A kudos to Weiyun (微云), Tencent’s awesome cloud storage

I learned of foxmail.com as an email service provider through correspondence with a guy (who was using it himself) who dropped out of Harvard’s PhD program in economics to do startup in China. He actually commented a few times on this very blog. (See this and this.)

I’ve already sent some emails with my foxmail.com email account now. What initially disappointed me was that it for some reason wouldn’t let me authentic using several email clients I tried, including the default Mail on Mac as well as Mozilla’s Thunderbird, not mention Tencent’s Foxmail client itself. I don’t like to use web client for email, mostly because Google, as great as its technology is, is so monopolistic and privacy invasive. Yes, I’m not going to let you log all my searches by my email account. But with the email clients not working, I was left with only the web client, which is not bad. I had tried Sina email before, and the whole user experience was pretty shitty, leaving me with a poor impression of Chinese tech companies.

Through Foxmail, I learned of Weiyun, Tencent’s cloud storage service. Before that, I tried Baidu Yun, and it was quite disappointing, with very low reliability, though now in hindsight I would expect the paid version to work at least reasonably well. File transfer to Weiyun was initially only about 100 KB / s. But its paid version, which comes with 3 TB storage plus 30 GB worth of fast file transfer per day, costs only 10 RMB / month (< $2). Seeing that, I promptly linked my credit card to WeChat Pay to subscribe to it. After that, its performance vastly exceeded my expectations.

The file transfer speed went up significantly, with what’s shown in the screenshot before an underestimate (it’s usually 500 KB/s)

FileUploadOnWeiyun

Moreover, they support notes in Markdown.

MarkdownOnWeiyun

Now, this would be the perfect place to store all my notes and lists.

I guess we wouldn’t be surprised that its stock has still gone up so rapidly the past few years, notwithstanding its size. I can’t believe its market cap is already 3.5 trillion. Even Google and Microsoft are not in the trillions. It was back in 2014 when I first heard of BAT (for Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent). Interestingly, the three are in different cities, Beijing, Hangzhou, and Shenzhen respectively. Now, of the three, Baidu is by far the weakest, with less than 100 billion market cap. Even Alibaba, at around 500 billion, is nowhere close to Tencent.

Screen Shot 2018-07-28 at 6.33.30 PM

Back in 2014, these Chinese tech companies were basically completely off my radar. I barely used WeChat then. And Alibaba is e-commerce in China, so I have no reason to use it. Baidu’s search engine I had started using since probably around 2007, so that’s the one my personal experience has been closest to. I guess that might change now with Weiyun. I’m honestly pretty impressed with Tencent, though admittedly, its WeChat isn’t all that great. WeChat’s security has been questioned; it does not implement end-to-end encryption, which is when the server does not store the message in plaintext. For those of you who want end-to-end encryption, there’s WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram. WhatsApp was bought by Facebook. Signal started off through a non-profit relying on donations and grants but that underlying organization was acquired by Twitter. Telegram was created by a Russian who earlier founded vKontakte, the Facebook of Russia, who later became somewhat of a Russian dissident, now in the UK.

Speaking of political dissidence, turns out so is one of the main creators of the celebrated Markdown, Aaron Swartz. Sadly, he committed suicide at age 26. Kind of like a Galois of programming.

As for his background, Jewish American. But looks like he was super against the system, I guess in the “libertarian” way? Seems like a real genius too smart and creative and anti-authoritarian for his own good, and he really suffered for it in the end. There are a lot of Jews like that (Ron Unz is rather close, and so is Bobby Fischer maybe), though of course, there is more of the money and power, Zionist, pro-American establishment type of Jew. In any case, Jews tend to be really politically outspoken and active. I guess they feel much more at home in Western society, unlike East Asians. There are plenty of politically ambitious and radical Chinese, contrary to the stereotype, but they tend to be in China. The whole Chinese revolutionary culture and tradition is quite another matter, and very foreign to the West. As for those liberal Chinese dissidents in the US, they are kind of a joke in terms of what they have actually achieved. In any case, I’ve noticed that in the US, it’s not really that socially acceptable for a Chinese-American to be too political and outspoken, the way Jews can do and get away with on a regular basis, for obvious reasons (the foreign culture combined with lack of media ownership and representation), unless one decides to become anti Chinese government, in which case support from various American political organizations and Congressmen won’t be all that hard to find. In any case, Chinese in America are but a passive minority. The Chinese with real leadership and political ambition should definitely stay in China.

Speech recognition between American and Chinese companies

I’ve already written here that I started trying out speech input. I’ve tried various ones for both Chinese and English, namely Apple, Sogou, and IFlyTek. Sogou is a relatively well known, at least in China, company that used to have sizable search market share quite a while ago. It’s also famous for its Chinese input method, which is its default. IFlyTek is this little known company in Hefei, Anhui, that can tap smart graduates of the University of Science and Technology of China (中国科技大学) there, arguably the nerdiest school in China. I was rather disappointed, and my impression was that these Chinese companies have a long way to go in AI, compared the top American ones.

Curious to see a more objective comparison, I did a test, where I recorded something on this matter that I thought of impromptu.

Yes, it sounds very hesitant and stumbly, because it was entirely improvised. But it’s good enough. What did, Apple, Sogou, and IFlyTek generate respectively when tested on this audio file.

Apple

我想做一下作业,然后试试中国公司和美国公司的语音识别比较一下。我排客之后对这些中国公司感到非常的失望,就不用说,谷歌苹果很可能都比最好的中国公司多苹果。的强项不是我觉得中国的科技公司这两年好多都是媒体可以的。他们斗地主还是继续在美国所找到的人也都是下个二流的同时,很可能在中国的顶级的开发人,还知道那就是说最好的开发员可能在美国还比中国多多得多。(here, many characters were actually omitted as opposed to misrecognized)

Sogou

我想在这上面做一下录音然后试一试中国公司和美国公司的。语音识别你想一下我还克我肯定会之后对那些中国公司感到非常的失望就不用说,谷歌苹果很可能都比这里好的,公司的好多。虽然苹果强项不是人工智能我觉得中国科技公司这两年好多都是媒体吹的他们谁小技术还是咱俩落后基本上没到的人也都是香的,二流的。同时很可能在中国的电机的开发员还少那就是说最好开发员华人开发员在美国还比中国多甚至多的多

IFlyTek

我想,在这上面,做一下录音,然后试一试。中国公司和美国公司的,语音识别,比较一下。拍客,我肯定会,之后,对,那些中国公司,感到非常,的失望。就不用说谷歌了。苹果,很可能都比,这个好的中国公司,做的好的多。苹果。都瞧瞧,不是人工智能。我觉得中国。的,科技公司,这两年。好多都是媒体吹的,他们,11首。的技术,还是落后,即使在美国,所招到的人,也,都是相对流的,同时,很可能,在中国的。顶级的开发员,还。,那就是说。最好,的开发员。华人开发员。在,美国,比中国,多,甚至多得多。

It turned out that Sogou and IFlyTek are actually a bit better than Apple for speech recognition, to my surprise, which just goes to show how flawed subjective impressions can be. Of course, all of them made numerous major errors, such that I can see why speech input still isn’t widely used (as far as I know). Even for English, Apple make some errors. I told me friend this, and he said, “strange, it’s usually pretty reliable for me, maybe your voice isn’t clear enough.” Though he was using Google’s on an Android, and we all know that Google is the world leader in AI, almost certainly quite a ways ahead of the other top companies in it. So I tried out Google’s as well, via this, and the result was

我想在这上面做一下录音然后试一试中国公司和美国公司的语音识别比较一下我差可我肯定会之后对那些中国公司感到非常的失望就不用说谷歌苹果很可能都比最好的中国公司做的好的多虽然苹果的强项不是人工智能我觉得中国的科技公司这两年好多都是媒体吹的他们实际上的技术还是等等6号其实在美国所招到的人也都是香奈儿流的同时很可能在中国的顶级的开发源还非常少那就是说最好的开发华人开房源可能在美国还比中国多甚至多的多

It’s comparable in accuracy to IFlyTek, maybe a bit worse.

Of course, I’m sure Google and Apple invested relatively little on Chinese speech recognition. Just like Sogou and IFlyTek invested little on English (or maybe they trained on English spoken with Chinese accents), because their English speech recognition basically felt like complete garbage.

In any case, we can still see that speech recognition and AI in general still has a long way to go. After all, your AI is only as good as the data you feed to train it. It will never handle cases exceptional to the training set and not programmatically hard coded, unless there is a major paradigm shift in how state-of-the-art AI is done (so something even better than neural nets).

Whoever reads this is welcome to do a similar experiment comparing Google Translate with Baidu Translate. I did, but I didn’t record the results so it doesn’t really count as a completed experiment.

A bug in WeChat

Nothing major. But you see, I shared my first moment on it. The result was:

WeChatHyperlinkBugScreenshot

You see the problem right? Broken hyperlink. The bug I filed:

WeChatBugFiling

I’m kind of surprised and disappointed that they’ve missed this edge case for so long. And to be honest, I don’t feel like WeChat is all that great technically. A while ago, I tried their web interface, and it was shit, barely usable. I didn’t find their Moments (朋友圈) feature social_wechat_moment in Discover (发现) easy to use either. I wanted to post the above message, and I had to Google to find that to post one without a photo, you need to hold the camera icon at the top right corner for a bit. Not a terribly intuitive interface.

So, in spite of all the recent hype, a Danish data scientist told me that Chinese are deeply incompetent, due to corruption and incompetent leadership, and that other Euros who know China have told him the same. Similarly, University of Washington CS prof (now at Stanford) James Landay, who spent a few years at Microsoft Research Asia, wrote December of 2011 that Chinese computer science, while having made tremendous strides, is still leagues behind. I doubt his opinion has changed that much over the past almost seven years. Personally, I haven’t found most Chinese from China software engineers here all that impressive, though of course, I’ve also seen some really brilliant and creative ones. Of course, there is also that software engineers in general, wherever they’re from, are just not that smart, compared to say mathematicians or physicists or real engineers, due to the low intellectual difficulty of most of the work. Apparently, a senior engineer at Google can think that “eigenvalue” is “specialized terminology.” Of course, any serious STEM person will think you’re a total joke if you say that. Luboš Motls has written on his blog that most programmers think like folks in the humanities, not natural scientists. On this, I concur almost 100%.

 

为什么中国核心科技依然薄弱

我与一位清华电子工程毕业但博士之后转至软件开发的人午饭聊天,他说若Facebook消失,人很可能变得更加有效,而相反,若Intel消失,科技及我们的现代生活会几乎停顿。此理明显,而甚少所提。在本人眼中,将网络公司英文述为”tech”,其实是对技术的一种严重歪曲,对理工真才实学的人是一种笑话,也是对他们的一种贬值,因为这种虚伪的词语宣传只不过是起一种误导公众及反知识反科学的不良效应。当然,在市场经济,真正的天分和能力经常是不太受重视并经济价值不高,价值高的反而是会做买卖会搞关系会吹的人和技术含量不高但助做买卖的工作,典型为网络公司的码农。一般来讲,高级的理工人才非常的专或者如果做理论的东西未有直接的经济价值,选择(若留在他们的专长里)极少,所以很少能拿到特别高的工资。这也是为什么中国(美国也差不多)愿意投资或投入核心科技产品,以芯片为典型例子,的人极少,即使非常聪明天性善于真正科技的人也经常随着社会及经济压力和诱惑离开他们当前的热爱,这是很可怜的趋势。一般人的视野是极其肤浅的,没办法,只能通过优生加上教育提高一个社会的整体素质,可惜的是,在市场经济下,连教育都会成为给学生提供的产品,尤其在现在的制度文化放纵的美国。不过美国由于他之前某些划时代性创新,如半导体的发明,所积累的领先地位,无论如何,都会有精英追求真正的工作,当然现在比以前也少的多了。中国不然,还很落后,必须依靠明智的计划制度弥补多年的空白。

中国人基础科学做的牛的与国外相比的确比较少,而且大多在国外,这没有什么争议。中国的精英科学文化的确还远远差于西方,缺乏适当的传统,这只能慢慢建立,在这一点可以像很成功的日本学习一下。我感觉从某种角度而言,中国人还是非常缺乏日本人所有的那种为民族奉献的精神,这一点,老一辈是有,但是从改革开放上大学那一辈开始就基本消失了,受美国人的精神污染了。共和国头30年被迫隔离于美国大大推迟了,从某种角度,中国的经济发展,但是迫使了中国建立一种科技上自力更生的传统。随着改革开放,中国融入美国为主的体系,这种精神有了大大的涣散,但是也有遗留。比如我跟我的美国朋友说中国计算机上还未出过真正有国际影响的尖端产品,他却回答中国阻止美国网络公司而建立自己的网络企业是明智的选择不然早就被外国给吞下去了。中国封闭Google和Facebook的确很丢人,可是为了自己的经济实力和国家战略角度而言,此代价不用说是远远直得的。我也想到过,如果中国政府如五六十年代那样限制精英的个人自由绝对不允许出国留学的”彻底叛变”但是给他们远远更好地培养和工作安排,中国今天的科技水平会远远更高研制出远远更多的尖端技术产品,拥有独立的包括芯片及其生态系统(是包括操作系统和兼容的以后所有重要的应用软件)。

有人说中国快要超过美国了,我问在什么方面?他回“在所有方面。”我说在经济上凭中国的量加上整体水平相当高会很可怕的,但是以科技代表的质量还有很漫长的路要走,中国的尖端科技水平还是太落后了,有很漫长的路要走。中国人必须在学习先进国家的同时,发展出自己独特的科技研发的体系和风格,敢于采取在适当的情况下极端的措施为实现目的,不要太在乎别人的看法,尤其美国的看法,因为中国现在已经有足够的实力和好的趋势支撑全心全意的追求自己的道路。

有一位从中国过来的在计算机行业工作的人有一次跟我说“ABC最惨,既不能当美国人又失去了当中国人的机会。”他觉得在美国的华人作为被动的少数民族是非常可怜的。在看到哈弗大学对华裔学生的系统其实被证实的情况下,我自己也会说,凭自己的经验,天分高的华人与他们能力复合的培养和发展机会是相对难的,导致华人的水平和地位低于他们的天分,与白人相比。美国的体制把好多先天很好的中国孩子搞坏,不光在事业上,同时也给他们一些自我认同问题。这些人如果留在中国,在得到足够政府支持的情况下,能为中国作出伟大的贡献而非在美国被荒废掉。不光是他们,还有他们的子孙。由于移民制度对高智商的筛选(大略,移民率是智商的单挑函数),在美国的华人的智商分布会有很粗的右尾巴,但是美国种族配额和歧视能容纳的给华人的高智商发展机会是有限的,很多华人必然怀才不遇,大材小用。

我小学一年级来美国,但慢慢的发觉美国文化有很多非常骗人的地方,所以要防止洗脑啊。在了解美国文化和体质和学习美国好的东西的同时,阅读中文,学习俄文,接触欣赏苏联和中国的红色基因给了我对世界更多元化的认识。虽然前苏联已经大败解体了,未能全面,即使在科技的范围内,追上美国,它依然做出好多精彩的结果,以严峻危机所促进的革命性的新制度实现了奇迹,震惊了世界,给了当时贫穷落后受列国欺凌的中国适当的启发和榜样,也提供了决定性的科技知识和援助,让中国千年的古文明在近代战火的背景下浴火重生,直到今天,面临着超级大国的地位。苏联创造的新制度,新文化给世界留下了宝贵的财富,在科学上,在艺术上,在政治思想和体质上。我觉得苏联的那套远远的更符合中国的国情,尤其与美国相比,中国应当把苏联的东西适当的与自己的文化和情况相结合,把社会主义带到前所未有的高峰。当然,中国若要真正成为前苏联那样的超级大国,必须先成为科技强国,做一些颠覆性带领潮流的首先,像苏联的航天那样,而非仅在别人的核心工作基础之上做出一些实用性科技。这需要自信而系统的发挥自己文化和体质的强点和独特之处,大胆的投入长期的核心科技研发和基础探索,促成更多的不同尖端领域的独特文化和群体。中国精英知识分子要多发扬先辈所继承的革命精神,非崇洋媚外,敢于挑战权威,创造新的奇迹载入史册。

On manipulating perceptions

My thoughts on the importance of perception management, in addition to actually being good, by way of a chat log.

dude I think the jewish domination of liberal media is just IQ
if white americans are 100 SD 15, ashkenazim are 115 SD 15
Then if you look at 130+
In the US you have a 30:1 ratio but among 130+ you would expect like
2:1
dude like 1/3 of the 130+ whites in the US are jews
jewish verbal is probably even > 115 since spatial is lower
also they are coastal and liberal
 
lol you idiot it has much to do with personality socioeconomics culture too
 
which leads to more representation
yeah i’m saying that
coastal and liberal
already on the 2:1
updating more
 
Lol also if Jewish verbal is so high why are Asians beating them at PSAT/SAT
 
stats?
 
English/culture
 
Read Myth of American Meritocracy by Unz
 
link me the stats
 
I read it
 
He has stats there
 
have you read Janet Mertz takedown
 
Yes I’ve skimmed through that
 
Unz overestimates harvard % jewish
and underestimates other things
 
Sure he probably does a little
 
math olympiad % jewish
wait like half the white people at mop are jewish
like half
Since it can be hard to tell by surname
dude I think chinese americans have a massive
verbal IQ
way higher than of mainland china
maybe even higher than ashkenazim
But they haven’t been here long enough
like Jews in the 50s
also a lot of them are not interested
in verbal professions
 
how trainable is verbal SAT?
 
I agree the trainability of the SAT is overstated by people but cramming vocab is totally a thing, no
I dont trust unz statistics at all lol
 
Lol because Chinese-Americans know that verbal careers like law are rigged against them
So many strong ones are hesitant to enter
There’s a cultural affinity aspect to that as well
 
chinese prefer medicine or law
I think a lot of it also is that a society with a functional legal system is alien to most chinese people 😛
once I asked zuming whether china had a legal system
his response: No
 
Haha he’s both right and wrong
 
but yeah law is jewish
but I mean jews are not pulling the strings or anything
like
they are smart verbally
And they tend to be coastal and liberal
The tribe is not jews, it’s coastal liberals
130+ secular coastal liberals are like half jewish
but they dont think of themselves as jewish but as secular coastal liberals
like NYT columnists are half jewish
because 130+ secular costal liberals in the US are half jewish
 
Lol lol
 
if you add the adjective new york
secular new york coastal liberals
it’s a majority easily
 
NYT columnists
 
like manhattan is 20% jewish
 
NYT is full of garbage
 
?
its pretty reliable
Sometimes they call Rouhani a “moderate” and I wince – he’s certainly better than ahmadenijad, but he’s no moderate … “pragmatist” is the right word
 
You really need to broaden your horizons lol
 
hmm?
 
See politically, the Anglo world is setting the standards right now
 
yes, I very much enjoy not living in a society with sesame credit
 
sesame credit?
 
yes
 
I don’t even know what that is
 
china could become an orwellian state
 
Oh that
 
isn’t that great
 
Orwellian state what does that even mean
 
 
It’s just this phrase for evil regime coined by the Anglo media based on the works of an Anglo writer, that’s all.
I’ve read 1984 and Animal Farm
They’re pretty good
Very hyperbolic of course, as is much media
I actually exchanged briefly with Unz
 
ok
 
Maybe I should ask him about what he thinks of Jews being subsumed into the white category in these racial classifications
What do you think of these IQ tests as actual measures of real, biological intelligence
They are very noisy for sure
Especially verbal, because exposure to language varies widely
 
on an individual level
noisy
on a group level good
they are measuring something important
Whether it’s 100% genetic I dont know
I doubt it
 
Lol when most Chinese kids’ parents don’t know English all that well
Heck I’m even unfamiliar with some of the more colloquial English language
People viewed me as funny for it in school
 
sure
what do you think about steven pinker
he’s one of my favorite people
 
No opinion of him
Also those tests are noisy predictors of actual ability on real things as well from my observation
The discrimination against Asians in admissions right now is likely partially premised on the perception that their test scores inflate their actual ability due to prep.
There is still the perception that Asians do well in school but don’t go on to do great things
Again it’s only a perception
Being good and being perceived as good are far from perfectly correlated.
 
I think there is discrimnation against asians
for being recent
for being perceived as grade grubbers
 
Yeah they’re also not rich or well-connected.
 
this perception is not wholly unjustified ofc
yeah also that
i am strongly opposed to ivy asian quotas
 
There is resistance towards Asians becoming successful in America
It’s a white country after all
 
eh
 
Anyhow, I think in a matter of time, the best young people in China will come here for grad school less and less.
America will become a place for China to send its second-rates.
I’ve written that China needs to get better at marketing
 
china gives 0 shits about academics
it’s way too right wing to care about academics
 
too right wing?
And I’ve read on Zhihu that in recent years, the Chinese who studied math in France have turned out better than the ones who came to US for grad school.
 
that’s about france vs US
not china vs US
 
Lol math I think the best young people will still study abroad for a while.
There’s also engineering
Plenty of that China does well now.
I think in actual STEM ability/competence, China/Chinese still have much room for improvement, but now, they’re not bad, and the potential is there, with trends in favor of them.
It’s the whole game of manipulating perceptions that will take longer
Due to cultural difference and inertia
In that regard, it’s already been massively successful in just the last five years if you think about it
The media portrayal in the West has already drastically changed.
For instance, dismissiveness of Chinese tech companies is metamorphizing into fear.
I’m not gonna argue whether or not it’s gone to the other extreme
People can have different opinions on that
In any case, I don’t think China has transitioned to foundational innovator, that’ll take a while, but the increasing level of sophistication combined with the scale is certainly very formidable.
China still relies on US companies for its semiconductors/chips. She has not created a viable ecosystem for its homegrown ones yet. But that could well happen in a decade.
Then US will have even less bargaining chip.
Now, China can easily get away with what it’s doing to Taiwan largely because it is so much stronger economically, technologically, and militarily.
 
jack ma is a smart guy
but I mean
 
Nobody wants to piss off the powerful, because there’s much to lose.
 
china’s system doesnt make too much room for jack ma and yitang zhang
The lack of political freedom is a big obstacle here
 
Lol Jack Ma isn’t smart IQ wise
Struggled to get into a college
He has other qualities
 
The lack of political freedom is a big problem for innovation
 
Hahaha
Elaborate on that one 
 
Name a totalitarian society that was innovative
Germany under the Kaiser wasn’t really totalitarian
 
Uh, USSR?
 
all their jewish scientists moved to america and israel
ussr had good academics, certainly
Because they prevented them from leaving
They didn’t have much in the way of tech
 
Uh, Sputnik?
 
low tech
very low tech
your cell phone is better
there won’t be a chinese steve jobs
 
Sure computer technology they were behind, because semi-conductors and integrated circuits were invented in America
Lol Steve Jobs is mostly marketing 
 
shockley
eugenics
chinese bill gates
 
And what you say about Sputnik is ridiculous
First satellite in orbit
That was back in 1957 silly
You don’t think Ren Zhengfei is as impressive as Steve Jobs?
Huawei
So much of the global telecommunications infrastructure
Now their phones, which US is banning.
 
So
Lol what if China once it has the resources starts a huge propaganda/PR war
You bitch about totalitarianism
China has a ton of young people with nothing to do.
Have them troll the YouTube comments, drown out all the anti-communist Chinese.
Numbers do matter
The Chinese government could also incentivize more people in the West to start blogs supportive of Chinese ideology.
Try to buy out US media outlets
You don’t think China once it is advantaged in resources can start playing the game of manufacturing consent as well

Something I learned today about Microsoft

I recall when I was in high school, some old guy told me that Microsoft got really lucky with its IBM deal. I didn’t know about that, and I didn’t care enough to learn about that until today. Apparently, Microsoft bought the license for an operating system created by Gary Kildall and his company by the name of CP/M, from which they derived MS-DOS. It is said that Microsoft basically

According to Wikipedia,

When Digital Research founder Gary Kildall examined PC DOS and found that it duplicated CP/M’s programming interface, he wanted to sue IBM, which at the time claimed that PC DOS was its own product. However, Digital Research’s attorney did not believe that the relevant law was clear enough to sue. Nonetheless, Kildall confronted IBM and persuaded them to offer CP/M-86 with the PC in exchange for a release of liability.

I’d totally believe it. The truth is to win in business, even in technology, is as much if not more about connections, marketing, and legal tactics, than about the innovativeness of the actual technology and product itself. Bill Gates, in addition to being very gifted technically, was from a very prominent family, with his father as a partner of a law firm, and he was willing to engage to the extremes in cutthroat, win-at-all-costs behavior.

I can see the following analogy. Bill Gates is to Gary Kildall as Thomas Edison is to Nikola Tesla. Tesla was much stronger, more inventive, and more farsighted technologically, but Edison was the one to successfully commercialize and gain credit, and similarly, Kildall actually did very foundational programming work, in compilers and operating systems, or so it seems; Bill Gates did not but he ended up winning. Heck, Kildall even had it much worse in many ways. Tesla is more or less a household name, though less so than Edison. On the other hand, very few people have heard of Kildall. I see another, less direct analogy. You know how the Chinese government is often despised for using access to the Chinese market to extort technology/IP from foreign companies? Concretely, there is that China purchased high speed rail technology from German and Japanese companies and basically reverse-engineered and re-designed it, and eventually with its size, built what is now by far the world’s largest high speed rail network. I wouldn’t be surprised if what the Chinese did in high speed rail technology was mostly of an incremental and scaling nature, as opposed to one of foundational innovation. As much hype as there is in the media about Chinese tech, I still don’t see all that much radical innovation there. Of course, that has much to do with China’s having started very very behind. When you’re like that, you can in most fields only learn and copy, and even that is often pretty non-trivial. After all, most countries and corporations cannot even copy. So you could say there is somewhat of a parallel between China and Microsoft. The one glaring exception I can think of is that China sucks at marketing, while Microsoft is for the most part good at it. By the way, Bill Gates is revered, often blindly, in China, with few people there seeming to know or care about his nasty side. He has marketed himself very successfully, especially his whole philanthropic foundation. As cynical as I am, I think Bill Gates is doing all that mostly after he already won, to redeem himself, reputation wise.

There is another parallel between the two. Microsoft may not be the best at anything or closely relatedly, terribly innovative, but it can do just about everything, and China is like that too. Microsoft has its own software ecosystem, from operating system to programming language to distributed system to search engine to word processor to phone (which I just learned got cancelled). Microsoft even has a prominent games division, with Xbox and Age of Empires, which I much enjoyed playing as a kid, though I wasn’t very good at it. In this way, Microsoft is more comprehensive than Google. Google doesn’t really have programming languages (C# is a much bigger deal than Go as far as I can tell), nor does it have its own PC. And the other major tech companies like Apple, Facebook are all much more specialized.

I’ll conclude with a comment on my take related to this whole trade war ongoing between US and China that’s been so big in the media lately, particularly on how US likes to blame to China for stealing its technology. I seriously believe this is way overblown, though of course I can’t know for sure how much actually valuable the Chinese actually managed to steal from US defense companies. To convince you that I’m not saying this out of any ethnic bias, I’ve give some justification of my position.

First of all, those really smart, high trained, and highly creative/innovative/productive mainland Chinese in America have mostly stayed in America, benefitting American companies and the American economy massively. Sure there is some communication and collaboration with people in China, but I would expect it to be relatively minimal in anything that is terribly advanced and not already in the public domain (which means academia doesn’t count). Why? Because if you’re working in America at the cutting edge of technology you’re busy enough yourself. And you’re a Pacific Ocean apart. But if those people actually return to China with their expertise, then they could contribute massively to China’s science and technology. There seems to be much more of that happening in the past couple years, and I expect the trend to continue that way.

There is also that military technology wise, China seems to be developing mostly indigenously, with of course much input from Russia, whose equipment at the most advanced level China often prefers over her own for obvious reasons. After all, the technological ecosystem left behind by the former USSR that Russia inherited, while much inferior to the US one, is still quite formidable. On this, I find it necessary to extend this to a phenomenon with much deeper roots little heard of in America due to political bias. It is that China more or less unambiguously got way more technologically from the former Soviet Union than from the US. China’s modern technology and industry was essentially founded upon what the Soviet Union gave to China in the 50s. That was the decade when China achieved basic modernization in a comprehensive way with the help of the designs the Soviet Union provided then for a wide array of technologies from chemical plants to cars to airplanes, that was accompanied by Soviet experts actually working in China. It has occurred to me given how effective the Soviet STEM education system was, they had trained enough of a surplus of, relative to the ones working at home, second-rate, scientists and engineers and technicians to send to China. Sure, there were some highly trained, brilliant people with higher education and work experience in the US who returned to China in the 50s who did important work there afterwards, but that doesn’t really count as actual technology transfer. There was basically no direct exchange with the US during that period. So if Russia blames China for stealing its technology, there is not really all that much that the Chinese can say, given their history of more or less cloning a lesser version of the best that the Soviets/Russians had, but if the US does, China can perfectly reasonably say for many things that the US had basically nothing to do with it.

Why am I saying this? Because there seems to be much misunderstanding in America on this matter, so I feel somewhat obliged to point this out. How people will react, that is another matter. But I’ll at least keep a solid, publicly viewable record.

I consider myself pretty dispassionate by the way. I mostly want to understand how the world actually works. There is propaganda everywhere, but I shall say that much of US propaganda is especially ridiculous. Given the pervasiveness and dominance of Anglo culture, a legacy of the British Empire and later American supremacy of course, it might fool the majority of people, but there will always be some who cannot be fooled, even if they grow up in America. I think it’s time that American elites face the truth instead of denying it; it’ll be beneficial for both America and the world at large. Downgrading and outright denying the achievements and ability of groups or nations for political reasons signifies not only poor character, but also personal insecurity. No other elite does this as grossly as the American elite. Also, a propaganda/culture war is hard to sustain if relies too much on telling lies. America’s doing this will also further alienate the elites of certain high achieving groups in America who contribute much to America’s technology and innovation. It cannot last forever.

In saying this I convey another implicit message. It’s important to be technically strong, but it’s just as important if not more so to know how to stand up for yourself and even act in a cutthroat/rogue way if really necessary. Know how to advocate for yourself and don’t let others take credit for your work and your accomplishments. China could learn more of that side of Bill Gates, and I believe they already are. Of course, they will do even better in the future with that. Another group that ought to do that, with allusion to Michael O Church, are the programmers and technologists in Silicon Valley and in America at large, who are an increasingly marginalized group. It’ll be good for both themselves and for America as a country.

Face recognition in China

I recently learned that face recognition, led by unicorns SenseTime and Megvii, has reached the level of accuracy and comprehensiveness that it is percolating into retail and banking, and moreover police are using it to detect suspects, or so various media articles say, like this one. Just Google “face recognition china.” I’m both surprised and impressed. Of course, in hindsight, what they did was mostly collect, aggregate, and organize enough data to train the deep learning models to the level that they can be put to production. The Chinese government has, after all, resident identity cards for all Chinese citizens with photos. I was certainly somewhat envious of the people involved in that in China, and I feel like such a failure compared to them, and that my life has been so boring and uneventful in comparison. Of course, whether I’m suited to do deep learning is another matter. After playing a bit with neural nets, including on the canonical MNIST data set, I sure was disappointed, and I understood immediately why this guy, who is doing a machine learning PhD at Stanford, had said to me that deep learning is very engineering heavy. I wish I had the enthusiasm and motivation for stuff like GPUs. As for that, all I’ve done was play with CUDA in a way so minor almost as if I did absolutely nothing. Again I don’t see myself as terribly suited towards engineering (I’m too much a purist at heart), but I might eventually be compelled to become interested in that, and once I do, I don’t think I’ll do badly. This also makes me wonder what I would’ve ended up like had I stayed in China. I’m sure I would’ve been weird there too, though I would also be more like everyone else. I wonder what I would have ended up majoring in there, and what I would’ve ended up doing afterwards. I’d like to think that I would have gotten a much better education and cultural experience there, though of course, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. For instance, in America, Asian quotas means you are judged relative to other Asians, but being in China means that automatically, and China, by virtue of having low resources per capita, is, needless to say, a grossly competitive society with fewer second chances, and thereby even harsher on late bloomers, though surely, the gaokao happens at age 18, whereas in America, grades start necessarily mattering at as early as age 14-5, when many are still very immature. I must acknowledge that as much as I dislike various aspects of the American education system, it is extremely generous, from what I see, relatively speaking, in tolerating failure at a young age. In China, you test into a specific department at a university, and once you’re in, it’s very hard to change, which means some land in majors they end up finding themselves unsuitable for. At age 18, it’s really hard to make such a decision, especially when you don’t really know anything about the actual content of the major, which is usually the case when one is a clueless kid. This is why I say that before you commit officially to an area, always try to learn something about it on your own beforehand to increase confidence that you actually have at least reasonable, and preferably high, talent for it.

On the broader topic of technology in China, it is needless to say that they are still quite a ways behind America and the advanced Western countries. Look at what the ZTE ban has done. China has its own CPUs but not the ecosystem for it. China still buys and deploys much of its most advanced military technology, including jet engines and surface-to-air missiles, an indicator that its indigenous versions of those are still seen as unproven, unreliable, and of lower quality, though surely they’ve made great strides on that the past decade. I stumbled on the video of this military parade held on August 1st, 2017 to mark the 90th anniversary of the Nanchang Uprising that showcased some of the latest developments. I didn’t like it all that much at first, with its overall presentation, the imagery and music in sync, kind of, how should I say it, corny, and I felt the music paled in comparison to the music of the Soviet Red Army, which is very hard to beat, at least based on my taste, though listening to the music again, I grew to like it more. Surely, I would characterize the whole thing as rather sinister, and representative portions of that would be this and this. Musically, the part that left the most memorable impression was this, and to be honest, I found the non-musical aspect of that part both awkward and sinister, especially coupled with the music. I’m sure many people in the West would view this parade as rather weird, or even effeminate, as much as I hate that stereotype of East Asians in America.

Yet in spite of overall and in some cases critical backwardness, China is managing to unveil a face recognition system at a level of sophistication and scale, and also scariness/creepiness that many in America could only dream of. Surely, that was far from my expectation. Who knows. Maybe in a decade, China will have a nationwide genome database. I say this with the awareness that for anything of scale, there is a tremendous advantage to homogeneity and central organization. We already see, in the case of face recognition, China’s using this to compensate for its inferior technology as far as strict quality and capability is concerned.

As far as I can tell, Chinese and Chinese society place a strong emphasis on STEM and the society as a whole is far more scientifically literate than American society, which is advantageous for certain pro-STEM policies and government, though surely, China is still struggling to produce the best people in many areas, for which the corresponding elite subcultures in the West are difficult if not impossible to transmit. It will be very interesting to see what kind of novel stuff comes out of China organically over the next decade or so, especially as China seeks further to create its own distinct ecosystem, as opposed to remaining in many ways still a subsidiary of America and Russia. In any case, I am quite a fan of the political culture of China, and on the contrary, I am rather sick of the one in America.