Failures and breakthroughs – exposed, reflected, considered

Posts Tagged ‘china

Can technology fail humanity?

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Technology, a combination of two Greek words signifying ‘systematic treatment of art/craft/technique,’ is:

the collection of techniques, skills, methods and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives..

Whether it was discovery of fire, building a shelter, invention of weapons – and in modern times – invention of Internet, microchips, etc., it has always been about inventing, discovering and using information, techniques and tools to induce or cause economic, scientific and social progress or improvement.

However, the progress that technology caused has neither been linear or impending or ubiquitous or even obvious. All Four Great Inventions of China happened before 12th century AD. But, on the other side, despite Hippocrates’ treatise (dating from 400 BC) that, contrary to the common ancient Greek belief that epilepsy was caused by offending moon goddess Selene, it had a cure in form of medicine and diet, 12th-14th century Christendom perceived epilepsy as the work of demons and evil spirits, and its cure was to pray to St. Valentine and other saints. And in many cases, progress of technology itself or its consequences have been a matter of pure chance or serendipity, whether it is penicillin, X-rays or 3M’s post-its.

So, ironic as it is, until recently, technology hasn’t been very systematic in its own progress, let alone its impact on society, economy and culture of nations. But it’s become a lot more systematic since the dawn of Information Age, last 60 or so years. Since microchips, computer networks and digital communication were invented (all in the US), the technology became more systematic in its own progress and it’s becoming more miniature, cheaperfaster and more ubiquitous than ever before in human history. Ubiquitous technology makes the world hyper-connected and digital. Whether it is our phones, thermostats, cars, washing machines, everything is becoming connected to everything.  It is thus no coincidence that California (Silicon Valley + Hollywood) has recently become the 6th largest economy in the world, thanks to its beaconing technological and creative progress embodied in last 60 or so years.

Trump era has begun in January 2017, and he already did more to damage any potential technological and scientific progress coming from the US than any of his predecessors. From trying to unreasonably curb immigration from Muslim countries to terminating TPP to undoing progress in transitioning to clean energy and again focusing on coal to disempowering OSTP, Trump wraps his decisions with firebrand rhetoric and well-thought out psychological biases (anchoring bias is his favourite) around one message: MAGA.  Hopes are turning to China as the next flag-bearer of technological progress.

Nowadays, even coffee-shops are hyper-connected, aiming to personalize our coffee-drinking experience. And thanks to its omnipresence and pervasiveness of Internet, wireless connections, telecommunications, etc., technology (smartphones, games, virtual worlds, 3D headsets, etc.) is becoming and end in itself. In countries and cities like Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, digital and smartphone addiction is already a societal problem causing unintended deaths, lack of maturity, loss of educational productivity, marriage breakups, to cite but a few. In Singapore, where according to recent research, Millennials spend an average of 3.4h/day on their smartphones, government is now putting in place policies and organizations to tackle this psychological addiction.

However, even Bernie Sanders knows that technology cannot and should not be an end in itself or an addiction. Could Internet and technologies fail? Could Internet and thinking linked to it spell the end of capitalism? Could it cause societies, cultures and nations to fail?

Technology has proven to fail itself and us when it became an end in itself.

Only when it stays true to its nature and acts as an enabler, a platform for human endeavors is when technology will succeed. It can even end poverty or other problems and issues human race is facing..

 

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Forward towards Middle Ages

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We fail to advance towards future. We advance not to the 22nd century but more to the period corresponding to 8th-15th centuries AD. Below a reprint of an excellent article providing the necessary reasoning.

The middle of the 21st century will resemble nothing so much as the Middle Ages of the 8th to 15th centuries, from the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths, in 410, to the fall of Constantinople, in 1453. This was a long and uncertain period and thus an ideal metaphor to characterize our times. It was an age of plagues and progress, commercial revolutions, expanding empires, crusades, city-states, merchants, and universities. It was multipolar, with expanding empires on the Eurasian landmass, and apolar, with no one global leader. The new Middle Ages—synonymous with the age of globalization—have already begun.

First let us take the empires. Charlemagne’s efforts to resurrect the Roman Empire have been succeeded, over a millennium later, by the multipronged armadas of Brussels Eurocrats steadily colonizing Europe’s periphery, in the Baltics, the Balkans, and, eventually, Anatolia and the Caucasus. The Eurocrats’ book is not the Bible but rather the acquis communautaire: the 31 chapters of the Lex Europea, which is rebuilding EU member states from the inside out. By 2040, even depopulated Russia, with any luck, will be an EU member and the West’s front line against the far more populous East.

By then, a rebranded, globalizing China will be just a decade shy of the centennial of its civil war’s end, in 1949; the Communist Party has long declared that 2050, not 2008 (the year of the Beijing Olympic Games), will mark the country’s real coming-out party as a superpower. A half century from now, China may still be the world’s most populous country, and if the exploits of its 15th-century explorer–statesman Zheng He are any guide, its demographic, commercial, and strategic presence from Africa to Latin America—to say nothing of its diplomatic and cultural dominance in East Asia—will have substantially increased.

The world’s third center of gravity will be the United States, demographically stable but also more thoroughly amalgamated with Latin America. Almost a century after John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress, the country will have rediscovered its southern neighbors, especially Brazil, for an industrial partnership to boost the Western hemisphere’s competitiveness against Asia—and to achieve energy independence from the Middle East.

What then of the Middle East, the current center of geopolitical travails? Monarchies may still support dreams of a caliphate, but a unified Islamic ummah, such as the Abbasid empire attempted, is unlikely to emerge. Global energy resources will be more diversified than they are today, so oil and petrochemicals will sustain only a modest degree of Arabian cultural expansionism, even if they still support a few Islamic crusades. With something of a reformation under way in parts of the Muslim world, one of the most practiced religions on Earth will be ever more fractured and embedded in diverse geographies, much as Christianity is today.

Meanwhile, the resurrection of the city-state, the most prominent medieval political unit, will continue. To the current list of global cities—Dubai, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo—we may add additional globalized nodes, such as Alexandria, Istanbul, and Karachi along major trade routes. Now, as then, city-states are commercial hubs all but divorced from their national anchors, reminding us that corporate actors will be paramount well into the future. City-states will pay for protection as global security privatizes further into corporate hands—the 21st century’s knights, mercenaries, and condottieri. Today’s sovereign-wealth funds, fused with city-state savvy, will be tomorrow’s Hanseatic League, forming capital networks that disperse the newest technologies to nearby regions. Not Oxford and Bologna, but rather Silicon Valley, Singapore, Switzerland, and their like will be the standard-setting centers.

The Middle Ages witnessed a number of innovations—from the cannon to the compass—that were geared to intensified global exploration. In the 21st century, the speed of communication and transport will bring us ever closer to simultaneity. As the ranks of billionaires soar beyond Gates, Branson, and Ambani, mega-philanthropists will become the postmodern Medicis, financing explorations in outer space and the deep sea alike and governing territory and production in the manner of medieval princes.

And, as in the Middle Ages, humanity faces diseases and invasions in the decades ahead. AIDS, malaria, SARS, and other maladies could become plagues like the 14th-century Black Death. What will be the impact of the coming migratory hordes, potentially unsettled by wars and environmental disasters? Who will be the next Mongols—small, concentrated hordes who violently establish their own version of peace, law, and order? How will contemporary diasporas—the millions of Chinese, Indian, Turkish, and Arab peoples living outside their home countries—blend into European, African, and American societies?

Finally, the fundamental reality of the Middle Ages was feudal social stratification, whose return the global economy may be accelerating. In medieval times, diverse power structures—religious, political, military, and commercial—all vied for control in shifting alliances. All of this is true again today and will remain so until a dominant form, like the nation-state in the 16th century, finally emerges. For now, the state is still in flux: declining in the Near East, resurgent in Asia, and almost nonexistent in Africa. Establishing a new system of global governance will take centuries, hence the uncertain leadership and complex landscape of the mid-21st century. The next Renaissance is still a long way off.

Written by Hayk

December 27, 2011 at 9:54 am

is democracy bad for growth?

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Why did China outperform India?

“Shanghai Theory of Economic Growth”

  • Infrastructures
  • Strong government
  • State capitalism and government ownership
  • Democracy is a hindrance to growth

It is neither infrastructure (Soviet Union vs China before 1989) nor strong government (Pakistan vs India by 2008) nor state capitalism (success of Korea, Singapore vs failures Burma and DPRK).

So why did China so systematically outperform India even during its Cultural Revolution?

China’s greatest advantage over India was basic education (literacy rate – to read/write 1500 Chinese characters vs write your name in any Indian language you happen to speak) whereas India focused heavily on tertiary education instead.

Written by Hayk

October 11, 2011 at 8:20 am

random about modern america and historic china

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Modern America looks as below:

  • 4 million cups/day on airline flights (not reused/recycled).
  • 40 million papers cups/day for hot beverages.
  • Has the largest percentage of population in prisons (2.3 million in 2005).
  • >400.000 (1.100/day) Americans die of smoking annually.
  • 384.000 American women (vast majority <21) opted for breast augmentation surgery (the most popular high-school graduation gift).

Historic China personifies:

  • Fortune cookies (considered Chinese) invented in 1920 by a noodle-factory worker in SF.
  • Kites (1000 BC, to frighten enemies), soccer  (1000 BC), natural gas (used as heat source by 4th century BC), parachute (4th century AD), ice-cream (Marco Polo).
  • Stamp collecting (#1 hobby).
  • Red (happiness) and white (sadness).

Written by Hayk

October 7, 2011 at 7:50 am

Happiness in ancient Greece and modern era

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Tetrapharmakos is the four-part cure Epicurus recommended for leading the happiest possible life:

Don’t fear god,
Don’t worry about death;
What is good is easy to get, and
What is terrible is easy to endure

Gandhi ‘s formula for happiness H = R/N (H-happiness, R-your resources, N-needs).

China’s Comm-Party perceives happiness as that which “makes their [people’s] wallets bulge.”

Faisal Sethi read a study which found those who keep “gratitude journals” about what they’re grateful for in their lives were generally happier, slept more, had lower blood pressure, are more successful in their career. He turned those insights into a business.

Written by Hayk

August 18, 2011 at 7:09 am

Innovative beer virtually and in poems

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What costs $0.99, has been bought about 1 million times, and generated about $2 million and counting in revenues? An iBeer. That’s right, a simulated iPhone beer.

I would give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety,” wrote William Shakespeare in Henri  V. Ironically, beer consumption in his country is in sharp decline, although worldwide it increases, with China and America in lead.

And innovation in beer production or delivery? Beer launching fridge, temperature-sensitive Coors beer, beer-milk, beer for dogs, scratch-n-strip beer featuring nice ladies, … exist.

And the top 10 beer poems features Poe, Rumi, Baudelaire and others.

Written by Hayk

August 12, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Chinese toilet paper, Hitler and 30 mins

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Chinese invented toilet paper in 2nd century BC. By 6th century AD, toilet paper was used with inscribed quotations/commentaries of Confucian classics.

Average life expectancy in China was then 28. Considering it takes about 384 trees to make toilet paper that man uses in a lifetime (average 67), it gives about 5.5 trees/year for one man and at least (low-efficiency production in ancient China) 154 trees for an ancient Chinese.

Not only Chinese had fun. During WW2, humor and patriotism were inseparable. Check Hitler’s depictions on WW2 toilet papers. Yet another creative strain of Allies?

Since 2010, things got more economic.  30mins + 40-A4-sheets = one toilet paper roll.

Written by Hayk

August 12, 2011 at 11:34 am