Inevitable Aggregation

    Suppose that [“a mythical visitor from Mars”] approaches the Earth from space, equipped with a telescope that revels social structures. The firms reveal themselves, say, as solid green areas with faint interior contours marking out divisions and departments. Market transactions show as red lines connecting firms, forming a network in the spaces between them. Within firms (and perhaps even between them) the approaching visitor also sees pale blue lines, the lines of authority connecting bosses with various levels of workers. As our visitors looked more carefully at the scene beneath, it might see one of the green masses divide, as a firm divested itself of one of its divisions. Or it might see one green object gobble up another. At this distance, the departing golden parachutes would probably not be visible.

No matter whether our visitor approached the United States or the Soviet Union, urban China or the European Community, the greater part of the space below it would be within green areas, for almost all of the inhabitants would be employees, hence inside the firm boundaries. Organizations would be the dominant feature of the landscape. A message sent back home, describing the scene, would speak of “large green areas interconnected by red lines.” It would not likely speak of “a network of red lines connecting green spots.”

Herbert Simon in 1991 via In Soviet Union, Optimization Problem Solves You .

I would like someone to actually do this, please. An infographic on the sizes of major companies normalized by national (should it be global for MNCs?) GDP and their relationships to one another with thicknesses corresponding to volume of trade. I don’t think my graphic design skills are quite up to the task, although it’s mostly just that it would take simply ages. Maybe just in one sector, for just the US and China? Say, technology and communications companies? There will be inevitable spillover that we can depict with lines leading nowhere.

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