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.
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
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.”