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Archive for December of 2005
December 27, 2005
December 14, 2005
A short break from musings over L'Affaire NSA
The NSA issue awaits new facts. The media is in recycle mode. A grim thing. Not Natalie-Holloway-All-The-Time grim. But still. (New statistics re FISA Court modifications to applications since 2002, while somewhat encouraging to the Stiftung, do not alter the 99% approval rate).
MSNBCNNFOX recipe: (1) start with Red Bull-infused partisans (on both sides); (2) sprinkle over hastily mixed Talking Points from “Bar Bri” cut and pastes of ConLaw I (Youngstown
or Curtis Wright
out of context); (3) pour in intelligence speculation from an “expert” who lacks knowledge like the audience; (4) for extra flavor, add 3/4 tea-spoon of a bad Will Smith movie.
Voila! 'Must See' Cable TV. Appointment sound byte.
Aesthetics, Power and the Technological Future
Dear reader, instead, let us travel a bit. And discuss a recent item from The Economist
, Japan's Robots: Better Than People.
Or as this writer put it, 'Why is Asia so digital, and the West, including the U.S. so analog?'
Both pieces ask why the Japanese (and Asia overall) embrace technology and robotics much more enthusiastically than the West and the U.S. in particular. (See “Inside the Robot Kingdom”
for one summary explanation). Why do Aibos, Sony's robot dog, above, join Japanese families as emotional additions, while those few sold in the U.S. serve mostly as technical hacking exercises? (Que link to hacking the staple of late nite tv, the 'Roomba'
Is this related to recent criticisms by the father of American robotics that Japanese efforts at domestication are 'frivilous'?
At the recent International Robot show in Tokyo [summer 2005], Joe Engelberger, the “Father of Robotics” and creator of the first robotics company, dissed the state of Japanese robotics as just do-nothing toys and dolls. He says their robots are pointless, expensive and unnecessary for Japan. Mr Engelberger believes the reason for the sad state of robotics in Japan is because their companies are immersed in needless research and derides them for making humanoid toy-like robots. Mr. Engelberger is now over 80 years old and is unsatisfied with the slow technical growth of Japanese robot companies and pleas for the robotics companies to “hurry up!”
What does Englberger's critique tell us? Why is graphic here the symbolic representation of the coming wealth, power and cultural shift from the West and North American to the Pacific Rim?
The Krikke article cited at the outset of this post asserts the theory that Japanese and Chinese culture are inherently binary, and thus predisposed to digital thinking and technology.
The story of Leibniz and his encounter with China illustrates that the digital revolution is not confined to information technology and digital media. It has technological, philosophical and cultural implications. Reconciling opposites, in the broad sense of the word, seems to be a theme of our time . . . The binary nature of East Asia's cultural traditions helps explain Japan's emergence as a trendsetter in the digital age. Its artistic traditions have proven a perfect match with digital technology. Up to the 70s, Japan's industry largely followed Western trends, but in the 80s, when the digital revolution gathered steam, Japanese aesthetics flowered. Japan's designers, graphic artists and architects, inspired by their own artistic traditions, have set global trends. Its industrial designers have taken the “machine” out of the machine. Japan has lost some of its luster in the past 10 years, but the country is gearing up for the next phase of the digital revolution — robotics.
Thus, to that point of view, Engleberger's critiques are a reflection of the Greek aesthetic of analogy in art (and philosophy) still dominant in the West thousands of years later. The functional robotic is a symptom of an inherent bias to the analog in Western culture. Compared to the Asian binary aesthetic/cultural one.
It is a novel theory. The Greek analogy ethos might be able to explain some difference in design and cultural attitudes. But what about differences in broader cultural and commercial embraces?
Read more »
December 12, 2005
Mr. Praline: Now that's what I call a dead Empire.
Owner: No, no.....No, 'e's stunned!
Mr. Praline: STUNNED?!?
Owner: Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up! Norwegian Blues stun easily, major.
Tony Blair a while ago made an obvious but important warning to his Brothers In Evangelical Fervor on the Potomac. He observed that “Anti-Americanism was becoming a rival organizing force in the world”. Most metropoles do that — organize their own catalytic reaction.
Of course, this crew “doesn't do nuance”. So probably covert relief. All the easier to lump the rest of the world as “terrorists” “who hate freedom”, etc. Endless war indeed.
Meanwhile Miss Foreign Affairs prattles on about “a balance of power in favor of freedom”. Only a grad student would try and mish mash her diametrically inapposite Scowcroft tutelage and Wolfowitzian radicalism in a single empty bromide.
The world ignores all this. Too busy preparing itself for the post-American imperial world. The withdrawl from Iraq is likely not going to stop this self-organizing dynamic. The politics and mindshare have assumed a momentum now.
With hard power, the countervailing forces aligning against the U.S. are well documented: the Russian-Chinese rapprochement to escape U.S. encirclement across Central Asia, the NATO promenade and in the Pacific; the alliances of convenience to kill U.S. servicemen on the ground in Iraq soon to move to new killing fields, the incipient (if still inchoate) coagulation of anti-Americanism revealed recently in Buenes Aires, etc.
So it is something of a hat trick when dwindling American soft power can pull it off, too.
An item from Knight Ridder catches the eye. The Hollywood movie Memoirs of a Geisha
did the impossible — it bridged the nationalist antagonism between China and Japan and united them in their disdain for . . . America.
In Japan, the outrage is because none of the three lead actresses are Japanese; two of them are Chinese and another is an ethnic Chinese from Malaysia. Chinese outage is because the film's star, Zhang Ziyi, China's best-known actress, is depicted in the movie as having sexual relations with a Japanese man.
As one freedom-loving Chinese observed, “She deserves to be chopped into a thousand bits,” said this plucky Internet user, one of more than 1,000 people who posted on the subject at the Tianji (Sky's Edge) Web portal.
“Zhang is a shameless prostitute,” another posting said. “She should be deprived of Chinese citizenship.”
14.12.05 Rox Populii
has a link to an essay on the great cover story in Newsweek Japan entitled Nihon o goyaku suru amerika
(“Why Does America Mistranslate Japan?” ).
Read more »
China overtakes U.S. as tech supplier
From the International Herald Tribune:
Data in the report, to be published Monday, show that China's exports of information and communication technology - including laptop computers, mobile phones and digital cameras - increased in 2004 by more than 46 percent to $180 billion, easily outstripping for the first time U.S. exports of $149 billion, which grew 12 percent from 2003.
The figures compiled by the OECD, based in Paris, also reveal that China has come close to matching the United States in the overall value of its trade in information and communications technology products. The value of China's combined exports and imports of such goods soared to $329 billion in 2004 from $35 billion in 1996. Over the same period, the value of U.S. information technology trade expanded at a slower rate, to $375 billion from $230 billion.
The evisceration of U.S. manufacturing, research and development and educational infrastructure accelerates. Yet aside from Lou Dobbs on CNN, is there a single media figure who even understands basic economics? This factoid represents actually the main long term geo-political development of our time. Can anyone imagine Tweety or Russert having a conversation about this without talking points and a desperately vacant look in their eyes?
Iraq? It will be seen from the world 20-30 years from now a sideshow and a fatally draining distraction, the American Syracuse Expedition. But as UPI's Martin Seiff
notes in this excellent summary of the dynamic on the ground in Iraq, when a leadership is in thrall to the ideology of absolutist Platonic forms, there is not much one can do absent a sudden attack of common sense in (a) the White House; (b) on Capitol Hill by Republicans; (c) discovery of a philosophy and backbone by Democrats.
Rove/Novak/Fitzpatrick? Only tactically important for Imperial City gossip. But insignificant in long term history. It is a soap opera for those who wouldn't be caught dead watching daytime soaps.
Do Americans understand how virtually everything about their self identity — from the cars they buy, the homes they covet, the media they consume, the toys they hoard, the countries they bomb, the governments they subborn, the “freedom” they onanistically embrace — everything is fundamentally dependent on American wealth and the capability it brings? Not Iraq. Not Rove/Novak.
The wasting away of American technology capacity will determine how your children live and the world we give them. Far more than if Rove is indicted or not.
P.S. It was remiss to ignore our friends in India. Microsoft announced a $1.7 billion investment in India last week. The other global information-technology giants that have announced mega investments in India's IT sector in the last two months are Cisco ($1 billion), Intel ($1.1 billion), AMD-Semindia Consortium (up to $3 billion along with other investors) and Vodafone ($1.5 billion).