Posted by: patenttranslator | April 21, 2010

The Borderless World

The Borderless World

I borrowed the title for my post from Kenichi Ohmae, a Japanese writer who was writing about new business strategies for the brave new world after the demise of Soviet Unit way back in the nineties when most people did not understand what he was talking about. I was one of those people. I tried to read his book 20 years ago but I just could not connect.

But I do know something about the borders in this world. I remember how I was staring at the Berlin Wall from the eastern side in 1969. I bought a big map of East Berlin to make sure that I don’t get lost in that unfamiliar town. It was the strangest map I ever saw. There was a huge blank portion in the center of the map with nothing in it, completely white. That part just around the corner simply did not exist. Hic sunt leones. I also remember the strange feeling when I was crossing the West German border on a train to Prague as I was coming back from France in 1970. I saw the no man’s land, the barbed wire and the watchtowers. I was coming back to a well guarded prison called home.

The hideous, impenetrable borders have disappeared after half a century from the face of Central Europe. You can take a train from České Budějovice (Böhmisch Budweis) to Vienna without any problems as you could a hundred years ago when both České Budějovice and Vienna were in one country called Austria-Hungary.

Small parts of those borders have been preserved as show pieces for tourists. About five years ago I walked across the Czech-German border on foot, just to see what it looks like now. Nobody was guarding it. There was a sign there that said that if you are not a citizen of European Union, you should have your passport on you. I did have my passport on me but I did not need it – the barracks for the border guards were still there, but they were empty. When I crossed the border, a blonde German girl on the other side was walking with 2 horses and 2 dogs. “Grüß Gott”, I said. “Grüß Gott”, she replied and then started apologizing when the dogs started barking at me. Maybe the dogs thought they were still supposed to guard the border. Dogs know about borders. Unlike for instance children and migrant workers, dogs understand the concept of borders very well.

The world is not really borderless and probably never will be. But the borders are now mostly in our mind. We are divided by languages, cultures and attitudes created by those cultures. Every time when I translate a patent from Japanese, German or another language, I am helping to erase a tiny part of the remaining border – the linguistic one. My customer can now write a claim for a new patent application while knowing exactly how a similar invention is described in another patent application in Japan or another country.

In this borderless world, everything flows toward a slightly different design, smaller, lighter, cheaper, more convenient. You can pretty much tell the year in which a film was made by looking at the cell phones the actors are using in that film. There is a big difference between the design of cell phones from 2007 and 2010. And the phones in 2013 will look nothing like the phones we are using now.

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