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Among primitive tribes: Business English Lecture

Source text: Tim Harford (2017)

Among primitive tribes, the Kalahari bushmen
are among the most famous, and the most
They are hunter-gatherers, called the San people
who have created a cave art that goes back
70,000 years.
They live, using the bow and arrow: not farming,
not herding cattle: living off berries and insects
and hunting things like giraffes which they make
poisonous by tipping the arrow with the juices
from a particular kind of beetle
So their practices are extremely ancient and
very interesting for what they elucidate about the
very basic facts of tribes groups of people in
harsh environments.
They have been much studied.
One interesting aspect of their lifestyle is eating
nuts, called mongongo nuts which have a very
rich oil.
The nuts can be eaten and the oil can be
And the oil is extremely useful and helpful
for the health of the human being: and is
particularly good for the skin and the hair.
Aveda a health care firm make a specialism
of finding ancient ingredients which may be
known about only by quite obscure tribes in
South America, India, Africa. And then sourcing
oils, or extracts, which are made into beauty
products or health products.

And Mongongo nut oil is one of them. And, as
we learn from our course book the book Im
basing this course on mongongo nut oil is a
good example of one of about ten billion
products and services which are currently
available through the worlds major economic
centres which means cities, online sites, and so

Which we might refer to as the global economic

system. This delivers all these many products
and services; and it is very, very complex.

I mean: it can allow me now, if I wish, with a

click of a mouse, to order something I need for
living in China or Georgia

Maybe I want some specialized shampoo. With,
in it, the special rock salt which you can find only
at the Dead Sea. In Israel well, I dont think its
Israel: its between Israel and the next country,

And I can also with luck find it in the

supermarket here in Tbilisi, the capital of
Georgia: however, imagine I couldnt find it; or I
was in China.

Then I could order it through the internet: and

that, again, would be one of these ten billion

Or you might want a pen a particularly nice

pen; or you might want a picture; or you might
want I dont know something very expensive
and difficult to find.

Say you wanted an antique German grand piano,

in playing order you could also find that online,
and you might have it delivered to China if you
had a large amount of money.

The book we are using and kind of jumping in

and out of rather like the spacecraft is jumping
(or has been jumping) in and out of the rings of
planet Saturn is called Fifty Things that Made
the Modern Economy; and its by a man called
Tim Harford, a journalist and an economist.

He says: the global economic system that

delivers these products and services is vast and
complex: it links almost every one of the worlds
7.5 billion people. It delivers astonishing luxury
to hundreds of millions of people; but it also
leaves hundreds of millions of people behind
and it puts tremendous strains on the planets
ecological system.

It has the occasional habit of spinning into crisis.

Nobody is in charge of it; and no individual
could ever hope to understand more than a tiny
fraction of what is going on.

One of the ten billion products, of course, is the

book in which he is writing his observations. If
you look more closely at a book, you find paper,
which is flexible and at the same time, strong; its
also a product which can also be made into

disposable sheets, for example for wiping

On the books back cover he says you will

find a barcode, another very obvious, and at the
same time almost invisible, economic product
(or product of an economy, maybe) which is
simply a way to write a number so that a
computer can read it; and whose defining quality
is that it allows us to distinguish one thing from
any other thing, by a number.

In China, of course, we have the QR Code,

which is a three-dimensional and graphic
variation of the bar-code.

And as Tim Harford points out, its rather useful,
because it will allow you to distinguish drinkable
Coca Cola from poisonous industrial bleach; and
even an umbrella in a supermarket might have a
bar-code on it; and so would part of a computer
system, lets say a portable hard drive.

These bar codes are more than just a

convenience at the check-out, for the benefit of
the supermarket: the development of the bar-
code has re-shaped the world economy.

Changing where products are made and where

we are able to buy them.

I think what he might have said here is: because

the bar-code is so specific, it makes the finding of
a product very much easier; and the defining of a
product very much easier; which, in turn, means
that the people that are dealing with this product
dont have to be close to that product; or in one
particular traditional relationship with that

I mean, they dont have to be a bookstore to sell

books. Amazon started by selling books; but now
it sells everything. You see my point.

A second thing in a book is a copyright notice:

you must not photocopy this book.

Legally, the words in the book belong to the

author; and I can read them.

But I dont accept this at all. Because to me
words are in the public domain once theyve
been uttered. If somebody alters my Lecture
and publishes it somewhere else, well Im very

This of course is dangerous; because you can

have lawyers accusing you of stealing words; and
they call what you are stealing or trying to steal,
or, anyway borrowing, to help you guys along
(which I do not regard in any way as a bad thing,
or an immoral thing to do!) they call the thing
Im stealing, intellectual property.

Our friend Tim wittily reminds us that theres

another even more fundamental thing on display
in a book: writing!

Writing enshrines the ability to write down our
ideas, memories, and stories: and writing
underpins our entire civilization.

I always say that writing allows you to clarify an

idea. Never mind your level in well, English in
your case anyway just try and write it down:
and then the teacher can help you.

Dont just stay off-stage, on the edges of things,

without articulating words in your mind. Once
youve articulated them, its important to write
them down, actually with a pen.

Now I know this is only an internet pen but

you know what I mean: write down with ink.
With wet, beautiful, blue, old-fashioned ink: it
does something in the brain. Its really good.

Words are wonderful! The thing about a words

which isnt fully universally understood, is
that once youve got one word, it starts looking
for friends; and before you know where you are,
youve got six of them.

A word is not something we can control.

When we try and write, we simply open up some

kind of gate a computer term! we open up a
gate in our mind; and through this gate come
many words you want; and one or two you dont
want; you select them, and you put them in a
great line a queue.
Like, you know, youre in charge of a check-out;
and you tell people whos first; you organize
them and they go past your mind another part
of your mind: which is like the girl at the
checkout; and you select (just like theyve already
selected their purchases) this time, you select the
words you need. Sometimes turning people away!
Which doesnt happen in supermarkets! To end
up with the right combination of words for the
idea youre trying to express.
Obviously its much more difficult in
somebody elses language: but what Ive always
said at least recently is that all languages have
this same physics, really, is the word: this same
way of relating what we perceive, and naming
that thing we perceive with a word to reality.

This book were looking at has within its covers,
or, in its online version within the area you click
between, some interesting themes illustrating the
changes which have occurred in technology; for
example he talks about sound recording; he talks
about containerization; he talks about how
commercial messages are kept secret in the
world-wide web; in the world-wide computer
system: he talks about how Google searches are
set up, enabling companies to promote their

But he also discusses, or refers to, the

underpinning structures which allow the
economic the global economic marketplace to

Ideas such as global supply chains; money;
information, of course; and intellectual property

We also learn about such odd subjects as

barbed-wire, luxury stores, and passports.


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