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Tag: Davos

Chabuduo in China!

Monday, 23 January, 2017 0 Comments

The plight of the elites last week was summed up in this headline: “Distraught Davos finds globalisation saviour in China’s Xi.” The cause of the relief was the fact that Xi Jinping had become the first Chinese leader to address the World Economic Forum in the swish Swiss resort. His endorsement of globalization saw him instantly crowned as a kind of anti-Trump, but those bestowing the title made no mention chabuduo.

James Palmer is a British writer and the author of The Death of Mao: The Tangshan Earthquake and the Birth of the New China. He lives in Beijing and he’s very knowledgeable in that which Western boosters of China do not wish to discuss: chabuduo. The word means “close enough” and, says Palmer, “It’s a phrase you’ll hear with grating regularity, one that speaks to a job 70 per cent done, a plan sketched out but never completed, a gauge unchecked or a socket put in the wrong size. Chabuduo is the corrosive opposite of the impulse towards craftmanship, the desire, as the sociologist Richard Sennett writes in The Craftsman (2008), “to reject muddling through, to reject the job just good enough”. Chabuduo implies that to put any more time or effort into a piece of work would be the act of a fool. China is the land of the cut corner, of “good enough for government work.”

In his article for Aeon magazine, “Chabuduo! Close enough …,” James Palmer offers many terrifying examples of how chabuduo affects those unable to enjoy Davos:

“Mr Cha Buduo doesn’t understand why he misses trains by arriving at 8:32 instead of 8:30, or why his boss gets angry when he writes 1,000 instead of 10, or why Iceland is different from Ireland. He falls ill and sends for Dr Wãng, but ends up getting Mr Wáng, the veterinarian, by mistake. Yet as he slips away, he is consoled by the thought that life and death, after all, are close enough.”

As Davos Man confronted the Trumpocalypse over canapés, chabuduo was not on the menu. It’s a fact of life, and death, for Xi Jinping’s subjects, however.


Man vs. Machine

Saturday, 21 January, 2017 0 Comments

“A good receptionist should have certain characteristics: helpful, friendly, organized. But do they need to be human?” That was the question posed in Davos, where the future of work was debated with an increasing intensity during the past few days. The elites will do fine in the robotic revolution but they could still lose their sinecures, and more, if those dispossessed of jobs and dignity rise up against their new overlords.

Michael Marczewski is a motion designer based in London and working at ManvsMachine. His “Vicious Cycle” clip, which features a group of autonomous robots performing a range of repetitive functions, is fitting for this post-Davos moment because it ponders what might happen if the demands become unbearable for the robots. The music is by Marcus Olsson, one half of Kungen & Hertigen, a sound team based in Stockholm and Eksjö. The other half is Staffan Gustafsson.


Europe of the Concilium Plebis

Thursday, 24 January, 2013 0 Comments

The day in Europe begins with the news that Spain’s unemployment rate has hit the highest level since measurements began in the 1970s. At the end of last year, the jobless rate was a frightening 26 percent, while unemployment for people under 25 years old reached an off-the-scale 60 percent. Clearly, some parts of Europe are not working. And David Cameron will, no doubt, allude to this when he addresses the World Economic Forum this morning in Davos.

As the European north-south divide gets larger and the suffering of those yoked to the common currency becomes more visible, it’s time to talk about the future of the continent. Or, at least, the entity known as the European Union. Unless it manages to create some kind of accountable, democratic institutions, the outlook is grim. The Roman way For the Brussels bureaucrats, European democracy means minimizing the role of the nation state, a form of governance they see as outmoded. In their vision, the European Council would be abolished and the EU Commission would be directly elected by the EU Parliament. This post-national system would represent democracy.

The problem with this scenario is that most Europeans don’t want it. They wish to keep the democracy they have right now. The one thing they do want, however, is increased use of the plebiscite, a concept that dates back to the Concilium Plebis, the popular assembly of the Roman Republic. The problem with referendums, though, is that there’s no knowing what the people would decide. The reintroduction of the death penalty? The deportation of illegal immigrants? The scrapping of student fees in Bavaria? The list is long.


Big Data, Big Bucks

Monday, 13 February, 2012

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, data was declared a new class of economic asset, like currency or gold, during the presentation of a report titled “Big Data, Big Impact“. Here’s the Executive Summary:

“A flood of data is created every day by the interactions of billions of people using computers, GPS devices, cell phones, and medical devices. Many of these interactions occur through the use of mobile devices being used by people in the developing world, people whose needs and habits have been poorly understood until now. Researchers and policymakers are beginning to realise the potential for channelling these torrents of data into actionable information that can be used to identify needs, provide services, and predict and prevent crises for the benefit of low-income populations. Concerted action is needed by governments, development organisations, and companies to ensure that this data helps the individuals and the communities who create it.”

Those fine aspirations aside, the reality is that it’s the indefatigable masters of data harvesting, Google and Facebook, who will benefit most from purse seineing the web. Big bucks beckon for these Big Data behemots.