The flow of food is so dependent on centralized distribution networks that changing conditions at any point in the system can have major ripple effects across the globe, and increasingly, cities and towns have little to no ability to compensate. Most grocery stores only stock enough food for a week of demand. If production or distribution is disrupted, a town or city can quickly run out. This is why we have to distribute emergency food supplies during emergencies.
To achieve interoperability, we have to move away from leveraging components for proprietary value and instead focus on designing for and adopting open technology standards. This can feel like a business risk, but it actually has the potential to create significantly more value than any competitive moat could. You are reading this article right now using an accepted set of open technology standards that drive the internet. This standardization has created a level of interoperability that has unlocked more value than almost any other technology in human history and made the web one of our most resilient systems. Where would we be if every company had its own proprietary web?
Being able to swap parts and pieces, share cables, and communicate across devices makes it much easier for a person to handle scenarios that don’t follow the happy path, like when they forget their charger or have to present unexpectedly at a meeting or need to share a file between devices. Interoperability creates a resilient system and allows for easy recovery from suboptimal scenarios.
While some of this detritus is created by the inevitable evolution of technology, much of it is the result of the competitive moats of proprietary tech. We’ve made it incredibly difficult for our various technologies to connect and communicate, and that’s a symptom of a fragile system.