Trying out speech input

I wrote my previous blog article lying in bed at night very tired, trying out speech recognition input. I was using the one provided by Sogou. It turned out that even after many manual corrections, there were still several errors made which I didn’t catch. You can check the complexity and level of ambiguity of the writing itself (of course you’ll have to read Chinese). You also don’t know how clearly I spoke. Yes, it can be a problem when you speak quickly without a certain level of enunciation, especially when your combination of words isn’t all that frequent. There are of course also exceptional cases which a smart human would easily recognize that the machine cannot, like when I say Sogou, a human with the contextual knowledge would not see it as “so go.” Of course, this is expected, AI is only as good as your training data.

I tried Google’s speech recognition too, here, and initially it seemed to work much better, until it started to make errors too. Next, I tried IFlyTek, this company in Hefei which supposedly hires a ton of USTC (中科大) grads. Still not much better. It’s much easier to type Chinese and have to select something other than the default very occasionally. Turns out that the statistical NLP techniques for Chinese input work well enough, especially given the corpus that Sogou, whose input method I use, has accumulated over time. I had read that back a while ago, it even criticized Google for using some of their data for their Pinyin input method, and Google actually conceded that it did. It’s expected that the Chinese companies in China would have easier access to such data. Even so, Google Translate still works visibly better than Baidu Translate, even for Chinese.

From an HCI perspective, it’s much easier to input English on phone than to input Chinese. Why? Because spelling (Pinyin in the case of Chinese) correction, necessarily for phone touch-screen keyboard, works much better for English than for Chinese. Sure, Sogou provides a 9 key input method as shown below (as opposed to the traditional 26 key),

SogouNineKeyScreenshot

where once one is sufficiently practiced, the key press error rate goes down significantly, but the tradeoff is more ambiguity, which means more error in inference to manually correct. In the example below, 需要(xu’yao) and 语言(yu’yan) are equivalent under the key-based equivalence relation (where equivalence classes are ABC, DEF, PQRS, etc). Unfortunately, I meant 语言(yu’yan) but the system detected as 需要(xu’yao).

SogouNineKeyInferenceError

You can kind of guess that I wanted to say that “Chinese this language is shit.” The monosyllabic-ness of the spoken Chinese language, in contrast to the polysyllabic (?) languages in the Middle East for which the alphabet was first developed, obstructed the creation of an alphabet. Because each distinct syllable in Chinese maps to so many distinct characters with different meanings, there would be much ambiguity without characters. For an extreme example of this, Chinese linguistic genius Yuen Ren Chao (赵元任) composed an actually meaningful passage with 92 characters all pronounced shi by the name of Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den.

I remember how in 8th grade history class, an American kid in some discussion said how our (Western) languages are so much better than their (Chinese-based) languages, and the teacher responded with: I wouldn’t say better, I would say different. Honestly, that kid has a point. Don’t get me wrong. I much appreciate the aesthetic beauty of the Chinese language. I’m the complete opposite of all those idiot ABCs who refuse to learn it. But no one can really deny that the lack of an alphabet made progress significantly harder in many ways for Chinese civilization. Not just literacy. Printing was so much harder to develop, though that is now a solved problem, thanks much to this guy. There is also that Sogou’s Chinese OCR, which I just tried, basically doesn’t work. Of course, nobody really worries about this now, unlike in the older days. In the early 20th century, there were prominent Chinese intellectuals like Qian Xuantong (钱玄同) who advocated for the abolishment of Chinese characters. Moreover, early on in the computer era, people were worried that Chinese characters would be a problem for it.

In any case, unless I am presented with something substantially better, I can only conclude that any claim, such as this one, that computers now rival humans at speech is bullshit. I was telling a guy yesterday that AI is only as a good as your training data. It cannot really learn autonomously. There will be edge cases in less restricted contexts (unlike in chess and go, where there are very precisely defined rules) such as a computer vision and speech recognition obvious to a human that would fool the computer, until the appropriate training data is added for said edge case and its associates. Analogously, there has been a near perpetual war between CAPTCHA generators and bots over the past few decades, with more sophisticated arsenals developed by both sides over time. Technical, mathematically literate people, so long as they take a little time to learn the most commonly used AI models and algorithms, all know. Of course, there will always be AI bureaucrats/salesmen conning the public/investors to get more funding and attention to their field.

Don’t get me wrong. I still find the results in AI so far very impressive. Google search uses AI algorithms to find you the most relevant content, and now deep learning is being applied to extract information directly from image context itself, vastly improving image search. I can imagine in a decade we’ll have the same for video working relatively well. To illustrate this, China now has face recognition deployed on a wide scale. This could potentially be used to search for all the videos a specific person appears in by computationally scanning through all videos in the index, and indexing corresponding between specific people and times in specific videos. Of course, much of the progress has been driven by advances in hardware (GPUs in particular) which enable 100x+ speedup in the training time. AI is mostly an engineering problem. The math behind it is not all that hard, and in fact, relatively trivial compared to much of what serious mathematicians do. Backpropagation, the idea and mathematical model behind deep learning that was conceived in the 80s or even 70s in the academic paper setting but far too computationally costly to implement at that time on real world data, is pretty straightforward and nowhere near the difficulty of many models for theoretical physics developed long ago. What’s beautiful about AI is that simple models often work sufficiently well for certain types problems so long as the training data and computational power is there.

My whole experience with the American school system

I accidentally stuffed my face last night and found myself too uncomfortable from that to do anything productive, to my great disappointment. So I verged onto non-technical topics again, and in particular, I reflected somewhat on my personal experience growing up as a Chinese immigrant kid in America, and I write this with a hope that it might be inspiring to others with a similar background.

I came in first grade not knowing a word of English, but at least I knew the alphabet. As for learning English, it didn’t help that my first grade ESL teacher was a woman parents from Taiwan who was likely born in the US, who spoke Mandarin. I remember she would tell me that my Chinese was more proper than hers, as she really only learned it in college. Well, as you can guess, because I could speak Chinese to her if needed, I didn’t even know English all that well even after a year. I remember there were kids in that class from a variety of places, from Russia to Japan to Colombia. I wasn’t very well behaved, and near the end of the year, when we were watching some Disney movie, she actually put tape on my mouth.

I had forgotten like all my written Chinese by end of third grade, including how to write my Chinese name. But that summer there, I was able to relearn some of that.

My parents didn’t really give me much pressure academically. I would expect that they were very busy themselves. So throughout grade school, much of my life consisted of playing and watching basketball and baseball, and also stuff like Pokémon, and also piano practice, which I initially disliked but grew to like as became somewhat good at it, by a low standard. My teachers could tell that I was smart, especially at math, but I was quite hyperactive and poorly behaved.

No offense, but where I was, most of the kids and parents I encountered were pretty fucking dumb and ignorant. They seemed content with a chill, mediocre life, the bliss of ignorance. The other kids could sort of tell I was smart, but I was also pretty fucking socially weird. In third, fourth, and sixth grade, the teachers invited me to this “games club,” which I later found was designated for kids identified by the teacher to be deficient in social skills.

I wasn’t in any gifted program. I was actually not even able to test into one, because my verbal IQ was apparently way too low. So I felt like I was inferior compared to kids in gifted programs, but by now, I’ve basically far surpassed basically all of them.

My junior high which was 7th to 9th grade absolutely sucked. The teachers were really fucking stupid. The math was bull shit with graphing calculators, and the history class was full of stupid political indoctrination. I got low grades in 9th grade English and history, one because I was super immature and impulsive, and another because that teacher, who was an idiot far-right (American style) scumbag, absolutely hated me. It certainly affected my self-esteem very negatively. I was problematic in a way yes, but I dare say much was because I had far more latent IQ/talent than the other students that nobody had nurtured in me.

High school was better but still pretty shitty. I was in this IB program much of which was an utter waste of time and was really at quite a joke of a level academically. I had already realized that, doing math contests and such. However, even there, because my foundation was so shitty, I did not progress anywhere as efficiently as I could have. On the other hand, most of those kids in the full IB program thought they were doing so well, because they were in it, and getting good grades, not considering that most got As. The truth is of course that most of those kids, the way they were, had no future in anything serious. Another positive thing to happen for me then was that I started reading various stuff online I found interesting, including in Chinese, on my own. The more I learned, the more I realized how much of a joke the American school system is. It is ridden with the worst type of political indoctrination and scant on actual intellectual substance.

Now, most other advanced countries have an education system where students test into high schools based on their ability. There is much more academic preparation provided at the early stages, and more popularization of serious academic contests like the AMCs. There is also a system of vocational education for those who are less academically inclined, which is great, because practical skills should not be underrated. In contrast, American schools are too concerned with the self-esteem of students to tell them that they are basically garbage, academically, and they are falling short in terms of providing alternatives to prepare them for the real world. The result of course is that their self-esteem will become eventually utterly wrecked in college and the real world where people care more about your actual ability and work and don’t really give a damn about how hard you tried. Of course, now college in America has become a joke too, and so overpriced. On that, Charles Murray is completely right that most students in college right now in America would be better served learning some practical vocational skills as opposed to studying bullshit liberal arts.

I was quite socially clueless in high school, and I was not even that aware of the discrimination against Asians in college admissions. My parents were anything but savvy about the college admissions process in America. Expectedly, high school was full of morons padding their resumes with substance-less stuff just for that. I absolutely hated that, and I cared more about actually learning some serious stuff. That includes math, physics, algorithms, Chinese, history (that was not the brainwash taught in class). Okay, I was a joke at basically all of them but far better than almost all my classmates. There were I think three kids in my year who were accepted to Yale but to me they were the stereotypical superficial well-rounded conformist well-socialized types, and one was an athlete. Another was a very superficial whitewashed Asian who even had a non-Asian surname that I later learned was changed officially when he was a kid. Now I know what he was really up to.

College was much better. It was a flagship state school, and I didn’t mix well with most of the kids there, who I again felt were mostly drones and tools, but there were certainly some really sharp ones, and a few who I had genuine chemistry with. I did of course waste some time on general ed courses. On the more positive end, I could in that environment learn more serious math and science, and also engineering. Because I majored in math and computer science though, I would say that there was very little natural science or real engineering. Moreover, I could meet people from all over the place, including graduate students who had attended elite schools for undergrad, and also talk with international students from China there. The latter partially motivated to improve my Chinese further, to the point that reading it online felt basically as natural as reading English. From that, I also learned more about Chinese culture and the Chinese education system. I felt I was finally seriously shedding away the tremendous damage the American education system had imparted on me, the more socially acceptable it became to detach from that crowd. Though it was much better than high school, I was still not terribly content with the curriculum or the people around me. I felt I was learning too little actual math and especially science, as virtually zero of the latter was required for computer science majors. The computer science majors thought they were really good because they were in this supposedly very competitive program, bound to get six figure jobs in industry, and they were fine at programming, but really, their level of IQ, on average, was quite low. They absolutely sucked at math and had no concept of how to prove anything. There were of course exceptions who mostly kept to themselves. Like this kid who wrote his own compiler for a subset of Java in Haskell early sophomore year, which he taught himself. At programming, I was pretty garbage, lacking the engineering sense at that time, but I was not bad at algorithms, given my math ability. Overall, I am rather disappointed with my college experience. Because my starting point was so low, and because many of the students were dull but studious and conforming enough (to get better grades than I did), I became easily content and cocky at times, and also frustrated. I can blame both my lack of ability and maturity and also lack of fit of the whole educational experience to a guy like me. I sort of kept some distance from most of the other students. Again, many were tools, who I had little desire to be around. Of course, they will excel in the typical tech job, but that’s another matter. In fact, they may well have life much more easy than I do.

Summer after junior year was a major turning point for me. Through a superconnector of high achieving students many if not most at elite places like MIT and Harvard, I met and began chatting online with a few people at Caltech, MIT, and the likes. I expected them to be brilliant or at least solid academically but reality was disappointing, though almost certainly, they were below average ones at those places. However, there was one guy from a top Canadian school and another from a more mediocre state school who were both freakishly smart and competent. I looked up to both of them greatly. I was inspired by a few of them to enter competitive programming, with one of them’s being an IOI medalist, and with some practice on TopCoder, I managed to lead a team the following year to place in the top 10 in ACM regionals.

Something else that happened was that I sort of discovered Marxist literature online, partially inspired by my genius Russian friend, who was also quite a misfit, very defiant of the whole American cultural and political value system. Ironically, he’s actually doing his PhD now at a place famous for American blue-bloods, and he does not express a high opinion in general of the undergrads there, many who are not actually talented but are from well-off families who know how to game the whole system. Given my heritage, Marxist literature necessarily means learning more about the whole culture and tradition created by the Chinese communists, which I found quite fascinating and inspiring. Of course, I also learned some Russian stuff. As I did, I felt ever more indignant with respect to all the historical and political lies promulgated and normalized in American society by the media, lauded as a free one, but in reality, controlled largely by what one can crudely characterize as destroyers of civilization. In the process, I fell in love with Soviet music, which is of much higher artistic quality and substance than the trash kids listen to nowadays. It even idealistically inspired me to fight for a better world. Of course, now I know how hard that is, but I am not giving up just yet.

In college, there was of course pressure to conform, to act in a socially acceptable way, to not be too strange. That means not being openly elitist and critical the way I am right now. That also means not acting in a way that is too un-American. I’m a guy who came here in first grade, not an international student from China. In some sense, it’s not right for me to not be like all those ABCs. It kind of sucks to grow up as an Asian immigrant kid in America. It sucks even more if you’re actually nerdy/smart and culturally/politically sane, like I am. You feel like there is something wrong with you, but of course, now I am confident that that is not true, and that it is in fact American society/culture that is becoming ever more fucked up. Michael O Church can attest to this.

Now, after college. I got to meet some way more interesting, smart people, learn way more interesting things. I could fully distance myself from the uninspiring people I went to school with. This includes people from all over the world, across all age groups, with much deeper and more varied expertise. That includes IMO and IOI medalists, top finishers on the Putnam contest, people in top or good grad schools, some of whom are really impressive, and some of whom are nowhere near the level that they may look on paper superficially. My cultural, historical, political, and linguistic knowledge went up quite another level. Of course, I also saw more first hand from working how the world actually works, which really only parents will tell you. On this, Michael O Church loves to say how it’s the moderately privileged kids whose parents are in mostly meritocratic places like medicine and academia who can be sheltered enough to be naive. In contrast, underprivileged kids need to be street smart just to survive, while genuinely privileged kids know how rigged the system is and how to game it. I felt so much more free because I finally found more like-minded people with whom I could talk openly without fear of how I might be perceived. I was able to in the process re-mould myself into the organic me as opposed to the me under the yoke of a specific educational system.

Finally, I shall speak specifically on growing up Asian in the American education system. Overall, it’s a pretty shitty cultural experience. They’re not really American, no matter how hard they try, yet they lose the ability to be a genuine Asian. Fortunately, I shielded myself from that largely on my own initiative. It wasn’t always easy, but in the long run, that was quite a wise choice, and I encourage more people with same background as me to do the same. Learn from the good aspects of America, not from the toxic ones. Do this with any culture, any system. Also, exposure to genuine Chinese culture can shield you from the pseudo one presented by the American media that has done so much to confuse the thinking and damage the self-esteem of people like me, but not like me.

Reflecting on my experience, I really wished that I could have gotten a much better education. American education really is pretty shitty, especially for actually smart people, if you’re not very well situated in terms of schools and parents. Of course, later on, it gets much better.

I’ll conclude by going on a tangent. That is, my *anti-Semitism* that kicked off recently. What started it? And I also ask myself: am I simply taking out bitterness with my own educational and cultural experience, and also my own failures, on another group, instead of taking responsibility for them myself? Yes and no. Anyhow, I consider it not anti-Semitic, more like realistic, and in fact, I have interacted substantially with and highly regard many from that group. It is without doubt a remarkably high achieving group, often spectacularly so. This math PhD also well-versed in physics I talk to was also saying to me recently how Jewish accomplishment in mathematics and physics is absolutely overwhelming, which is indisputable. Of course, there’s also a darker side. I think I might have been inspired by this really smart guy who is a white Gentile (later atheist) American who doesn’t actually think I’m insane, or at least I hope not. Because once he was like:

You know what you should do? Become one of those food workers where rich Jews eat. Nobody cares about those people.

I actually told this to someone else, who was like: “that’s because they run things. If you ran things, you’d be the same.” When I told that guy about that, he was like:

counterpoint: other people have run things
some corruption is expected
Even the worst of the colonialist era was tempered
a lot of people were actually trying to do good
civilize the savages, that whole thing
that’s not saying there weren’t atrocities
because there were

And I was like, wow

So you’re saying the Jews now are worse
Than whites during the whole age of white/European imperialism/colonialism.
How much do whites regret letting Jews seize the positions of power

Him:

yes
norms have become nicer
so they can’t pull the old school shit
and more importantly
you’re not going to see the megadeaths from plague

Me:

So your argument is roughly that the calibration has to be much different now relative to the colonialist era, and Jews, by the current calibration, are pretty shitty.
About as shitty as the Belgians were in the Congo eh?

Him:

the belgians self-corrected
I mean, after killing a whole bunch of people
somebody said it was pretty fucked up
and the whole thing kinda fell apart
if we didn’t live in a post-colonial culture
they’d genuinely believe
that goyim are as cattle
and that they should do whatever it takes to ensure their rule persists
also the jews don’t want to exterminate
they need goyim to rule over
a world run by whites is one where half want to conquer and half want to help
a world run by chinese or japanese is one where they’d be rich and on top but mostly leave other people alone
other than getting money from them
a world run by jews is one where they’d systematically extinguish any hope of ending it
ITT anyone smart who’s not a jew would be a threat

Me (critically):

But plenty of smart Asians/whites have had Jewish advisors who strongly supported them
Recognized and cultivated their talent

Him:

this is a world with Jews who can openly be in power
not slink about in the shadows

Me:

That’s kind of theoretically impossible because Jews are too few
See because of that, they can only engage in deception
They’re evolved for that

Him:

look at Israel
they might be “evolved for deception” as you say
but that’s not stopping them from carrying out an effective, slow-motion genocide
which alone is scary
because sure, you can have one Hitler
you can have one Stalin
but you have multiple generations of Jews who are determined to exterminate the palestinians
you can’t have that kind of value alignment with white ppl

Me:

Do it slowly so that people don’t react to it as much, until it’s too late.
It’s like starving a person to death instead of blowing his brains out.
That’s what the Jews are doing to the Palestinians, it’s obvious

Him:

you should be scared because it suggest they’d do it to you too

Me:

Yeah they just don’t have the power to
I mean isn’t cultural assimilation also a form of more benign genocide of a culture
Didn’t whites also slow kill the Native Americans?
And got away with it 100%.
There’s also the saying that abused people are more likely to become abusers.
Doesn’t that sort of apply to the Jews too?

Him:

given the choice between future people who share my genes but an alien culture and future people who share my culture but alien genes I’m 100% for the former 0% for the latter
kicked out of 109 countries?

Me:

They regard that as abuse.
Anti-Semitism.
They may even feel nobody likes us because we’re too good.

Him:

I’m sure they tell themselves something like that

“boo hoo everyone’s evil and oppressive except for us”

What can I say? A smart white who sounds way more *anti-Semitic* than I am. Should I recalibrate according to him? Are Asians simply not aggressive enough? Is that why they are picked on so much by the media in America and not allowed in upper management in corporate America? I think he may be a bit overboard, but I might be wrong on that one. Or maybe he is exaggerating. Who knows. Anyhow, I find it somewhat flattering that he says he’d rather live in a world ruled by Asians than one ruled by Jews, because: less evil. So, considering his opinion, in combination with how shitty the American education system is, outlined above, maybe the group that I am part of really should try to take a more active role in world affairs and set a new standard and example. Lately, that has already been happening, very noticeably, and only time will tell how it pans out. Maybe I can be part of it too, who knows?