No Monopoly on Dark Matter

Thursday, March 23, 2006 | 07:40 AM

I've been giving additional thought to the Dark Matter debate recently.

One of the flaws in the entire concept has been the unspoken assumption that the US is running a surplus of the magical dark stuff. But as long as we are entertaining this unsupported theory, let's consider another possibility. How much "unmeasurable" Dark Matter might other nations have?

To pursue this line of thought, we need to quantify the "creation and marketing of knowledge," as BusinessWeek put it. In their laudatory article, they wrote "After all, we're talking about intangibles: brand equity, the development of talent, the export of best practices."

Which leads us to an obvious question:  Why isn't Dark Matter a Two-Way Street? Does the US have a monopoly on Dark Matter?

I suspect not.

Consider the vaunted efficiency of Toyota of Japan. Their Camry has been the top selling sedan in the U.S. for the past umpteen years. Toyota builds them here -- but the US plants cannot satisfy all the domestic demand for the car, so they also export them here from Japan. Despite its status as a best seller, the Japanese engineers are relentless. They recently figured out how to manufacture the Camry engines for less than half the prior costs. Oh, and its has more horsepower -- and better gas mileage -- than the prior engine; with fewer parts, its also even more reliable.

Dark matter, anyone?

How about India's technological adaptability? They have the ability to ramp up in practically any knowledge field -- from tax accounting to reading MRIs to doing stock financial analysis to writing software code to tech support. Their University system creates engineers by the truckload, who are willing to work at very modest wages compared to those here in the US. What would you call the capability to find a profitable niche, exploit it, attract capital, corporate sponsorship, investment, talented personnel and management? If that's not Dark Matter, what is?

How about the China's low costs? A front page WSJ article reported recently that "Multinational companies, drawn by a huge and inexpensive talent pool, are pouring money into research and development in China -- a trend that promises to broaden the country's huge role in the global economy." How would the Harvard boys describe this ability to attract foreign-investment?  Do the letters DM provide a clue?

India and China are just the tip of the Dark Matter iceberg. Consider the following nations' "Dark Matter" advantages -- their intangibles -- that may not show up in their GDP data: How about Italy's preeminent design capabilities? From automobiles to appliances to clothing to art, Italy is the world's most sought after design studio. Is that Dark Matter? What about France's role of global tastemaker for food, wine, fashion? And Great Britain's culture of maturity, independence and business savvy? How do we measure Denmark's consistently top ranked satisfaction levels amongst its population? The list goes on and on.

When I look at it objectively, I find the Harvard analysis to be only so much primate chest beating.

And that's before we get to the really really ugly question:  What if we have a deficit of Dark Matter also . . . ?


Toyota's 'Simple Slim' Cuts Costs of Camry Engines 50 Percent
John Lippert
Bloomberg, Feb. 21 2006

Low Costs, Plentiful Talent Make China a Global Magnet for R&D
WSJ, March 13, 2006; Page A1

Thanks to Detroit, China Is Poised to Lead
NYT, March 12, 2006

Thursday, March 23, 2006 | 07:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (34) | TrackBack (1) add to | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post



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» Barry Ritholtz on Dark Matter from The Stalwart
Barry Ritholtz has a really sharp piece up today on the question of dark matter and whether hidden intangibles like quality and knowledge, if added into the economic mix, would more than offset our seeming imbalance with the rest of [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 23, 2006 9:32:33 AM


What have we done lately? As a country, I mean? The last great thing we invented was Just In Time inventory systems and, if we have a bird flu pandemic, that's going to kill a lot more of us than necessary. The only other great recent invention was Botox.

Has Ford, GM or the other guy cranked out anything except low fuel economy SUV's? Then they wonder why they're going broke. No innovation - so blame unionization and high wages instead of management. If we could just build 'em cheaper they would sell.

No we are flat out of dark matter - fact is I doubt we ever had much to begin with. Investigate all great inventions of the past 150 years in the US and you find about a dozen names. Everything else has been a derivative with the objective of making it cheaper. Does it take DM to do that? No - just marketing.

Posted by: john | Mar 23, 2006 8:08:03 AM

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