I was a young boy for the first space race in the 1960s and 1970s. After that the pace of space exploration seem to decrease. Recently, though, that pace has picked up, as the Times shows, here: Big Rockets, Massive Asteroids and More Space Highlights for 2022 – The New York Times.
So much happened in 2021, and 2022 seems to be just as busy. We have the James Webb Space Telescope, China building the Tiangong Space Station, NASA’s attempt to deflect an asteroid and much more. If you go to that article, you can subscribe to The Times Space and Astronomy Calendar and keep up to date of everything going on.
Sure billionaires jaunting into space grabs our attention, but there is so much more going on than that, and unlike much in the news, space exploration is fun and exciting to follow. Join the new Space Race!
Here’s some interesting links I found on America, China, and Africa over the year that I thought worth revisited as we move from 2021 to 2022.
On American justice: There was plenty of turmoil in the American justice system in 2021. For example, the Arbery trial outcome was uncertain: Nearly All-White Jury in Arbery Killing Draws Scrutiny while the Rittenhouse trial was not: Of Course Kyle Rittenhouse Was Acquitted. The effects of the US Supreme Court becoming more conservative was discussed in pieces like this Five Justices Did This Because They Could and this It’s time to say it: The conservatives on the Supreme Court lied to us all. Finally a reminder of how terrible capital punishment is in many ways, as this piece shows: They executed people for the state of South Carolina. For some it nearly destroyed them.
On American history: Americans spent much time debating their history, too, in pieces like this, Date of Viking Visit to North America Pinpointed to 1021 AD,
this The Debate Over a Jefferson Statue Is Missing Some Surprising History this Cancel Columbus Day: Sun storms pinpoint Europeans being in Canada in 1021 A.D., and this: Does America really lose all its wars?.
A special focus was put on the 1619 Project, here The 1619 Project and the Demands of Public History and here The 1619 Project started as history. Now it’s also a political program. Relatedly, this: List of last surviving American enslaved people.
Finally, this bears rereading: Bertrand Russell’s Ten Commandments for Living in a Healthy Democracy.
China: like the US, China is struggling too. Struggling with it’s young people (‘Lying flat’: The millennials quitting China’s ‘996’ work culture to live ‘free of anxiety’), scandals (Beijing Silenced Peng Shuai in 20 Minutes, Then Spent Weeks on Damage Control), worldwide distrust (As Distrust of China Grows Europe May Inch Closer to Taiwan), and their treatment of Uyghurs (U.S. Holocaust Museum Says China May Be Committing Genocide Against Uyghurs). And as Xi Jinping gains more control, he is coming under more scrutiny, as seen here China’s Xi Jinping Remakes the Communist Party’s History in His Image and here What if Xi Jinping just isn’t that competent?
Africa: For the first part of the 21st century, China and the US will be the dominant great powers. However as we move towards the 22nd century, the next great power may come from Africa. At the very least, Africa’s rising cities will be dominant.
To improve society, you need governments to want to improve society. This seems obvious, unless you see government function as either wasting money or punishing the worst off in our society. But governments can function very effectively to improve society, and these two articles illustrate this:
- Trudeau’s Child Benefit Is Helping Drive Poverty to New Lows – Bloomberg
- Jobs, Houses and Cows: China’s Costly Drive to Erase Extreme Poverty – The New York Times
In both countries, poverty isn’t declining by magic or the invisible hand of capitalism. It’s being driven down by specific policies and programs with an aim to eliminate poverty.
A better world is possible. Progress is possible. We just need people and their governments to want it to become possible. Never believe that progress is impossible or an illusion.
(Chart above from here. The downward line is people living in extreme poverty, while the upward line is people not living in extreme poverty.)
In exciting news, the United States, China and the UAE are all sending missions to explore Mars. It’s not the same as the space race: there have been already a number of visits to Mars. But it’s great that the interest is continuing and we will learn more about the mission as a result.
For more on this, see: ‘We are all Martians!’: space explorers seek to solve the riddle of life on Mars | Mars | The Guardian
Image via the article.
I suspect there will be many more stories about the Uighurs and their relation with China in the months to come. If you want to know more about them and the reason for the conflict, I found this was a useful piece: The Uighurs and the Chinese state: A long history of discord – BBC News.
The good folks at itbusiness.ca have a podcast called Hashtag Trending and today they talked about two interesting IT trends and one novel thing: iPhone 11s in India; Windows 95 PC inside Minecraft; Siemens doubles down on WFH. Here’s an excerpt:
Apple is building iPhone 11s in southern India. The move comes as Apple has been looking to shift some of its manufacturing away from China amid US-China trade war and disruptions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Apple already assembles two other models in India — the iPhone XR and iPhone 7. ….
… A new modification has been created for the game Minecraft allowing players to order computer parts from a satellite orbiting around a Minecraft world and build a computer that actually runs Windows 95 and other operating systems. According to the Verge the mod uses VirtualBox, which is free and open-source virtual machine software, to run operating systems like Windows 95. All you have to do within Minecraft is place a PC case block and then use it to create virtual hard drives to install operating systems from ISO files.
And lastly, Reuters is reporting that German conglomerate Siemens says it’s going to allow employees to “work from anywhere” for two or three days a week, and focus on “outcomes” rather than time spent in the office. Days after the recent announcement, the company says it was giving its over 100,000 employees access to a new app that provides local data on the COVID-19 situation, shows office occupancy levels and acts as a contact tracing tool. This of course is just the latest enterprise announcing its intentions for the post-COVID-world, following in the footsteps of Twitter, Facebook, OpenText and others, which have made their own announcements around remote work for employees moving forward.
It’s really remarkable how much thought provoking stuff is jammed in here. I find itbusiness.ca a good way to keep up with IT business news, regardless of what country you live in. Worth subscribing too for sure.
The Times has a good obituary on a photographer worthwhile knowing: Li Zhensheng, Photographer of China’s Cultural Revolution, Dies at 79 – The New York Times
Above is just one of the photos featured in the piece. While the photos are striking and historically valuable, the story of Li Zhensheng is worth knowing as well. Take some time and click through and read it when you can.
I suspect the Chinese government would rather this time and these photographs be forgotten. I’ll leave the last words to Mr. Li: “Germany has reckoned with its Nazi past, America still talks about its history of slavery, why can’t we Chinese talk about our own history?”
I have thought a lot about this piece since I read it: Is China’s government ever going to grow up? – The Washington Post Key quote from it:
.. the sad truth is that as China rises, instead of embracing a superpower mindset and growing a thicker skin, it is becoming increasingly more sensitive to perceived slights — all while it fosters a thin-skinned, resentful nationalism among its people.
I wonder why China is so thin-skinned and taking action against any one doing the slight thing (e.g. favouring a tweet). It is the response of a weak country or a bully, not a strong one. China is a strong nation: it should act like one.
It’s funny how certain tech ideas are bad and yet keep coming back, like zombies. Micropayments is one. Another is stores or establishments run without people: automats, in a sense. It’s a terrible idea in my opinion, and yet people keep trying them. Case in point, here’s some in China that came and went: China’s unmanned store boom ends as quickly as it began – Nikkei Asian Review.
I am sure these will pop up from time to time. Robots are becoming more prevalent, and the urge to keep putting more and more of them in establishments will continue. But like the old automats, I think they will only get so far before they fail.
I love this piece: Chinese millennials are rejecting dull factory jobs — and transforming the economy – Los Angeles Times.
Why? Because it affirms my view that people are largely the same when it comes to certain demographics.
I say “largely” because there are differences. Chinese millennials will still have differences with millennials in Serbia or Canada or Kenya or Peru due to culture and geography. But there are many similarities. Going through that piece in the LA Times, I kept reading the quotes and thinking: that’s true for young people here too!
People ignore age demographics all the time, as if young people — not to mention older people — have different interests and drives in different eras and in different regions. Don’t be one of those people. 🙂
According to this, chatbots in China have been removed after being critical of the Chinese government. This to me is not unlike what happened to Microsoft's chat bot that became racist after being feed racist input from users. If you put AI out there and allow any form of input, then the equivalent of vandals can overtake you AI and feed it whatever they choose. I'm not certain if that was the case in China but I suspect it was.
AI researchers need to expect the worst case use cases if they allow their software to do unsupervised learning on the Internet. If they don't, it's likely that their projects will be a disaster and they will do damage to the AI community in general.
Posted in AI
Tagged AI, chatbots, China
This porcelain is not just amazing, it is something you can buy. And not just robots, but sea monsters and flying monkeys too. Perfect for anyone needing a house warming. 🙂
I love the detail: the robot is in the middle of the plate and also all around the edge.
Via the always interesting Colossal blog.
As this article in the Wall Street Journal shows, advances in Robots May Revolutionize China’s Electronics Manufacturing. Here is some key parts of the article (underlining is mine):
A new worker’s revolution is rising in China and it doesn’t involve humans. With soaring wages and an aging population, electronics factory managers say the day is approaching when robotic workers will replace people on the Chinese factory floor. A new wave of industrial robots is in development, ranging from high-end humanoid machines with vision, touch and even learning capabilities, to low-cost robots vying to undercut China’s minimum wage.
Over the next five years these technologies will transform China’s factories, executives say, and also fill a growing labor shortage as the country’s youth become increasingly unwilling to perform manual labor. How the transformation plays out will also go a long way in deciding how much of the electronics supply chain remains in China.
Now, I would argue that while wages are relatively higher in China, the idea of them soaring is very relative too. I’d also argue that even if the wages were stagnant, it would not matter, for the robots will become cheaper and more productive year after year. The question isn’t how will robots manufacture every thing, it’s a question of when will they manufacture every thing.
From there, the next question is: what will people do? Who will buy these products? There is a hint of an answer from the realm of software development. As more lower levels of software development were taken over by other software (e.g. assemblers, compilers, IDEs), software developers focus on higher level versions of software and bigger and more complex problems. This could also be the future of manufacturing. People who work in manufacturing will not make the things: they will design the things (e.g., robots and instructions for robots) that make the things and work on more complex ways to make things (e.g., how to take parts made in China, Kenya, and Canada and have them all come together in the same place and as little time as possible).
(Photo is of a concept robot from Delta Electronics).
Have you ever heard of Zibo? I haven’t. Yet, as James Fallows points out, it is bigger than Chicago or Milan. It’s not the only one. Fallows states there are many cities like that in China. Have you heard of Ningbo? As the site Moving Cities points out, “Ningbo, once China’s largest trading port, now sits poised for its resurgence as a business and cultural mecca. In the coming years, Ningbo will connect to Shanghai via a modern expressway and high-speed rail link.” You can bet from there it will again be a major city. If anything, many of these cities (besides Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong) will be move from being invisible to most of the world to prominent.
Posted in new!
Tagged China, cities