Containers and Cables

Almost 20 years ago, I was lucky enough to spend my grade 11 year on a sailing ship. We travelled to 40+ countries over the course of the year, learning everything  we could about a ship, navigation and the ocean. We sometimes spent two or more weeks at sea without seeing land or another ship (It was more White Squall than Breaker High). We crossed the Atlantic ocean. We went through the Panama Canal. We visited Easter Island. The Galapagos. We traced the routes of great explorers. 

The whole trip ignited a passion for the ocean within me. It's what driven me to learn how to surf. It's why I love living so close to the water here in Vancouver now. 

Part of the my interest in the ocean was directed at the majority of the traffic we saw on that trip: the massive cargo ships and oil tankers. 

That's why I've enjoyed Alexis Madrigal's "Containers" Podcast so much. In a partnership with Flexport, the 8-episode series goes deep into history and future of the global shipping industry.

It's a deeper look into something I've always had questions about. What's it like for the crew to live on one of those ships? How was it changed over the years? What's going to happen in the next few years as new technology is implemented? 

The episode about coffee is particularly interesting, and particularly the way that the world's love of "third wave coffee" has influenced the coffee industry, and the related shipping. 

Part of what I liked about the Containers podcast was that Alex found something he was interested in, and went down a deep rabbit hole of learning more about it. 

In a way it reminded of "Mother Earth Mother Board," a now-20-year-old article originally published in Wired. It's an account of the Neil Stephenson's (yes, that Neil Stephenson's) GPS-directed journey around the world as he follows the laying of the fibre-optic cable that makes up the backbone of our communications system. 

Both will make you think a bit more deeply about the source of the coffee you're drinking and the data you're absorbing as you read/listen to them. Technology and global commerce are changing rapidly, but they're still built on legacy systems. 


Containers Podcast

Mother Earth Mother Board (Wired)