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It would be interesting to compare the container growth chart with the world GDP. It seems that they will grow together until the economy starts increasingly​ to move to virtual reality and off world

Kartik Gada


Yes, that is true. One could contend that the shipping container was just a continuation of an exponential trend that was already underway, but all ATOM disruptions are to varying degrees. The variability is in who benefits, who loses, and which technologies emerge as secondary and tertiary byproducts.

As far as virtual items becoming larger portions of GDP (as well as robotics and cheap natural gas reshoring production to high-wage countries), that could prove that the shipping container era was just another leg of the relay race (like Moore's Law is for computing - computing was rising exponentially before semiconductors, and will after semiconductors).


Thanks for the hat tip. Most people like to view the world as simply "computers deflate the cost of X." Not realizing that many things have also been deflating the cost of computers.

Computers were used to make shipping boxes cheaper.
Shipping boxes were used to make computers cheaper.
An endless self improvement loop. And naturally reduced shipping costs have led to the price of many additional items being deflated. Just as a side benefit of the cost reduction loop between shipping containers and computers, we also got trillions of $ in savings across entire industries.

Kartik Gada


Plus, this has not stopped. Even though lower energy prices and automation will move some manufacturing back to high-wage countries, the sheer volume of goods is still high. BEst of all, this enables every new technology to diffuse to the first 1 billion users ever faster than before.

Many countries are yet to integrate into the shipping container ecosystem to a significant degree.

Joe T.

Should we expect shipping systems to shift to smaller, peer-handled packages, analogous to communications networks moving from virtual circuits to packet switching?

Kartik Gada

Joe T,

Good question. I don't think the size of containers will change in the foreseeable future, due to a) the cost of the retrofit, and b) the volume of shipped goods not going down..


I would like to nominate Voice Over IP technologies. VoIP has transformed the long distance calls, and sometimes is replacing cell voice since due to some misguided market partitioning the cost for data in some cases is less than the voice minutes and users are using skype and alternatives on their smartphones. There are companies that try to replace the landlines with skype for business (I find i a bit premature). And even most of the landlines are using some form of voip or digital signal compression.
The cost of long distance calls has tanked. There is a trend to move to away from classic phone numbers to contacts and online handles. In fact, the voice calls can be effectively free. However, the convenience of the legacy phone system still outweighs the online competition.


Kartik - construction innovation in its infancy, and its not clear it will succeed yet: https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-youd-want-to-build-a-skyscraper-like-an-iphone-1499000401?mod=e2tw

The bit at the end about cities not having enough opportunity is silly - the problem is cities limiting construction, not lack of demand.


Kartik: explosive growth in bikeshare usage, doubling annually since 2010. The Chinese are already doing ~600x as much as we are. We're on the verge of cheap ubiquitous bikeshare. Starting with Seattle.



Found the underlying data, bikeshare has increased 25% annually by number of rides for the past two years; this rate may well increase with the rollout of new dockless private bikeshares.


People who have not see shipping containers must not live near railroads or wait on railroad crossings. One of the big things, in railroading is multimedia (in the sense of water and rail and eventually truck) transport. Container shipping now runs as fast as the old passenger trains used to. In addition due to the surplus of containers in the US (i.e. the US imports goods that need more containers than it exports), a shipping container can be used as an emergency shelter, or even a hunting lodge. Many companies are now providing the conversion. Note that shipping containers are generally water proof and the like. Their sizes are basically limited in width by the highway laws so its 8 foot wide with a height of 8 feet and a length of 20 40 or 53 feet in the US.
Basically one thing the containerization did is to cut the load and unload time of ships from days to less than 1 day. Also moved. Further reduced the number of longshoremen as the cargo is no longer sorted at the port but typically at the warehouse.

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