Computers 1, Tradition and Wonderful Scholarship: 0

The Person In This Picture May Soon Be Replaced By a Hologram

A fishing cooperative in Japan has banded together to sell their catch before they return to port by uploading pictures as soon as the fish is on board.  Tech blogs, naturally, are supportive:

“Fishermen’s benefit: no fish broker nor auction market process is required. Buyers’ benefit: fish and seafood you’ve ordered on the website before 9am will be delivered to your home within the same day. (It is expected to be delivered within 12 hours from being caught by fishermen to a consumer’s kitchen.)   C.O.D. available.”

Well, sure, it seems efficient.  But the process, taken to its logical extreme, may threaten to render obsolete the world’s most important fish auction market and its resulting dispute resolution system, well-captured by Eric Feldman’s wonderful 2006 paper on the topic, The Tuna Court: Law and Norms in the World’s Premier Fish Market.  As you may recall the abstract: “Tokyo’s tuna merchants make use of a highly specialized court created by the state – the Tuna Court – that follows formal rules and procedures that are contained in a government ordinance. The supposed disadvantages of legal rules are nowhere apparent. The Tuna Court is fast and inexpensive, and the process of articulating and resolving claims serves to strengthen individual relations and the cohesion of the market community.”

Ah, the good old days of 2006, when tuna and chicken (the very young and the merely broiler-sized) both required people to judge them.

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4 Responses

  1. Dave Hoffman says:

    How could I possible have left that joke on the table? James, you shame me.

  2. A.J. Sutter says:

    (1) We don’t eat cod in Japan. (2) The auction at Tsukiji market isn’t retail — the website described in the link is targeting a different set of buyers from the auction (assuming the posted prices are indeed retail). FYI, the fish sold in supermarkets here already is outstandingly fresh: namely, sashimi fresh. The main benefit will be slight for consumers (at least in central Tokyo), but bad for neighborhoods. Neighborhood fish shops (like the one near me that has better fish than the supermarket) will be the most vulnerable if this trend catches on; that would not be a good thing for my household in our dual role as consumers & residents of a community.

  3. RAHIM says: