‘My Love from the Star’: A Korean hit in China

According to a major news outlets, the following Korean soap opera is the most popular show in China, much to the chagrin of Chinese officials:

The show’s called “My Love from the Star.” If I have this straight, a guy from outer space who’s 400 years old is hanging out with a pop star. And that’s putting half the world in a frenzy.

Chinese officials are upset because, it seems, China can’t put together entertainment that’s popular enough to keep its citizens enthralled. For example, the Washington Post says:

It’s not the first time popular foreign entertainment has led to hand-wringing in China. In 2008, when Dreamworks’ “Kung Fu Panda” became a runaway hit in China, it led to similar soul-searching. Why did it take American producers to find the drama and humor in a fat panda learning kung fu in China, many asked.

I didn’t know “Kung Fu Panda” had created an international incident.

Oh, for the full first episode of “My Love from the Star,” click here.

The pros and cons of working remotely

Dave Coplin, the chief envisioning officer at Microsoft (yeah, I don’t believe that title either), talks here about flexible working, which translates to not working in the office. He says it benefits workers. They don’t have to go into an oppressive office, they can do their jobs wherever the technology takes them, and they will be able to contribute more economically to their respective communities by spending their dollars where they live.

So why does that last part raise red flags for me?

Yes, with the today’s technology, we’re on call 24 hours a day. Coplin says in the “Star Trek” part of the illustration that people complain about getting e-mails from work on their days off, and dismisses the complaint by saying it’s the employee’s fault for looking at work e-mail on his or her day off. Okay, I don’t think the chief envisioning officer would necessarily be called at home on his day off if a server goes down, or if some huge business deal materializes, but there are plenty of other workers (and I’ve been one of them) who end up on the hot seat if the boss can’t get them in the event of an emergency.

But even that doesn’t really bother me that much.

My question is: Who exactly benefits if a corporation decides that the new work model will be “flexible work?” I mean, if it’s a corporate decision, doesn’t that tell you the company is doing what it’s decided is best for the company, not necessarily what’s best for the worker?

Maybe I’m overthinking this, but anyone who’s worked for a company that has an IT department knows that when your computer crashes, the IT people who used to be on the next floor aren’t there anymore. You have to call someone off site. And anyone who’s gotten a call from a telemarketer or calls a company for tech support knows that the accent on the other end of the phone isn’t always from the American Southwest but from Southwest Asia.

The day an American conglomerate decides that flexible work or remote work or working from home, or whatever you want to call it, is the official policy, somewhere in the company strategy, there’s going to be a proposal to move jobs offshore, because, as our chief envisioning officer says:

For the average knowledge worker, you don’t have to be in a specific location, a specific point in time, to access specific services. You have all the tools that you need … in your pocket or in your bag, and you can work from anywhere.

Anywhere means “ANYWHERE.” You don’t have to be in a specific city, or state, or region. You can be anywhere on the planet.

And if your saying you’re safe because you work for an American conglomerate, you probably should kiss your job goodbye. Because there is no such thing as an American conglomerate. Conglomerates are global. Microsoft has offices all over the world. So it could one day look at worker salaries at a global level, figure that it could pay a chief envisioning officer in India a modest salary by U.S. standards, which would be a fortune by South Asian standards, and get the same quality of work at a lower price. This video, in a way, proves how easy it is to work from anywhere in the world. Microsoft is on the West Coast. Coplin’s accent is found on the European west coast. And the illustration of the commute. That’s not Washington state. That’s the London Underground.

Your tax returns can be done in South America. (Because I worked abroad, some of my tax returns are still being done in Europe.) Your newspaper editing can be done in any part of the world that has a strong English speaking population. (A lot of news organizations have editing operations that aren’t in the cities, the states or the countries their subscribers are in.) The animation of a movie can be done in Japan or Korea (Next time you to a science fiction blockbuster, look at the names in the end credits of the people who worked on the CGI.).

Job competition is a global matter now. Blue collar manufacturing jobs that used to build the American middle class are now in the developing word. The jobs that Dave Coplin talks about are white collar jobs. Those are now just barely sustaining the American middle class, but they can just as well be done where labor is cheap.

I’m not saying that bad from a global perspective. Higher paying jobs throughout the world will bring a lot of countries out of poverty. Look at the economic growth in China and India. That means more people worldwide have more money to buy more stuff. But that also means that those jobs don’t have to be on our shores.

The only jobs that are safe for now are service-sector jobs, where people have to deal face to face with people. But, as I noted a couple of posts back, those jobs are going to be done by robots.

Oh, and for the record, I’m one of those people who can work from anywhere, and I wouldn’t mind having a flexible work setup. My family lives in one city and I work in another, hundreds of miles away. I can do my job from home in either city.

But, just on a gut level, I really need to be in the same room with the people I’m working with. But I’m from a generation that didn’t have chief envisioning officers.

Future shock in Shanghai

Somebody has been busy (click photo to enlarge):

original

The city on the left is Shanghai, China, in 1987. The city on the right is Shanghai in 2013. It’s like a modest backwater turned into the set of “Blade Runner” overnight. In terms of construction, this may have taken 26 years, but I can’t think of an American city that has changed this much this quickly.

Did you know there are more than 160 cities in China with a population exceeding one million? Can you guess how many American cities exceed one million?

Nine.

China has a population 1.36 billion. The U.S. population is 317.3 million, less than a quarter of China’s. Still, given the proportion, you’d think there’d be at least 40 American cities over the million mark.

The cities I currently live in, Washington, D.C., and Louisville, rank 24th and 27th in terms of U.S. population. They wouldn’t even make the top 200 in China. Maybe that’s one reason American cities don’t grow as fast.

By the way, Shanghai is China’s second largest city in terms of population, with 27 million people. The largest U.S. city? New York, with a paltry 8 million.

And China’s largest city? The Guangzhou metropolitan area with 44 million. I have no idea where this is. I thought Beijing was the largest city, but it ranks third.

The nuclear threat (in a chart)

It’s pretty clear where the nuclear threat is:

nuclear-weapons-world

There are two countries that can easily blow everything else off the face of the Earth. The ones that everyone freaks out about (Pakistan, North Korea) would be gone in a flash, literally, if they ever launched anything against anybody.

Once you get by Russia and the U.S., everyone remaining on the list could still be a danger. But if the U.S. or Russia launched their arsenals, we would all go the way of the dinosaur.

 

Life in a Day

I had a movie preview for “Life in a Day” saved on my computer for some reason, so I checked out the movie listings today to see if it was playing locally. Nope.

I figured I could go to a place that sells DVDs and buy it. Nope.

Now I see it’s on YouTube, free of charge.

This is a look at the world on July 24, 2010. Just a normal day on the planet.

Failed states

Foreign Policy magazine put up a fascinating listing last month ranking failed states, or nations on the brink of collapse. There are a number of stories on why states are failing (Somalia clocks in at No. 1) and details on the nations in decline.

Here’s a chart based on data from fundforpeace.org on the states in critical condition and practically destined to fail compared with the United States (click to enlarge):

The scary part of this is that the U.S. isn’t even the most stable nation in the world. We come in at No. 159. According to the Foreign Policy ranking, the most stable nation on the planet is Finland. Its rank is 177.

The entire Foreign Policy package is worth reading. But be prepared. There are many graphic details on how bad things really are. Some people really do live in Hell.