An all-compassing phrase that I’ve heard being used by Chinese friends Hēi kējì in Pinyin or black technology. It’s been around for a couple of years but recently gained more currency among people that I know.
It is used as a catchall for disruptive / cool innovative products. What constitutes ‘black technology’ is subjective in nature but generally Chinese would agree on some examples such as:
- Magic Leap
- Microsoft Holo Lens
- Bleeding edge silicon chips with an extraordinary amount of memory or machine learning functionality built in
- Tesla self-driving cars
The key aspect is that the product as ‘magical quality’ in the eyes of the user. Technology companies have tried to use it in marketing to describe the latest smartphone and app features like NFC, gesture sensitive cameras and video filters. Your average Chinese consumer would see this as cynical marketing hype. Xiaomi had been guilty of this over the past couple of years.
As technology develops, the bar for what represents black technology will be raised higher.
According to Baidu Baike (a Quora-like Q&A service / Wikipedia analogue) it is derived from the Japanese manga Full Metal Panic! (フルメタル·パニック! |Furumetaru Panikku!).
In the manga black technology is technology far more advanced than the real world. An example of this would be ‘Electronic Conceal System’ – active optical camouflage used on military helicopters and planes in the manga. It is created by the ‘Whispered’ – people who are extremely gifted polymaths who each specialise in a particular black technology.
In the manga they are frequently abducted and have their abilities tested by ‘bad organisations’ who support terrorism. Whispered also have a telepathic ability to communicate with each other. If they stay connected for too long there can be a risk of their personalities coalescing together.
黑科技 （动漫中出现的词语）- Baidu Baike
Full Metal Panic – Amazon
As with many things in China, numbers become important. Chinese start-up culture has a reputation for flogging the guts out of people to a degree that would even make Sports Direct blush.
996 is a summary of many Chinese tech companies core working house 9am – 9pm, six days a week. Apparently it’s already implemented at companies like Xiaomi and there are claims about its spectacular benefits in terms of productivity.
9/9/6 – Does The New Chinese Startup Work Practice Help Or Hurt Productivity? – TechNode
If you are of a certain age, ‘hand made by robots’ brings to mind the Fiat Strada / Ritmo a thirtysomething year old hatchback design that was built in a factory with a high degree of automation for the time.
Fiat subsidiary Comau created Robogate, a highly automated system that speeds up body assembly. Robogate was eventually replaced in 2000. The reality is that ‘hand made by robots’ had a liberal amount of creative licence. Also it didn’t enable Fiat to shake off its rust bucket image. Beneath the skin, the car was essentially a Fiat 127. Car factories still aren’t fully automated.
Foxconn is looking to automate its own production lines and create products that truly are ‘hand-built by robots’. Like Fiat it has its own robots firm which is manufacturing 10,000 robots per year.
Foxconn has so far focused on production lines for larger product final assembly (like televisions) and workflow on automated machine lines: many consumer products use CNC (computer numeric control) machines. That’s how Apple iPhone and Macs chassis’ are made. These totally automated lines are called ‘lights out production lines’ by Foxconn.
Foxconn is looking to automate production because China is undergoing a labour shortfall as the population getting older. Foxconn uses a lot of manual workers for final assembly of devices Apple’s iPhone because the components are tightly packed together. It will be a while before Foxconn manages to automate this as robotic motor control isn’t fine enough to achieve this yet.
Foxconn boosting automated production in China | DigiTimes – (paywall)
Years ago I wrote a series of posts with the link-baiting titles of ‘Facebook is a dead man walking’; the first post written in 2008. I say this so you can form an opinion up front about my interpretation around the idea of context collapse.
According to The Information, Facebook is worried about a drop in users sharing their own content.
As of mid-2015, total sharing had declined by about 5.5% year over year while “original broadcast sharing” was down 21% year over year, the confidential data show.
This loss is especially acute with under 30 year old users. This loss in sharing according to Bloomberg company staff have branded context collapse.
What are the likely causes? Here my are my hypotheses.
Negative network effects. Just five years ago ZDNet published research were respondents admitted that they were drunk in 75 per cent of their photos on Facebook. In 2016, when ‘friends’ means colleagues, superiors, clients, teachers or parents there will be a lot more self-censorship going on. A more subtle form of self censorship will be also brought about in terms of societal norming.
When Facebook initially arrived the volume of content that people shared was larger, now it isn’t only the nature of the content that people will consider but the volume of the content. Are they too noisy, do they overshare?
Facebook lost a lot of trust with consumers with things likes Beacon. Consumers didn’t necessarily understand the nuances, they were told that it wasn’t good and their privacy settings are a major hassle to tweak – when you’re on edge about privacy, you are more likely to put a filter on your content.
Just over five years ago, Netbase had released brand research that showed consumers had a stronger, negative feeling towards Facebook than brands like Microsoft, Google or Twitter. That left room for other services to creep in for self-expression, messaging and sharing to small groups. Facebook bought some of the major players Instagram and WhatsApp, but doesn’t own all the pieces.
Facebook Struggles to Stop Decline in ‘Original’ Sharing | The Information (paywall)
British Facebook users are drunk in 76% of their photos | ZDNet
Facebook Wants You to Post More About Yourself – Bloomberg
Why Facebook is a dead man walking | renaissance chambara
Why Facebook is a dead man walking part II? | renaissance chambara
Why Facebook is a dead man walking part 2.5? | 技术品牌的情绪 | renaissance chambara
Facebook and advertising or why Facebook is a dead man walking part III? | renaissance chambara
McDonalds Restaurants in Hong Kong is famous to Economist readers for consistently providing the best value in the publication’s ‘tongue-in-cheek’ ‘Big Mac Index’
The restaurants are ubiquitous, offering cheap consistent food. And many of them remain open 24 hours a day, which contributes to Hong Kong’s ‘up all night’ lifestyle alongside the ubiquitous convenience stores. They are a neighbourhood haven to office workers, students and those on shifts. Their relative low costs mean that they prove attractive to homeless people. McSleepers and McRefugees were the interchangeable labels given to the homeless people sleeping in McDonalds to escape the oppressive heat of summer or the cold around lunar new year. It became a thing in the media last year when a woman lay dead in a restaurant for 24 hours before being discovered. The tragedy masks the unintentional social role McDonalds is playing for the poorest in Hong Kong society.
Hong Kong ‘McRefugees’ up sharply, study shows – Hong Kong Economic Journal Insights
Save our McRefugees: Woman’s lonely unnoticed death in Hong Kong McDonald’s highlights need to help homeless | SCMP
Hong’s Kong’s lack of affordable housing fuels ‘McSleeper’ trend, where the homeless sleep at McDonald’s | SCMP Homeless woman found dead at Hong Kong McDonald’s 24 hours after she sat down as unaware customers ate | SCMP
‘McRefugee’ reunites with son in Singapore through media report on Hong Kong’s McDonald’s sleepers | SCMP
The lonely life of the McSleepers, the poor who call McDonald’s home | SCMP
One of the most popular articles on the South China Morning Post website this year was about the phenomenon of yiminjian or ‘immigration jail’.
That anyone should immigrate to Canada while regarding living there as a burdensome task to be endured or avoided might sound weird, but the concept is so common among some Chinese immigrant circles that there is a word for it: yiminjian, or “immigration jail”. The term refers to the period of compulsory Canadian residency (now, four years out of the previous six) which one must suffer before applying for citizenship. Think of a Canadian passport as the get-out-of-jail card.
It needs to be emphasised that this mindset does not apply to all Chinese immigrants – only that subset for whom greater opportunities exist back in China (and only a subset of those).
The problem that confronts these migrants is that Canada promises safety from the pace of change that has swept across China since the start of the cultural revolution to the rise of Mr Xi’s ‘tigers & flies’ programme. But China offers an opportunity to make out like a proverbial bandit and accumulate fantastic amounts of wealth.
Immigration mega-fraud: The rich Chinese immigrants to Canada who don’t really want to live there | South China Morning Post – paywall
Marketers have a unique knack of mangling the English language to put labels on market segments.
Breakfastarian seems to be a self description rather than a market segment on this occasion. It’s people who like breakfast for dinner. Apparently, this is a segment of the population who appeals to McDonalds who is suffering from stagnating sales.
McDonald’s Is Now the Top Choice for ‘Breakfastarians’ | TIME
In a tale of fact imitating fiction the US Navy is looking at ways to support the military in future conflicts by creating bases which allow ships to act as a combined space, which they call sea basing (or sea basing). The reason for this is in battles with the likes of China they may not have the luxury of a nearby land base like they have had in the Middle East, so they need to provide a flexible platform that will perform a similar function including floating docks and logistics.
Being out at sea and operating in this way helps put the force out of range of enemy weapons as well, or what the US Marines describe as exploit the sea’s maneuver space.
This includes ramps and sensors that would allow service men and equipment to exchanged from ship-to-ship with as much ease as moving around a base on land. Presumably this would have some sort of affect in terms of increasing the data network connections between ships to help them function better and more cohesively.
The idea of seabasing echoes the carrier and lashed together boats of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash – a classic work of cyberpunk fiction written in 1994. In the story, refugees have attached themselves to a privatised aircraft carrier owned by a media company that is heading to the US .
The future of sea basing | Armed Forces Journal
Sea Basing: concepts, issues and recommendations by Sam J. Tangredi (PDF)
Pacific seabasing exercise will highlight new ships | Marine Corps Times
Globalsecurity.org – Seabasing
Figuring Out the Future of War in the Pacific — Or, What the Hell is Seabasing? | Vice News
What is Seabasing | United States Marine Corps
Seabasing Annual Report | United States Marine Corps
Hong Kong was the first place that I had every been where on the mass transit system specifically warns you to not look over intently at your phone and pay sufficient attention to riding the escalator.
Over 80 per cent of Hongkongers between the ages of 15 and 34 own a smartphone; so South China Morning Post‘s article about the perils of smartphone zombies roaming around seemed appropriate.
A smartphone zombie is someone cocooned in their own world of mobile social updates, email or games who is distracted in walking or travelling on public transport.
The Cantonese for the phenomenon is dai tau juk or ‘head down tribe’. It would be wrong to portray this as a purely a Hong Kong phenomena, with articles covering it in China, the US and Japan over the past year alone.
The US talked about it in terms of an addiction, whereas coverage of China, Japan and Hong Kong looked at it as being broadly anti-social behaviour.
Beware the smartphone zombies blindly wandering around Hong Kong | SCMP (paywall)
Japan’s smartphone ‘zombies’ turn urban areas into human pinball | Japan Times
Putting Smartphone Zombies In Their Place | TechCrunch
How your smartphone is turning you into a zombie | The Tennessean
I don’t know if this is a ‘thing’, generation n used to be shorthand for digital natives. However that concept lost currency as it become apparent that having technology all around you doesn’t necessarily make you digitally literate.
Peter Hinssen postulates that the ‘n’ actually means network native, it is as much about Dale Carnegie as it is about digital skills. Adhocracies and collaboration that comes together for a purpose and then moves on – closer to the team structures used in exam coursework.
It isn’t so much about age, but about behaviours gen-x could bleed into millennial in this particular segmentation.
The myth of generation N | NBC News
The Myth of Generation N | MIT Technology Review
Millennials 2.0: The rise of Generation N – I-CIO | I-CIO
A new label for what would be considered millennial yuppies.
High Earning, Not Rich Yet
Via Goldman Sachs and Quartz
Here is your dumb new acronym for moneyed millennials: HENRYs | Quartz
The modern mobile eco-system was built in the factories of China, in particular Shenzhen.
Chinadroids: These are phones that use the Android Operating System but have not gone through official channels for compatibility (CTS) or do not have a Google Mobile Services (GMS) license.
A couple of scenarios are playing out to drive Chinadroids:
- Virtually no Android handset in China has access to Google services including the app store. Baidu estimates that are over 386 million active Android handsets in China, using different app stores and web services. Some of these have a very different look-and-feel like Cyanogen or MIUI – Xiaomi’s flavour of Android
- A second scenario is where smaller manufacturers don’t get Google to play ball and get them onboard with a GMS licence for those handsets that they do sell outside China. Google historically hasn’t bothered to scale to address the international aspirations of these tier two and tier three handset makers. Their product is probably being used across the developing world, from the Nigerian merchants with their suitcases of phones flown from Hong Kong to the virgin mobile markets of Burma or Laos. The big challenge with these secondary players is that they are market makers and not having them registered means that Google doesn’t get the full benefit of being able to onboard these people on to the internet and hooked into the Google eco-system
The Shenzhen Market Mini-Guide | Medium
China now has 386 million active Android users | Techinasia
The rise of the Shenzhen eco-system
The smartphone value system
Google I/O: who is Google trying to disrupt?
Back in the day shops and businesses where digitised using RFID tags that covered everything from lose prevention in shops and libraries (shop lifting to you and I) to providing payment systems like the Octopus and Oystercard. RFID tags were passive devices with a small amount of information on them; electromagnetic waves from a reader ‘powered’ them allowing the data to be read.
Estimote’s product takes the RFID tag and asks what could be done if the tag became active, self-powered. It is compliant with Apple’s iBeacon standard using low-powered Bluetooth radio transmissions to interact with a smartphone. Estimate defines the nearable as:
… a smart, connected object that broadcasts data about its location, motion and temperature.
The information that it can provide can be dynamic, based on simple sensors included in the electronics package. At the moment nearable stickers cost some $33/unit and a default battery life for three years.
Nearables are here, introducing Estimote stickers | Estimote Blog
Dr Tsugio Makimoto is a technologist who has worked at Sony and Hitachi. He co-authored Digital Nomad with David Manners which was published in 1997 and seems to have been influential to executives in the semiconductor industry. The wave named after Dr Makimoto is a twenty-year cycle between custom design components and general components.
Like Moore’s Law it is used as a heuristic to try and understand what is happening within the industry. Dr Makimoto discusses it in this video below. At the moment we are in the custom part of the cycle with the kind of silicon being created for smartphones like Apple’s and Samsung’s respective chips and we are due to see a swing to general purpose components from 2017 or so.