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Blockchain Chicken Farm: And Other Stories of Tech in China's Countryside (FSG Originals x Logic)

by Xiaowei Wang

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1003273,312 (3.64)1
"From FSGO x Logic: stories about rural China, food, and tech that reveal new truths about the globalized world"--
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Xiaowei Wang shared stories from rural China that I do not hear being told from the perspective of rural Chinese people. I appreciated that, and thought they did a serviceable job of doing so. The section on the titular blockchain chickens (bo bo gi) was great, and I love this blockchain deployment. Had they stuck to doing so I suspect I would have been a bigger fan. They get extra points for actually explaining how the blockchain works and why it is a valuable tool outside of the crypto world in an accurate way that I think would be easily understood by most anyone. I recently complained about a terrible and misleading explanation of blockchain in Number Go Up (a book I liked other than this) and Wang proved that this could be done.

The first problem here is that Wang also includes a couple of dystopic fiction pieces, blessedly short, and they are not good. Very not good. Even if they were good, they do not belong in this book.

The second problem, one much bigger than the first, was Wang's decision to marble this book with faulty sociopolitical theory. Their observations were logically flawed, stunningly elitist in the unique parlance of tech industry faux socialists and, insult to injury, these sections are badly written. There is nothing quite so silly and banal as the deep thought that technology isn't bad, capitalist deployment of technology is bad. Even the Chinese government knew that without outsize earning power there would be no innovation. Tech business that improves the buying power of the peasantry is not separable from capitalists figuring out how to make money from technology. That seems obvious, but it turns out it is not obvious to many people, including many with sound educations which one imagines included logic classes. Relatedly the book includes several random solidarity shouts out to the Uyghurs and Tibetans that had nothing at all to do with the text. It is like someone had a Social Democrat checklist beside them and inserted things to hit all the talking points. I believe that had Wang excised the political theory and random irrelevant nods to oppressed minority groups (and the Tibetans and Uyghurs most definitely qualify, no argument, it's just not relevant here) this would have worked.

I lived in China many years ago, but my experience is dated and I spent most of my time in cities. Though I now do work connected to global tech policy, I know nothing about agriculture or ag-tech, and only know what journalists tell me about cottage manufacturing industries that have grown up around Alibaba. (Wang seems to think this is a bad eCommerce development, but I can say from personal experience that 30 years ago many people were stapling fabric on couches in the street outside their houses for cheap furniture retailers, and I don't see this as different other than it being more lucrative.) That is to say I came into reading this with enough information to be dangerous and this book offered information that I think made me ever-so-slightly less dangerous. But it also brought mounds of disinformation, misinformation, and opinion disguised as academically supported economic theory. ( )
  Narshkite | May 1, 2024 |
The title of this book is what attracted me to it. Blockchain chicken sounded intriguing and the first half of this book introduces us to the presence of tech solutions in china's rural countryside. The second half though discusses the effects of technology on the rural Chinese within today's socio-political-economic situation.

I enjoyed reading this series of essays, it taught me a lot, made me think a bit and felt like some much needed chicken soup. That said, I would recommend reading it soon(this year?) since the content will be dated in the future.


( )
  kend. | Jan 13, 2024 |
The first lines suggest journalism which is what got me reading but then it meanders aimlessly with no clear purpose about random unusual aspects of modern life in China. Self indulgent and pretentious. ( )
  Paul_S | Jul 24, 2021 |
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