An island in China where the global e-waste gets processed is at the center of the book, and where an old experiment emerges into a new consciousness. Really enjoyed this one, weaving western and Chinese perspectives on SF together. Took me a long time, about a year, to finish, because I read it on paper and I had long stretches without opportunity to comfortably read a paper book so it just sat there on a side table. Read the last half in the last few days making time for it early evening.
This (Dutch language) book ‘Fables about China‘, discussing ‘persistent western misconceptions about the new world power’ was published early Ocotber last year, and I picked it up in a local bookstore that same month.
Written by veteran journalist Jan van der Putten (41), this was a good read, critically discussing China starting from its internal and self-perspective, not from the unexpressed or faulty assumptions of the past 7 decades that informed western responses. The tone of the book felt a bit odd every now and then. After reading I realised the author is from 1941 so this book was published last fall when he was 79, meaning he watched most of it unfold in real time. Reading this book also resurfaced for me why my primary school teacher in the early eighties impressed on me the lesson that China would over time become a world power when he did. It was right when Deng Xiaoping initiated the economic reforms that allowed foreign investments and private entrepreneurship, starting the economic rise of China. The book also contextualises very well the work on the ‘new silk road’ and ‘digital silk road’ I witnessed across Cenrtal Asia in recent years.
It was published just 2 months before the Covid-19 pandemic started in China. Internal and external repsonse and actions by China closely match too what Van der Putten writes.
How we deal with data is geopolitical. The USA has been successful in exporting their surveillance capitalism, and China has been quietly exporting their data driven authoritarianism in the past few years. The EU is (too) slowly positioning itself as a third proposition, one of enlightenment by design, and ethics by design.
Some links I thought worth reading the past few days
- World Bank data on the status of the global sustainable development goals, by the WB data team (whom I know due to my work for the WB’s open data efforts): The 2018 Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals: an all-new visual guide to data and development
- It’s not a problem, it’s a challenge, to stick to enlightenment ideals in developing AI. Privacy and using big data aren’t opposites. Let’s not confuse purposes and outcomes, and explore hidden assumptions. EU style AI efforts are merely hard in a different way than the surveillance capitalism variety in the US and the data driven authoritarianism variety in China : AI Has a Big Privacy Problem And Europe’s New Data Protection Law Is About to Expose It
- Quick overview of how EU is positioning in the AI space. Ethics a key component, and various funding initiatives underway: Key points from the EU Artificial Intelligence strategy
- My Swiss colleague André Golliez talks sense in this radio interview on the meaning of GDPR also to Switzerland (in Swiss-German): GDPR a Paradigm Shift for Data Protection
- An oldie, 2016, from Doc Searls, but still relevant. Your browser is your castle: The Castle Doctrine
- Data and the machine learning it enables is of geopolitical importance: The Chinese 2018-2020 Action Plan for AI
- Doc Searls, who expects GDPR to kill microtargeting as a business model, celebrates May 25th as ‘Privmas’ and writes about the : Frequently Unasked Questions (FUQ) for the GDPR
- Another old article (from 2013), but still a relevant thought, how to connect things up while staying personally in control: The Internet of My Things
Some links I think worth reading today.
- ICANN struggles with the GDPR for the WHOIS database, and has now run out of time:
EFF: GDPR forces ICANN to improve WHOIS and
EFF: Privacy as afterthought at ICANN
- Facebook removes 1.5 billion users from EU jurisdiction while maintaining they’re totally committed to applying the ‘spirit’ of the GDPR globally. Which seems unconvincing in reality, because as before it merely emphasizes the illusion of choice for users.
- Bloomberg nicely explains China’s investments in Europe. US / Australia already have limitations in place. MEP Marietje Schaake calls for similar steps in EU.
- Fintech in Africa, and financial inclusion for the unbanked. Noting that China is actively investing in this space in Africa. By Niti Bhan, follow her blog at the Emerging Futures Lab.
- A Skinner box for software to find out what algorithms do (e.g. to target adverts), and the need for transparency and accountability for algorithms that are used. Algorithms need to be ‘smaller’ than me, not commodotise me at the back-end I think.
- Pedro Domingos on the global geopolitical race to lead on AI, “AI lowers the cost of knowledge by orders of magnitude. One good, effective machine learning system can do the work of a million people, whether it’s for commercial purposes or for cyberespionage. Imagine a country that produces a thousand times more knowledge than another.”
- Autonomous taxi start-up says safety testing of autonomous vehicles should be open sourced to increase speed and reliability, as now all stakeholders are re-inventing the autonomous wheel so to speak.