Re: Asia's role in the present and future.....

Date: Sun Mar 05 2000 - 08:32:37 MST

In a message dated 2/29/00 1:42:17 PM Central Standard Time,

> > Very interesting comments. As I understand, the Japanese government and
> > academia saw the promise in nanotech long before the United States did
> > funded appropriately. And so a hidden major reason for the Clinton
> > administration's generous funding of nano research is to deal with the
> > foreign competition! Competition can be a good thing, eh?
> Also, they realise they need technology to stay alive - the Home
> Islands are resource-poor, with a rapidly aging population and
> dependent on overseas resources. Anything that can make them more
> efficient, self-sufficient and able to uphold their high standard of
> living will be pursued. On the other hand, my impression of Japanese
> research is that it is often either very applied or very blue sky
> visionary; it seems there is a gap in the middle that might seriously
> hinder development.

That gap is caused, IMHO, by a relative lack of high-risk entrepreneurialism.
 History has shown that the most efficient link between blue-sky research and
concrete, near-term applications is the energy of risky, individualistic
entrepreneurialism, empowered by the swift creation of very flexible networks
that can quickly bridge gaps between previously isolated social groups,
institutions and individuals. This is precisely what Japanese society seems
to find hard to do, and what the West (especially the United States) is
proving itself extremely adept at. Note that two Japanese institutions that
have been among the most successful at implementing and exploiting
innovation, Honda and Sony, are both perceived by mainstream Japanese
business society as being "mavericks".

> > I do also worry about China. I hope they can learn to live peaceably
> > the rest of their global neighbors. I think of China like an adolescent
> > male who was pushed around alot by neighborhood bullies who have since
> > grown
> > up and matured emotionally. But the victim of this is still carrying a
> > big
> > grudge and wants to kick some butt to prove his place in the
> > The question is, can we guide this lad of one billion people to that
> > of societal maturity without a major hot or cold war??
> Neighbourhood bully? China is much more than somebody who has been
> bullied by stronger neighbours - for most of its history it has been
> the reverse. I think *that* is the problem - as long as the Beijing
> government see themselves as rulers of an Empire with a manifest
> destiny to be great, they will collide with everyone else. Note the
> tremendous benefits Japan or Germany (or Sweden in the 16th century
> for that matter) have reaped from turning the energy spent on
> nationalist expansionism into other pursuits.

My study of Chinese history is completely consistent with this observation.
For 2500 years, Confucian Chinese civilization perceived itself as the
self-sufficient and unchallenged pinnacle of human achievement, a self-image
that was largely justified by experience. The repeated military and
political defeats at the hands of Western powers in the final 100 years of
Imperial Chinese history was an aberration that caused a deep "identity
crisis" among Chinese intellectuals that made them susceptible to infection
by Western memes like state-nationalism and Marixism-Leninism. It is
possible to perceive the current state of China's cultural evolution as one
in which it is dealing with the aftermath of these infections. In the broad
sweep of Chinese history, it is too early to say how the cultural metabolism
of the Sinitic world will re-establish it's own unique equilibrium, but the
best bet is that it will.

> As for China, I don't know. On one hand it has such tremendous
> potential, a booming economy, many cultural memes which could work
> well with transhumanism and sheer size to become the major power of
> this century. But on the other hand, it could break down if the
> Beijing people cannot handle the transition, and then we get a Balkan
> with a billion people involved.

Never underestimate the power of Chinese historical and cultural archetypes.
The Confucian world-view was formed in the context of the "Warring States"
period and there is a repeating pattern of what we might (probably
mistakenly) call "balkanization" in inter-dynastic periods throughout the
long period of Imperial history. The main reason I would reject a simple
expectation of a Western model of "balkanization" in China is the
extraordinary cultural homogeneity established by over two millennia of
Confucian cultural hegemony. Consider the cultural context of the original
Western pattern of the concept of balkanization, which is an unassimilated
brew of ultimately irreconcilable cultural islands intermixed with each
other. This context doesn't exist in Sinitic civilization, which is
dominated by Confucian memes in a way that makes christianity's hold over the
West look weak in comparison.

      Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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