Imperial conference calls

Poetry for the age of globalization, a Thomas Friedman koan.

Published November 1, 2006 4:15PM (EST)

"6 a.m. Pacific is the best time for a global conference call."

Such is the explanation for the title of the blog maintained by former Infosys global sales and marketing executive Basab Pradhan, 6 AM Pacific.

At 6 a.m. this morning in Silicon Valley, it was 7:30 p.m. in Bengaluru and 10 p.m. in Shanghai. (6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., respectively, before the time change.)

In Victorian-era England, self-satisfied Britons celebrated their global sway by intoning that "the sun never sets on the British empire." (Though Wikipedia observes that the phrase was first uttered in the 16th century as a description of the Spanish Empire by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor: "In my realm the sun never sets." Empires, they come, they go, but overweening rhetoric lives forever.) Today, the sun is less relevant. It's all about the bandwidth, and the conference call coordination.

I found Basab Pradhan's blog, which seems to exist at least partially to promote his new start-up, Gridstone Research (headquartered in San Mateo, Calif., India offices in Mumbai), by following links in a discussion of the role played by generous tax "holidays" in nurturing the Indian information technology sector. But we'll save that exploration of targeted industrial policy for another time. For now, let's just savor the symbolism of the global conference call as a metaphor for power relations in the present era of globalization.

At 6 a.m., the venture capitalists and CEOs and other Silicon Valley muckety-mucks are donning their headsets and girding themselves with their PDA armor, freshly invigorated by a few cups of espresso and a full night's sleep, ready to charge into their day. Meanwhile, in India and China, where the sun has set, their counterparts are no doubt sagging after a long day of work ensuring software and hardware production are rolling out as scheduled.

Six a.m. Pacific might be the best time for a global conference call because everyone, everywhere that counts, is theoretically awake at that time, but there's little question whom that time is really best for. The early bird gets the globalization worm. The sun sets on global conference calls, but it rises in Silicon Valley. For the moment.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Globalization How The World Works India Silicon Valley