We're all familiar with the original Seven Wonders of the World, those marvels including the Great Pyramid and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon brought together as a kind of travelers' bucket list for the ancients; probably far fewer readers, however, may be aware that there exists a parallel list of splendours enticing tourists from the global outsourcing community - and that in the spirit of adding value which permeates this space, this list numbers not a measly seven but a princely ten jaw-dropping wonders to visit, look upon and contemplate with awe.
For the first time, Outsource now turns its gaze to these unique and frequently bizarre gems; in the latest in our Top Ten series - and in the hope of inspiring visitors to make their own pilgrimages - we present to you the Ten Wonders of the Outsourcing World... Look on these miracles, ye mighty, and despair...
1. The Great Data Lake of Mato Grosso (Mato Grosso, Brazil)
When news first reached Europe of this jaw-dropping marvel, many of the continent’s more cynical experts were quick to dismiss it as pure fantasy, mockingly quoting Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (one especially damning pundit assuring readers that “there are as many terabytes as pterodactyls in Mato Grosso”). However, as the proof piled up and Brazilian service providers, hardly believing their luck, began piping raw data straight out of the jungle, those same “experts” were left to eat their words. Even today nobody knows for sure just how much information has been extracted from this, almost certainly the largest natural data lake on Earth – and any concerns about the ramifications of decades of uncontrolled extraction tend to be dismissed with scoffs and the occasional extra-judicial “disappearance”.
2. The Great Glass Pyramid (Bangalore, India)
“Though I have not beheld it for myself,” wrote Herodotus, the ‘Father of History’, “I have heard merchants tell of another pyramid far to the east, the equal of Cheops’ wonder in grandeur. It is said that from one side to another it measures eight miles, perfectly straight, wrought in a magical transparent stone those who dwell there call ‘glass’. Yet this marvel is hardly the shadow of its Egyptian relation in height for it rises barely twelve cubits from its outer edge to its centre, whereupon sits another pyramid, hardly a man’s stride broad yet soaring precipitously unto the heavens and unreachable through normal means from that below it; and though countless men have tried scaling the sheer walls of this pinnacle hardly any reach the peak; and my merchants assure me that of the very few of the fairer sex to break through the ceiling of the first pyramid none has yet ascended the second.”
3. The Pitch-Perfect Elevator (New York, USA)
Where could be more appropriate a setting than the notoriously understated Big Apple for the proof that “wondrous” doesn’t necessarily mean “vast”? Visitors to the Remington-Glock Building in Upper Manhattan will find, throughout the year, a line of smartly dressed yet slightly agitated-looking outsourcing salesfolk clutching recording equipment waiting to ride in the building’s Elevator Number Six, a superficially nondescript lift with the extraordinary (and currently unexplained by science) capability of bestowing upon its occupants for the duration of their upward journeys absolute eloquence and unsurpassed powers of persuasion. Upon piling into the elevator and hearing the doors slide shut, those riding frantically begin recording themselves pitching their various solutions, the words flowing mellifluously from their mouths astounding their speakers with their forceful integrity and their impeccable reasoning. Tragically, however, upon exiting ‘Slick Six’ and with trembling hands playing back their recordings, preparing to memorise their utterances and envisioning a succession of monster paydays, they invariably find that their voices are inaudible above all those of their equally desperate peers crammed into the lift, and make their way in silence back to the ground floor, to begin their Sisyphean labours once again.
4. The Upwards Waterfall (San Jose, USA)
First sighted by Europeans in the late 1700s, San Jose’s remarkable Upwards Waterfall was known to the indigenous inhabitants of the region for thousands of years and despite its dazzlingly beautiful appearance was considered by them to be diabolical in origin: its name amongst the native Yokuts people translates as “rising tears of the demon who devours the time of men”. Its place in IT legend was of course cemented during the ‘Summer of Love’ of 1967 when a group of hippies camping within sight of the phenomenon, whacked out of their minds on acid, became transfixed by the eerie sight of the iridescent water defying gravity for the 63 feet of the “fall” and over the course of several hours of chanting (and, according to Murphy McMurphy Jr., author of Phlower Power: LSD and the PC, “a certain quantity of intimate touching”) created a sequential design process for software development that would change the world.
5. The Valley of Eternal Cloud (Akureyri, Iceland)
Gouged by glaciers out of Iceland’s volcanic bedrock, the valley of Brygfyssyorkyl would offer visitors a staggeringly impressive vista were it ever wholly visible; yet it remains permanently shrouded in a digital mist formed by the world-famous binary geysers that line its seven-mile length. At most, at the very height of summer when temperatures soar to a sizzling 4 degrees centigrade, perhaps half the valley can be seen, its imposing black igneous walls rising into the greenish fog billowing from its floor; on a typical day, however, hardly a twentieth of this view is visible, and indeed those hiking through the valley will often find themselves entirely engulfed by the cloud, barely able to see three metres in front of them and almost immediately becoming saturated by data. This was the case when Outsource visited Brygfyssyorkyl last summer; instead of the stunning scenes for which we had hoped, what met our eyes was a rather stinging mixture of anonymised Cypriot medical records and a set of semi-complex actuarial tables belonging to a Portuguese insurance company. “So much for the rigours of EU data protection!” we harrumphed, and trudged back to Akureyri to spend several months’ salaries on a solitary communal beer.
6. The Kingphishers of Lagos (Lagos, Nigeria)
The incredible growth of Nigeria’s former capital – now home to over 20 million - has wreaked havoc upon its flora and fauna thanks both to construction and to the pollution which has accompanied Lagos’ expansion. However, one species stands out as a most notable exception: Megaceryle spamfraudi, the Lagos kingphisher. These crown-feathered avian marvels – whose population is estimated by some now to exceed even that of their human neighbours – are constantly to be seen swooping down from the sky and snatching credit cards, smartphones and even entire identities before winging their way triumphantly back to their nests upon cell phone towers or within bundles of well-pecked fibre optic cables. The sight of millions upon millions of these birds in flight simultaneously above Lagos is an unforgettable experience - and one which looks set to inspire onlookers for years to come since, despite the obvious threat they pose to the local economy, the authorities seem unwilling or unable to cull them to any meaningful extent, plentiful assurances to the contrary notwithstanding.
7. The Nazca Dashboard (Nazca, Peru)
Almost everyone knows of the remarkable and mysterious Nazca Lines, huge geoglyphs carved out of the ground in the Nazca Desert of Peru: the giant images of spiders, hummingbirds and the like have captured the world’s collective imagination and countless hypotheses have been proposed for their purpose, including plenty that could be said to sit firmly in the realm of science fantasy. However, vastly fewer people know of the Nazca Dashboard, a glyph three kilometres long and five broad divided into a series of rows and columns which a growing number of archaeologists believe represents the Nazca people’s measurement of the progress of an ancient outsourcing agreement, the details of which are, of course, unknown to us. “It’s definitely KPIs, of that we are certain,” says Nazca expert Felipe Calderon; “however, because of the monochrome nature of the medium we remain frustrated in our understanding of how exactly the deal was going: were they red? Were they green? It’s such a tantalising enigma and we’re certainly many years, and several more rounds of very large UNESCO grants, away from an answer…”.
8. Vapor Mountain (Boston, USA)
Some 20 miles west of Boston, Massachusetts, lies one of the tallest mountains on the Eastern Seaboard – and certainly the strangest. Vapor Mountain (known to early British settlers as Mount Hype) is a genuine geological marvel: rather than being made of stone in the traditional manner, the 1,776-metre peak is formed from a unique mix of guano and hot air, appearing perfectly solid from a distance but far too insubstantial to support even the slightest weight. Visitors reaching the base of the mountain often report discovering the precise location of the transition from solid ground by accident, taking a step forward and finding themselves tumbling forward “into” the mountain itself, now covered with fine particles of the mountain’s rather unsavoury constituent matter (given the name of “matrix” by befuddled scientists). For a variety of reasons Vapor Mountain presents a significant challenge to a number of very different communities, including climbers (none of whom has been able to ascend more than a few feet); the Massachusetts state authorities, most of whom consider the mountain to be evidence of witchcraft; and outsourcing prospectors lured by ancient rumours of great value hidden somewhere deep beneath the surface. As one anonymous and grizzled fortune hunter told Outsource: “We dunno what be there, arr, but there ‘as to be summat there; can’t just be a mile o’ mess an’ nonsense, arr!”
9. The Talent Pools of Pudong (Shanghai, China)
Shanghai’s explosive expansion of the last couple of decades is symbolised by, and has been most visually apparent in, the skyscrapers of the Pudong New Area on the east bank of the Huangpu River. Yet the marvels of this part of China’s biggest city are not limited to those towering edifices: as development began in earnest at the start of the 1990s, builders discovered the first of a series of huge talent pools, hundreds of hectares in area and plunging many hundreds of metres below sea level. These subterranean wonders were initially deemed by despairing architects to be catastrophically prejudicial to the city’s masterplan; however, wiser heads immediately saw their incalculable value and in typically pragmatic fashion the plans were amended to allow construction to be centred on those parts of the pools considered to be of less importance, which were subsequently dammed off and drained, while strategically critical areas were preserved. The Pudong Pools are now the starting-point for pipelines of fresh talent stretching many thousands of miles throughout China and beyond; fears voiced by some Party members regarding the possible pollution of the Pools through contact with the greatly increased number of foreign bodies in the city seem thus far to be unrealised.
10. The Mausoleum of Common Sense (London, UK)
The United Kingdom’s capital is not short of famous tombs, as anyone familiar with Westminster Abbey, for instance, can testify. However, one specific resting-place is particularly sacred ground for the global outsourcing community: the Mausoleum of Common Sense. Those journeying to pay their respects to the late and much-lamented concept invariably report being struck dumb, in more ways than one, as soon as they enter what is on the outside a fairly unremarkable example of Late Civil Service architecture; yet it is upon leaving that the building’s truly wondrous nature becomes apparent to its visitors, as they proceed to engage in some of the most cack-handed and unbalanced outsourcing projects in human history. It is said that for every visitor to the tomb, three local government outsourcing deals fail – and, in a depressing if poetic testament to the mausoleum’s power, representatives from the Cabinet Office who visited it in 2012, determined to restrict access in the hope of preventing future calamities, outsourced its security to a consortium comprising several small lumps of cheese and a torn-up chewing-gum wrapper: visitor rates have risen by over a third since the deal was put in place, though authorities assured Outsource last week that when the agreement expires in 2029 the incumbents will be “under great pressure” to cut their fees by several million pounds per year or see the contract go out to tender.