Tag Archives: China

The New Space Race!

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!

Late night thoughts on America, China and Africa

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.

It’s Hallowe’en. Here’s my pandemic highlights and ramblings for October, 2021(a newsletter, in blog form)

Happy Hallowe’en to you. For those celebrating, I hope the weather is good and the night is sufficiently scary and enjoyable. Here’s my monthly newsletter and ramblings as the year passes the three quarter mark. Grab some candy and dig in.

Pandemic: the pandemic is not new and not as scary as it used to be, but it is still bad enough and still not done. Alas. Publications like Vox are wondering what the winter will bring, Covid wise. So far we have seen a decline in cases, but not near enough to zero. Even places like New Zealand have had to abandon their Zero-Covid ambitions. As I have said before, the pandemic humbles us all. If you run restaurants, this has been especially true. Ask Toronto celebrity chef Mark McEwan, whose restaurant and gourmet foods business filed for creditor protection, citing a cash crunch. Or the poor IT people from Ontario whose website to download Ontario vaccine QR code crashed on first day it’s open to all residents. The pandemic has been challenging no matter what you do or where you are.

It doesn’t help that if anything the virus may be mutating into new variants of concern, as this shows:  3 takeaways from the emergence of the Delta Plus coronavirus variant. Yikes. That hasn’t stopped people from yearning to go back to the office, though it seems employers are not communicating post-pandemic workplace plans. I am not surprised: COVID-19 makes it hard to plan anything. For example, some places are wondering how to deal with  the Great Resignation, although there is talk that the notion is over blown. Certainly you would think so if you read this: A worker in Florida applied to 60 entry-level jobs in September and got one interview. Sooner than later we will go back to the office. Some of you even missed the commute. If you have, then read this: The Myth of the Productive Commute.

As for me, I’ve been working with a great team on  Alberta’s Vaccine Passport rollout. I am happy to have contributed in a small but positive way to ending this pandemic.

Non pandemic: there has been much happening that has nothing to do with the pandemic. For example:

Facebook has been in the news much of late. Mark Zuckerberg has tried to shift the conversation to the new name and vision for his company. This piece talks a little about Meta, Facebook’s new name. I can’t help but think it’s a Second Life clone (Third Life?). Whatever you think of Meta, I think Vice sums up the venture nicely for me: Zuckerberg Announces Fantasy World Where Facebook Is Not a Horrible Company. And what is Mark Z and his team trying to get you to not think about? This: The Key takeaways from the Facebook Papers.

I don’t know what will happen to Facebook-the-company. I have long suspected Facebook-the-service has been in decline in all sorts of ways for years. Generally, we have long realized that much of social media is not good for us. Some people have likened it to smoking. I think this may be a better comparison: Social Media Has the Same Downsides As Alcohol – The Atlantic

Climate-wise, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference is starting today. What will come from it, I can’t say. We will know in the middle of November. Recently I have been somewhat cheered up by this piece that argues that yes there is progress but no it is not enough. A fair assessment. It’s not that there are not Climate change solutions, it’s that we can’t deploy them fast enough. My belief is that things will accelerate in this regard and we will get much further faster than many now think. That said, much will be lost and damaged in the meantime. I am cautiously hopeful though not naive.

China has much to say about climate change, and  Xi from China will be there at the climate conference, but how influential he will be remains to be seen. He has been withdrawn lately, as this shows: Xi Hasn’t Left China in 21 Months. Covid May Be Only Part of the Reason. Part of the reason may be that China’s government is starting to screw up. Still, the government has its supporters, such as  the patriotic ‘ziganwu’ bloggers who attack the West. The question I have is what will happen if China’s growth slows significantly? Or if big companies fail?How will Xi’s crackdowns affect Chinese society and his reign? We will see in 2022.

Russia has been in the news of late, and not for the best of reasons. As someone who values a free Internet, the fact that Russia is censoring the Internet with coercion and Black Boxes is a bad thing. There is talk that Russia wants to cut itself off from the Internet. It’s easier said than done if you want to be a successful country. Though they are trying. And the coercion doesn’t stop with Russians. Even American companies like Apple and Google Go Further Than Ever to Appease Russia. Not good.

Gee, Bernie, this version of your newsletter is bleak. What’s good? Well, this is fun: Cats and Domino. I loved this: Essential Irish Slang Everyone Should Know . This was interesting: Beat writers and bohemians: One woman’s memoir of 1950s Greenwich Village. Speaking of NYC, we should go to the Big Apple and visit  the 14 Most Iconic New York City Bars and Restaurants. That would be fun. Not fun, but fascinating is this story: The Medieval-like reformatory for ‚Fallen women on Riverside Drive, New York.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up some NFT lunacy. Here’s the latest gem: Our Lady Peace looks to the future by bundling NFTs with new album . Honestly I could fill my newsletter with this stuff. As for newsletters, it seems Newsletter Writer Fatigue Sets In . Ha! I am not surprised. They need to learn a lesson from Andrew Sullivan, who discovered this ages ago with his blog and ended up hiring staff for what became a publication disguised as a blog. Of course it helps to be pulling in serious money like he does: not many people can do that.

That’s it for another newsletter. Thanks for reading my ramblings! Winter is coming soon: enjoy the Fall while you can. It’s a season of colour and cornucopias. Soak up its wealth and coziness. In no time Winter and Christmas will be here, for worse and for better.

Last word:  I came across this fabulous infographic via this: Wes Anderson Films and Their Actors [OC]. Like Christopher Nolan, he likes to work with specific actors over and over again.

He has a new film out now: The French Dispatch. It looks fun. We could all use some fun! Go and have all the fun you can. Until next month….

 

What I find interesting regarding China, 2021 edition


Here’s some pieces worth reading on China regarding to censorship, spying, and China’s approach to the world:

  1. Christopher Robin is banned in China for a very interesting reason.
  2. Here’s more on Xi Jinping.
    Not that China is unique in that regard, but here’s a piece on China making people install spyware on their phones when visiting.
  3. Here’s something written on China and the Uyghur population.
  4. Along with spying, there is also the issue of censorship in China. Here’s a piece on that.
  5. Noah Smith writes well on China. Here’s something he wrote on on China’s popularity (his assessment is that China is not a popular country in the world).
  6. Finally am not sure I agree with this, but this is worth a read: on how Chinese people think differently

(Photo by zhang kaiyv on Unsplash of Beijing)

On China and LinkedIn

Unlike other social media giants, LinkedIn rarely generates controversy or makes the news. An exception to that is this story about the platform running into problems in China: China Punishes Microsoft’s LinkedIn Over Lax Censorship from The New York Times.

What happened? In a nutshell:

LinkedIn has been the lone major American social network allowed to operate in China. To do so, the Microsoft-owned service for professionals censors the posts made by its millions of Chinese users. Now, it’s in hot water for not censoring enough.

I am not sure how they are going to recover from this, if they ever do.  It’s going to be worth keeping an eye on this, as well as how other social media companies make changes to suit the needs of the Chinese government. Those companies might find they land between two chairs if the U.S. government starts pressuring them in other ways.

(Photo by Greg Bulla on Unsplash)

To improve society, you need governments to want to improve society


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:

  1. Trudeau’s Child Benefit Is Helping Drive Poverty to New Lows – Bloomberg
  2. 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.)

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The race to Mars


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.

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The Uighurs and China

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.

 

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Two interesting IT trends and one novel thing: iPhone 11s in India, Siemens doubles down on WFH, and you can run Windows 95 PC inside Minecraft and play Doom with it.

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.

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This piece in the New York Times on Li Zhensheng and his photos of China’s Cultural Revolution, is worthwhile


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?”

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Is China’s government ever going to grow up?


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.

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Humanless stores: a bad idea that refuses to die


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.

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Chinese millennials are just like young people everywhere (surprise!)


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. 🙂

On deplatforming on social media

Deplatforming is starting to rise up as a means of dealing with the bad effects of social media. For instance:

AI is hard, China version

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.

Calamityware is the best dishware you can get


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.

In the future, people will not make manufacture things. The question is: what is next?

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).

(Chinese) invisible cities

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.