I’m a heavy consumer of media. I called it learning, but even if it was tech stuff or business stuff or whatever, I realized that because I wasn’t writing anything down or changing anything about my life or career, it was the equivalent of watching TV, just with a browser history. So my two content goals now are:
- Focus on reading/watching things worth taking notes on, and
- Summarizing and publishing those notes.
Like many Americans, I’ve been aware of China’s growth my whole life, from the little gold stickers on my toys, to their manufacturing rise, to crazy GDP numbers, the Great Firewall, etc. And like many Americans, I always assumed that no matter how successful China was, it wouldn’t threaten America’s pre-eminent position in the world order. But this year, China has been seeping into pop culture and technology, arguably the two industries most dominated by America. In movies, I noticed Chinese companies providing financing, movies like World of Warcraft that were made partly because of the interest of Chinese audiences, and noble, heroic Chinese characters in movies like The Martian, Pacific Rim 2, The Meg, and more. Watching Crazy Rich Asians topped it off – seeing a whole movie where every character was better looking, richer, smarter (ok, maybe not Bernard) and more successful than even American movie characters, flipped a switch in my head. China wasn’t an abstract concept – it’s a real place full of real people, as diverse and alive as America. That, overnight, flipped my interest in Chinese culture and it got me looking.
Over this same timeframe, multiple sources referenced Kai-Fu Lee, the Chinese AI researcher and venture capitalist. I briefly encountered his work years ago when I hobby-level explored speech recognition. I found his TED talk, and I find them to be a useful introduction to a person’s work. He’s unapolagetic about how hard Chinese entrepreneurs work and how in the field of AI, America retains the advantage for research and discovery, while China has the advantage in implementation and business. I’d heard bits of this sentiment, but they lacked the clarity and authority that Lee presented. He also showed the transition that work will take post-AI, from manual and repetitive to personable (social work, teacher, etc) and creative (research, marketing, arts, leadership, etc). It’s still a huge transition, but hopeful.
Since I’m super impressionable to things once I let myself be convinced, I have decided to double down on my work learning machine learning, deep learning, and AI, and to begin learning Chinese. There are so many resources, apps, courses, that this is something limited by my time effort, not availability or resources. We’ll see how it goes.