It is in little things that reflect the underlying culture of a country.
The subway in Shanghai, though not comparable to places like Tokyo or Hong Kong yet, is getting better. Often times, it is better than the taking the taxi due to the traffic jams. The annoucement of coming station is usually accompanied with “请往左/右边下车” (please alight on the left/right). I usually have to take twice to get to the correct door anyway because, depending on where I face, right side can be the wrong side. That’s like most other cities anyway, so there’s nothing to complain, except in good ‘ol Germany. In Germany, the annoucement is always “Aussteigen in Fahrtrichtung links/rechts” (Exit on the right in the direction of travel) . To be sure, that annoucement can sound a little awkward in English, but not in German. It is in these little details that the preciseness of the German folks shine through, and this in turn made “Made in Germany” such a coveted term.
I wonder, however, how this unwillingness to accept ambiguity can be a hindrance to the development. The next wave of Big Data, Machine Learning, Quantum Computing involves a lot of probability and heuristic method, which basically are ways to deal with ambiguity, but not to solve it.
Talking about the wave, Germany (or Europe/Rest of World in general) has missed out on the internet age. By missing out, I mean most of the infrastructure, tools and apps are created by American companies. Many attempts were made – but supporting local start-ups and enforcing monopoly regulations didn’t help much. Except for one – blocking.
The Great Wall of China has been criticised as a draconian tool to supress human rights, but it also acts as an incubator for the internet start-ups. Often started as clones, many are now arguably superior and more profitable now. I’m impressed each time on how usable Youku, Wechat, Baidu Maps are, and that’s just a tiny selection of what’s available. This wouldn’t have been possible if all the big guys are allowed to compete in China.
I wonder, perhaps a decade from now, this will be included in MBA course as a case study about the limitation of free market.
Talking about internet age, there is a flip-side for it. Productivity increase has always been a basic component for economy growth. In the modern economy, low-productivity jobs such as door opener, security guard, elevator “button presser” etc. are rare. Besides the obvious monetary benefits, I think another personal motivation to avoid such jobs is that it is simply mind-numbingly boring.
I still see many such jobs in Shanghai. The difference is, many of them are now equipped with a smartphone (usually 5 inches and above – tips for product designers), allowing them to burn time with movies, games or chatting.
I wonder, although internet liberates information, can it be a trap for some?