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The invisible network that keeps the world running

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BBC has a story on a modern day engineering marvel that’s often overlooked, the container ship.

It’s been just over 45 years since the Apollo Moon landings, and some would have it that we are failing to build big anymore; that we’ve since become too fascinated with the small, too impressed by our tablet computers, games consoles, and smartphones that we don’t invest in grand, world-changing engineering projects.

Stand on the bridge of a container ship docked in a mega-port in Korea, however, and it’s clear that’s just not true. The global supply chain that brings us those tablets and phones, and pretty much everything else from our clothes and food to our toys and souvenirs, is nothing short of a moon shot itself – a vast, unprecedented engineering solution to a truly astronomical logistics problem. The fact that it’s hidden from most people’s sight, and that it has become so utterly reliable and efficient to the point of transparency, doesn’t make it any less of an achievement of human technical endeavour.

To find out more about this huge, invisible network, I accompanied a group of architects and designers called the Unknown Fields Division for a rare voyage on a container ship between Korea and China. The aim of the trip was to follow the supply chain back to some of the remotest parts of China and the source of our consumer goods – and what we saw as we travelled through mega-ports and across oceans looked closer to science fiction than reality.

Read more.


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