

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Thursday, 21 December 2017 15:57

Why the future belongs to standards

A quick glance at the accelerating technological change over recent years, and the subsequent upheavals, could be enough to make us all fear for the future of the global economy. However, there are good reasons to be hopeful: the rapid changes in today’s interconnected world call for a renewed interest in international standards, making them more important than ever.

Change is nothing new. Nobel laureate Bob Dylan sang that “the times they are a-changin’…” back in 1964. The difference today is the pace of change. In his book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, Thomas Friedman sees the world at a turning point. He believes that technology, globalization and climate change are reshaping our institutions – and rapidly. As his subtitle notes, this is an “age of accelerations” and we all need to keep up or risk getting left behind.

Given Friedman’s thinking on “accelerations” in technology and the disruptions it can cause, it is tempting to consider the impact on the “institution of standardization”. First, what is the rightful place of international standards in today’s global economy? Second, does cross-organization collaboration offer any clues about the nature and impact of world trade?