This Finisar trip saw me beat my previous best around the world time by three full days, jetting from San Francisco to China to India and back home again the long way…glamorous as you might expect. In this posting I’ll share observations on two places, an old favorite of mine, Shanghai, and a new city on my travels, Bangalore, or rather Bengaluru as now renamed, in India.
On my first stop, I was once again amazed by the modernity of Shanghai’s transit options. This time, however, I was overwhelmed with the realization that there is an inestimable quantity of concrete that is the new infrastructure of the city. The highway leading away from the airport, for instance, is an elevated and well-groomed thoroughfare stretching many miles and often passing between tall apartment and office structures. This concrete roadway is supported along its entire length by massive concrete pillars. I want to be careful though not to paint a picture of ugliness – keep in mind that concrete was invented by the Romans and used most famously in the construction of the well-known Coliseum.
Empires have been built over time on innovations in transportation – some of the best examples are the Roman roads, the British canals, cooled produce transit in the US, and the Internet. The most inspiring to me, in the context of this trip, would be the heavy industry and its ability to manipulate gigantic concrete structures to form the new transit networks for the worlds growing industrialized centers of commerce.
Which brings me to Bengaluru…
I have never been to India and honestly I did not expect what I found in my short stay. I have often heard of the lack of infrastructure of many kinds, but what I found was an abundance of it. There are buildings, functional and beautiful, historic and modern spread across the town. It would be a major disservice if I didn’t also mention the warm welcome I received from everyone I met in business meetings, local restaurants, hotels and bars…and the food–I was an Indian food fan before this trip, I’m a bigger fan now thanks in part to the volume and variety I consumed over breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Of course, much of the current infrastructure is visibly in need of maintenance and repair and as in many cities with growing populations, there are very significant challenges in traffic management although there are few greater adrenalin rushes than making an unscheduled U-turn through two streams of traffic while navigating around a couple of cows – literally (see photos below)! I was also surprised to learn on the cab ride from the airport at 2:00am that the journey of 25 km with minimal traffic would take an hour. Here again is evidence of a modern heavy industry with the ongoing construction of an overhead city metro system and ultra-modern business campus’ with facilities to make Silicon Valley envious.
Aside from the presence of heavy industry in both cities and their respective marches into increasing prosperity on the global stage, the other thing that is common is their push to deploy national fiber-optic communication networks to support wireless backhaul and high bandwidth services to businesses, buildings and homes. The spread of this new infrastructure based on the transport of light, rather than people and goods is not so easy to see and appreciate…but it’s there. It’s everywhere.
It made me wonder if this “light industry” will have the same impact on the world as did its predecessor, the heavy industry. Will transparent strands of glass fiber transporting ever increasingly heavy payloads of light build a new Global Empire without boundaries or at least possibilities? Is Light the new Heavy?