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.


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)





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


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:


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


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%.








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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
Elaborate on that one 
Name a totalitarian society that was innovative
Germany under the Kaiser wasn’t really totalitarian
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 
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?
So much of the global telecommunications infrastructure
Now their phones, which US is banning.
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.