What Mask?

“My sister bought a mask that’s decorated with rhinestones! It’s made in Ukraine!” I tell my husband.

“Mask?” he asks. “What kind of a mask? A cosmetic mask?”

I’m guessing he’s the only person on the planet who is not in a vegetative state to have no current frame of reference for the word “mask.”

I have no idea why but I find it extremely attractive that he’s so different from me.

Kai-fu Lee’s AI Superpowers: Chapter 2

Kai-fu Lee offers an enlightening explanation in how American digital platforms fail in China by disregarding cultural differences. The Chinese don’t, for instance, use search engines like Westerners. There’s a lot of data showing that they have very different search patterns (and Lee has fascinating cultural and historical explanations for why that is). But it’s impossible to explain that to Americans who are full on “everybody is completely identical to everybody else, and to think otherwise is racism.” So US companies fail in China, and Chinese versions of huge US platforms arise in their place.

So far so good.

However, right after delivering this crucial point, Lee demonstrates that cultural differences are hard to understand for him, too. He makes a long and painful argument about how US companies aren’t motivated purely by profit. Instead, he says, they want to change the world and promote the values listed in their mission statements. This is why they aren’t as ruthlessly profit-seeking as their Chinese competitors.

At this point in the book, those of us who live in the US begin to experience fits of uncontrollable laughter. We know very well that those missions and values are a marketing trick. Nobody really cares. Of course, it’s all about profit. Lee takes the mission blabber of US companies at face value, which is a great demonstration of the power of cultural differences.

This chapter also has a great explanation of why Groupon, which was very dominant at some point in the past, faded from view so fast.

What I find interesting about Lee is that he’s obviously a member of deterritorialized supranational elites but he’s such a passionate nationalist that Trump seems very lukewarm in his pro-US rhetoric in comparison. It isn’t stupid, blind pride, though. Lee is very clear-eyed and honest. Maybe this unambiguous national pride is part of the reason why I’m inclined to like whatever he says.

Idiot State

Pritzker is now saying the peak of COVID in Illinois is being moved to mid-June.

I told you, folks, I have information that he’s planning to drag it out until August and then declare that a second, even harsher wave is coming in September.

I don’t think we will be reopening until the election. After that, it depends on who wins.

Little Explorers

I promised more positive blogging, so here goes. We have an overgrown little creek in the backyard. And in the six years I’ve lived in the house, today is the first day that local 7- to 9-year-olds are crawling around the banks, shouting, exploring, playing pirates, and getting delightfully muddy.

Moreover, I also discovered a place on the bank that would be the perfect reading spot. This is the land I own. I work from home. Yet it never occurred to me to explore.

I’m deeply happy for those kids even though I now have to explain to Klara what “hell” means (as in “what the hell.”)

Even the BBC

And even the BBC is waking up. Obviously, they are doing it as a political hit piece on BoJo but still they are doing it.

Back to Illinois. Today I received yet another invitation from the university administration to a workshop on moving my courses online for the Fall.

Americans are now so easily terrorized that even the Swiss are whooping our asses.

The Real COVID Choice

Switzerland, in the meanwhile, is starting to ease lockdown restrictions earlier than planned. “We have to learn to live with this virus,” Swiss authorities say.

This is precisely what everybody will have to do – learn to live with COVID. The only choice right now is whether to do it with a stronger or weaker economy and a more or less neuroticized population.