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China is blocking all language editions of Wikipedia (torproject.org)
432 points by JayXon 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 146 comments





This makes me sad. Wikipedia is surely one of humanity's greatest accomplishments to date. Having such a resource be off limits to a large section of our population is truly depressing.

Of course, there was always the language barrier, but zh.wikipedia.org could definitely have been as high quality as the English version given the chance.


Is zh.wikipedia.org not as high-quality as the English version in your experience? I don't use it that frequently, but for topics like famous Chinese people or linguistics of Sinitic languages, the English article is often just a stub, while the Chinese version has all the information I'm looking for.

In my experience zh.wikipedia.org is largely authored by Taiwanese residents. The quality is high but local narratives are often written with some bias not entirely unlike what one would expect from a displaced population resulting from a fairly recent civil war.

The English version of Wikipedia is not free of bias either. Wikipedia is not a source of truth for everything out there.

When I see that articles about the same thing in different languages state different and incompatible numbers, then I always think that this is an obvious and easily solveable problem; separate the data from the language and reference it in the text. That way each language uses the same data. This shouldn't just be done with numbers, but with dates, and other easily convertible information.

Yes, this will create conflicts as to which information is correct, but Wikipedia has had this problem since forever, and deals with it.


This is currently being done on Wikidata for information that is more easily represented in a database.

https://www.wikidata.org

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikidata

Some infoboxes on Wikipedia have values that are automatically synced to the related Wikidata entry.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infobox


The problem is that most data can never be verified. A source may never be fully accurate. A source could be a bunch of BS in the worst case. Even government data and media-based data frequently contradict each others.

For recent events we have already seen large press groups spreading misinformation. So when do you know when they actually produce facts or produce biased BS? At the end of the day somebody makes a call and we know nothing of their affiliations.


Wikipedia also has a notorious problem with "sources" that are written by the same person that's editing the article.

That's a horrible idea.

1. The surrounding text depends on the number it contains. By blindly replacing numbers in every language version, you get garbage like "Town A is the most populated place on the region at 10,000 inhabitants, followed by Town B at 11,000."

2. If you look at multiple language versions and they disagree, you know one of them must be incorrect and you should watch out for bias and outdated information. Forcing them to all have the same data takes away that feature.

3. Bias is rarely a problem with objectively checkable data. When the PRC publishes an encyclopedia, the issue with it is not that they'd get the date of Tiananmen Square wrong.

4. Requiring people to use and read some sort of placeholders instead of ordinary text greatly increases the barrier to entry.


I only use Wikipedia as a reference guideline for specific subjects I am not knowledgeable in. It does a fairly good job at providing that kind of information.

Very few Taiwanese today associate themselves with mainland. Less than 10% percent of the population were refugees two decades ago, and it is even less today, with second generation mainlanders being more or less assimilated.

It's not just zh / en problem. Probably it's every language problem.

Out of fun I compare some Russian vs English articles on controversial topics (e.g. Stalin / Nicholas II / etc). It's really interesting to see how it's different. In most cases it matches to the traditional point of view in native speaker community.


On the whole I would say the English version is better. In general articles about China tend to be pretty good (modern and ancient history, people as you pointed out) and can be richer than their English equivalents. I actually haven't found the linguistics articles about Sinitic languages to be all that helpful. My impression is that they usually have less information than their English equivalents and often have sections translated from their English counterparts (I'm fairly sure the translation is in that direction because the English is more detailed than the Chinese and the original sources are usually in English), but I suppose YMMV.

However as you get into the various sciences, the quality and coverage of articles drops off very quickly.

I also find that the tone of the articles can also veer off a little bit from the usual encyclopedia-detached tone of Wikipedia (at least somewhat more so than the English version)

I still prefer it to Baidu's online encyclopedia, but it's not as excellent as the English version.


As the artical mentions, the Chinese version has been blocked since 2016 - shortly after Wikipedia made the decision to move to mandatory HTTPS via HSTS. I'm not sure how recent this is but it seems that the site is also on the HSTS preload list used by most browsers - even within China (it seems Chrome is very popular there). It seems they have just gotten arround to blocking all of the other languages this year.

ESNI seems like it would work pretty well. Although the PRC firewall could likely be used to block ESNI and/or TLS 1.3 and force plain-text SNI.


Well actually they have been blocked all language about a week ago on May 6th or 7th.

Blocking the greatest encyclopedia that ever existed is the best example of what this kind of censorship is.

Since Wikipedia can be dumped onto a memory card I am not sure how effective the ban is supposed to be. It will constrain its spread but it is very hard to block all means of transmission of information.

"it is very hard to block all means of transmission of information."

I think this is something to understand about modern political information manipulation/restriction.

The 1.0 version totalitarian censorship aimed for full information control. This is what the soviets and pre-1990s CCP tried to do. It's difficult because (as you say) information is hard to control.

The 2.0 version is about enough control. You can use a vpn (or memory stick), but most won't. This gives one version of events a major advantage over the others. Easy-to-find praise for the government, difficult-to-find dissent.It's about dominant influence, not absolute control. When needed, regimes can temporarily increase control, like erdogan did during the last turkish coup attempt.

A soft paralel is social media "bubbles." They don't "control" the information you can access, but they are enough to influence your opinions in a direction. There are lots of exceptions, but on average, these have a big influence on who we think the good and bad guys are.


Doesn't the "enough control" part come from the Internet's addiction factor?

As in, wouldn't software designed to work just as well without constant Internet "solve" this?


On the contrary it will be extremely effective at keeping 95% of the Chinese population ignorant of Wikipedia.

How many were already using Wikipedia in the first place? I assume that before the ban happened it was already pretty much hidden from results in Baidu and the like?

So you agree, banning access and gateways to Wikipedia is effective.

You are right but no need for a memory card. Hundreds of millions of Chinese tourists go aboard[1] every year. Most of them travel within Asia so most HN readers don't feel it. Let alone VPN that most educated people can use if they really want to.

[1]https://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/nielsenglobal/cn/docs/Ou...


I still remember that last year during my internship in Mainland China, clone git repository from GitHub and GitLab is a pain and my professor even have to use VPN too. China is basically hell for developers. I am afraid the new generations in China will no longer know about the real Internet. *sigh

I am quite curious about you experience. From my own experience download speed from GitHub is always acceptable. Whoever cares about Internet in English in Chinese will have their way to cross the GFW. You may search shadowsocks on GitHub and see how well developed the technology has became. BTW, internet service in most top universities in China can cross GFW through ip6.

Interesting comment. You make it sound like the real internet happens to be US-centric. Yes, many important projects are hosted on Gitlab and Github, but there are also other ways to share code. And these alternatives might not be that well known to us developers in the western world.

I hope you are not a wumao. The salient thing about github and other similar resources is not that they are developed by people in the US and owned by a US company. People from all over the world use it. There is nothing intrinsically 'US' about the content itself.

On the other hand, the GFW excluding much content from outside China makes the China Internet experience particularly Chinese and not the "real Internet".


For a software developer (or student thereof), the useful parts of the internet are indeed quite US-centric.

Off the top of my head, losing access to any of the following platforms will hamper your professional development: Github, Stack Overflow, cloud services leaders (AWS, GCP, MS Azure, etc.), Coursera, Udacity, Youtube, Khan Academy, Google Search, Google groups, Slack. At best, you'll have to use a VPN, or maybe resort to a domestically developed and probably inferior alternative. At worst, no such alternative exists.


Udacity has a local Chinese version. Slack works, kind of. Google groups is a shuffling zombie abandonware project outside China so I fail to see how the lack of access within China will impact anything there.

I listed those platforms (some of which still work in China) just to illustrate that a lot of developer resources are indeed based in, or at least developed in, the USA.

PRC have proven repeatedly that they can and will arbitrarily block foreign services without notice. Slack works today, but how long until they decide that Slack facilitates too much discussion about Falungong, Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwanese independence, or Tiananmen?


> but there are also other ways to share code. And these alternatives might not be that well known to us developers in the western world.

What ways are that? We do know about sneakernet and emailing tarballs, but I guess it has to be something else? I'm curious.


How about setting up your own git remote?

I think he just meant that the "real internet" is the one where you can go to a website that isn't controlled by the Chinese government?

That could be the right interpretation. It still struck me as odd to think that no access to Github and Gitlab would prevent anyone from developing software. Others HNers have listed other resources that are difficult to access from China and I have to agree that without documentation it becomes really difficult to solve many issues that one might encounter.

It's not that difficult to set up your own git remote. But if you don't have access to documentation for your libraries it really becomes tough.


There are probably other ways but they lack the network effect of people already being there, and the fact that many major companies use Github to distribute and administer their open source projects.

In the West we have the choice to use the service that gives us all these benefits. Mmm, choices.


Well, at least I don't think our governments would actively stop us from finding and using them.

I assume that this is in preparation of the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Tiananen massacre, they always make changes to the censorship when a big event is comming up.

For instance for the 2008 olympics many blocked sites were opened up, and conversely they tighten everything up before every National People's Congress elections.


A favorite quote of mine “The best way to build an authoritarian regime is not to indoctrinate someone but to convince them that there is no such things as truth”

I think with totalitarianism notions of truth are supposed to be subordinate to some 'higher' rational such as race or party allegiance.

Who wrote that? (Asking out of curiosity.)

Sound like Orwell, maybe paraphrased.

It sounds smart but it's plain false. History proves otherwise.

Of course they are, it's almost June 4th which is the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. You know that events is going to be the featured article on one of the Wikipedia editions, or at least be mentioned in the "On this day" section.

Chinese government are hyper coward, it's going to be fun.

”You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” – Winnie the Pooh


Side-note: Winnie the Pooh has been used as a sort of caricature of Xi Jinping.

Additional side-note: Winne the Pooh is not banned in China, despite what the media is reporting.

Additional (additional side-note): 'Winne the Pooh' movie has been banned[0]

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/07/china-bans-win...


Additional (Additional (additional side-note)): No it’s not. The Guardian and other articles are wrong. [0]

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/China/comments/au5hd6/is_winnie_the...

In addition, Peppa Pig is not banned and neither are time travel shows. In 2018, there were over 20 TV shows that had time travel in them.


The 2018 movie Christopher Robin didn't premiere in China. Moreover, there is no way to legally download or view the said movie in any Chinese online movie providers.

I'd like to be proven wrong. So wise throwtt78oo65, tell me about your facts.


Heh, you're registered to say us how good and bright is China? LOL.

https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-china-blog-40627855


Sigh and this is why plain text SNI is was not a good idea...

If SNI poisoning does not work for censoring, the whole IP range of service would be blocked instead. You cannot always count on changing IP addresses which would be a cat-and-mouse game.

How SNI is helping there? You still will have the entire website blocked. Clear HTTP would help, as they could block few selected pages and rest would be available. I don't understand this entire movement to HTTPS. Some people think that governments won't dare to block Wikipedia, Amazon or Google? Well, they dared and now you have millions of useful articles blocked because of few offending ones. If I would live in a China, I would prefer censored HTTP access over unavailable HTTPS any day.

> millions of useful articles blocked because of few offending ones

Yes, freedom requires sacrifices. Freedom is not for feeble hearted.

This is an important point. I'd say keeping it in mind is more important for citizens of free countries today, than Chinese.

The sole fact that an argument like this being brought more and more in the West, where it wouldn't fly even 10 years ago, say just how much closer to China the West has become.


Over plain http, how would you solve the problem of a government modifying pages in transit or replacing them entirely with a new version? I suppose you could use the https public key infrastructure with digital signatures so that visitors know whether they're seeing the original...

Well, if you want that property, technically there was NULL encryption algorithm in early HTTPS versions (probably it's not supported now, but there's nothing unusual about it). So you'll have page in cleartext, including all headers (so censors can drop the connection if they don't like it), but you'll have associated checksums and certificates, so changes should be detectable.

I was wondering what happens if you skip the SNI bit and just rely on the Host header in the data. Does that work?

That's called "domain fronting", the major cloud providers disallow it and enforce that the Host header must match the SNI.

This is likely the major reason why China has not yet blocked the major cloud providers. As soon as they allow ESNI/domain fronting, all bets are off as to what China will block.

They explicitly started doing this after Telegram used domain fronting to work around Russian censorship, which caused large chunks of AWS and GCP addresses to be blocked in Russia.

You can only do that if you can present a single valid certificate for all of the hosts behind the IP address.

I used the same method to see what is the blocking mechanism in Iran. I tried to connect to www.bbc.com which is blocked in Iran.

The DNS injection is obviously in place. But something strange happened when I checked the SNI filtering. The curl command stopped at "TLSv1.2 (OUT), TLS alert, Client hello (1)" and never exited when I tried to connect to www.bbc.com but with a --connect-to that is not blocked. Nothing strange until now. If SNI blocking is in place, they probably drop all the remaining packets of the connection. The strange thing is that when I try the opposite test and I connect to www.kernel.org (not blocked in Iran, too!) but with www.bbc.com SNI it still stops at TLS client hello.

First I thought they blocked the IP address, but I was able to connect to 212.58.244.210 (the IP address of www.bbc.com) on port 443 with telnet command. So, is Iran's regime using some other blocking mechanism that I'm not aware of? Or am I doing some kind of mistake?


I lived in China for 15 years. This is probably only temporary leading up to May 35. It happens every year.

Took me a few seconds to realize what you are talking about..

This article was accurate at the time but AFAIK the situation has changed. For context: https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T208263#5170123 tl;dr There were unintended consequences from refactoring DNS configuration and the situation should be back to “normal” now.

I think they were talking about wikimedia.org also being blocked due to CNAME to wikipedia.org which is now blocked, and they fixed it by CNAME to dyna.wikimedia.org instead, but wikipedia.org is still blocked: https://en.greatfire.org/https/en.wikipedia.org

Does wikipedia have any read only mirrors?

There's an IPFS mirror of English Wikipedia[0], as well as several others[1], though not the Chinese one[2]. It's currently not a particularly up-to-date mirror, though (from late 2016).

[0] https://ipfs.io/ipfs/QmXoypizjW3WknFiJnKLwHCnL72vedxjQkDDP1m...

[1] https://github.com/ipfs/distributed-wikipedia-mirror/blob/ma...

[2] https://github.com/ipfs/distributed-wikipedia-mirror/issues/...


And I just tried. i It's blocked

Interesting. Presumably that means that all of the ipfs.io domain is blocked(?).

You could try it on some other IPFS gateways. For instance:

https://ipfs.jes.xxx/ipfs/QmXoypizjW3WknFiJnKLwHCnL72vedxjQk...

or

https://cloudflare-ipfs.com/ipfs/QmXoypizjW3WknFiJnKLwHCnL72...

There's a list of gateways[0][1] (hopefully github isn't blocked...) in case these two are also blocked. You could also try just using IPFS directly[2], rather than using an HTTP-to-IPFS gateway, though that's rather more involved and potentially might make you stand out more / seem more suspicious.

In brief, in case you hadn't read about it, the idea behind IPFS is that it's a decentralised, torrent-like content storage system, where content and nodes are "addressed" via their hash (e.g. QmXoyp... above), similarly to git. In order to allow people without the IPFS daemon to access the "IPFS web" there are gateways, like the ones mentioned above.

[0] https://ipfs.github.io/public-gateway-checker/

[1] I hope that I'm not just helping Chinese censors by providing a list of domains to block...

[2] https://github.com/ipfs/ipfs


Ipfs.jes.xxx is not blocked and I could read what I wanted. But sometimes it gives 504 Gateway Timeout errors.

GitHub is working. Cloud fare ipfs and ipfs.io are both blocked.

Many Chinese here in Shenzhen use VPNs to access YouTube and Facebook. So it's the easiest and most reliable way to access Wikipedia.


You can download it - the index of human knowledge isn't that big that it wouldn't fit on a stick.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Database_download#Of...


I am in China:-). That link is blocked.

You should be able to find a torrent file for whichever subset of wikipedia you need, which isn't too dated.

There's even something like this, that lets you browse via bittorrent: https://github.com/mafintosh/peerwiki


Thank you!


Just FYI, their IKEv2 isn't likely to work, and Wireguard isn't necessarily available on all device types.

My standard process is to spin up a Streisand instance before I go there and give me multiple options (Shadowsocks and Wireguard are my main two).


HackerNews isn't blocked in China? That's surprising.

It is not.

I'm in China for a few months. I search for the topic with Bing. If Wikipedia is one of the top results, Bing will embed most of the article.

Nice

It would be really useful if large organizations like universities mirrored wikipedia. It is the only website I truly miss in China.

This direct attack on culture and knowledge is just both sad and scary.

Thank you OONI and ellais for this report tho. Keep up the good work!


Does China have something like the Cuban sneakernet, or is there a clear reason why that wouldn't work there?

> or is there a clear reason why that wouldn't work there?

There are Chinese-based alternatives to Wikipedia that are much more popular: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_in_China#Online_encyc....


Is Stackoverflow still accessible in China? Or how do programmers work there?

Yes but it's very very slow (as in on the order of minutes for a page to load). I think this has to do with how Stack Overflow's front-end code is written. There's some non-essential Javascript that is blocked by the Great Firewall which blocks the rest of the page from loading for a long time before the page gives up and displays a banner that some Javascript failed to load.

All programmers I know have software to circumvent the Great Firewall and view it as a necessary condition of their profession.


Yes.

Many Chinese developers are not fluent English users though. There's a "Chinese StackOverflow" called segmentfault.com, and I often see people asking fellow developers in WeChat groups.

Source: Am Chinese in China


Stupid question, but does Encyclopedia Britannica still exist?

Yes, youtube links to it below many "conspiracy theory" videos

If only we had censorship resistant ledgers..

And at the same time Wikipedia blocks edits from public VPNs.


Maybe part of the trade war retaliations?

More probably for the impending 30th anniversary of 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

Were there protests in previous notable anniversaries?

Sadly the main commemorative events only take place in Hong Kong and Taiwan(Macau is not included), but you know the consequence of going against totalitarian government right?.

And you miss the whole point of censorship. It's about making people reluctant to remembering it.


No, not really any protests.

But there were all sorts of web shutdowns leading up to previous anniversaries.


Any attempt at any kind of protest in China is slammed on very swiftly. There have been attempts in the past eg by Falun Gong supporters at Tiananmen Square, but it’s usually all over in minutes as the area is heavily monitored. There is no real independent media, they all have embedded censors, so even when there is a protest it doesn’t get covered. What protests do occur are usually over local issues and foreign media occasionally manage to piece together the story after the fact.

To block a non-profit website? I don't think so.

BTW: It been blocked days ago. The with no obvious reason, but the time is a (loose) match, weird.


Yeah, this seems like it's done for domestic reasons, and the timing might well be dominated by simple administrative delays.

Shutting down access to knowledge is not going to help them much, I suppose.

Restricting access to information will help the Chinese government retain power over the Chinese people. That's the point..

Yes, but another way to look at it, does China's micromanagement of the domestic flow of information result in more or less prosperity for their people? To misquote Hayek: communism is ultimately like telling every car where they should go rather than just putting up street-signs.

* Please add to the debate rather than down-voting. Also Hayek wasn't musing about future autonomous cars, its a metaphor about how deciding what everyone in society should do/think doesn't scale.


does China's micromanagement of the domestic flow of information result in more or less prosperity for their people?

The assumption you're making is that the Chinese government, or any government actually, optimizes for the prosperity of the people. Governments optimize for the prosperity of some people. In China that appears to be the ruling elite. In America it's the wealthy. Here in the UK it's the establishment (which is the existing upper class and the newly wealthy).

I don't think any government genuinely has the interests of all the people at heart, but I am massively pessimistic and cynical so maybe it's me.


It's you. This kind of lazy pessimism strikes me as a peculiar privilege of people who've grown up accustomed to living under a government that, while unavoidably imperfect, does in fact give consideration to the rights and desires of ordinary citizens. They don't take notice of all the ways their government chooses not to oppress them, because they wrongly imagine this is some natural state of things.

On the other hand, immigrants I've spoken to from countries with autocratic regimes, while not starry eyed about the nature of western governments, have no problem explaining why the situation in their countries of origin is much, much worse, and why the government of their new country is much fairer and functional.


They don't take notice of all the ways their government chooses not to oppress them, because they wrongly imagine this is some natural state of things.

If you're looking for a way to describe how good your government is and you come up with "Think how much worse it could be!" then I think the government has failed in its duty.

There's a spectrum of government effectiveness that goes from "actively oppressing the people" to "genuinely helping the people". Too many governments are at the wrong end, and very few are at the right end. Most seem to be somewhere in the middle. That, in my opinion, isn't good enough.


> If you're looking for a way to describe how good your government is and you come up with "Think how much worse it could be!" then I think the government has failed in its duty.

Yes, it would have, but many governments, including the UK, can be described in far better terms than this, and my point was that living under such a government can blind you to them.

The UK government does many things that it would not bother to do if it was only concerned with a wealthy elite (note that I said "only", obviously the government does plenty of things that are for a wealthy elite). It funds welfare programmes and state pensions that have no direct benefit to the rich elite. It enforces a minimum wage that have no direct benefit to the rich elite. It enforces worker rights and safety regulations that have no direct benefit to the rich elite. It has a progressive tax regime that has no direct benefit to the rich elite. It allows ordinary citizens a degree of freedom of movement, expression, political affiliation and democratic expression that has no direct benefit to the rich elite.

And yes, it's easy to find examples in all these areas where the implementation falls far short of the theory. But nonetheless there is still a huge difference between both the theory and implementation of government in the UK vs a country like China, North Korea, Iran, etc.

Criticism of every government is useful and important, but criticism should be grounded in reality. In a fair and reasonable assessment of what is done right as well as what is done wrong. Instead, most criticism I see of western governments by their own citizens is incredibly facile; uninformed by fact, and ignorant of both the history and reality of its political institutions, substituting nuance for lazy stereotypes and received opinions about the supposed inherent corruption and incompetence of all politics and politicians.


> It funds welfare programmes and state pensions ... It enforces worker rights ... a degree of freedom of movement, expression, political affiliation and democratic expression

I always thought the people in power do this because they learned the hard way that revolutions and uprisings are frightening and that conceding to some, mostly trivial, requests from the rest of the people is a good way to prevent them from happening. As you point out, China, NK, Iran, Saudi Arabia & co. show that there are other ways of doing the same that work just as well (for now, at least - and with differing sets of side-effects, obviously), but they all have the same goal: to stay in power and rule over the people.

I'm not saying it's intrinsically bad or anything, but I think that saying the people ruling the West are all idealists who wish to serve the people, while people in the exact same positions elsewhere in the world are power-hungry despots seems kind of... too optimistic, maybe?

There was this consul in ancient Rome (IIRC) who was a farmer, was appointed as a leader to win the war, then he won the war and then left his office to go back to his farm. There's probably a reason why this became a legend - it wouldn't be this famous a tale if things like that used to happen every other day.


I think the flaw in your argument is that you don't take the Overton window into account. Nobody is arguing about the existence of the scale of government effectiveness, but you're way more pessimistic than average in how you label the scale.

I think most governments do want to improve the life of the people, but it simply gets lost in the power struggle. You can't gain power without agreement from the king-makers and that agreement comes with strings attached. You also have to deal with the opposition and at least in American politics, they seem to be quite unreasonable at times. (Regardless which party is the opposition.)

This. And one reason why I don't think he is pessimistic at all, just the truth. Although the reason for that truth may not be what he thought it was.

I wish more people watch the Documentary, Yes Minster, it perfectly describe modern days politics with sense of humour, and many of it are still true even if it was done some 40 years ago.


The Chinese government knows that peace and quiet comes partly from improving the economic well-being of the general population.

The vast majority of the Chinese population has seen dramatic improvements during the last 40 years.


Yes but they lifted out the most people from poverty in the last 20 years. The largest middle class of any society is the Chinese one.

The largest country of any other is also China. It’s not weird for them to have other most titles.

India is comperable.

India will be larger than China soon, just not today.

I agree, that's the central question: is a government for promoting the prosperity of it's people or perpetuating itself. Would be nice if they could do both but there are so many examples of governments choosing themselves over the greater good.

China's economy isn't by any stretch of the imagination "communist", but telling every car where to go is perhaps the right solution for the future, with computer science making it feasible and overpopulation making it desirable.

However, I'm not sure that's in any way relevant to freedom of thought and freedom of information.


And Google already does it: take a look at the stories of small towns wishing Google would stop routing people through a certain surface road and not knowing how to make that request. People trust their navigation apps because in general those apps have earned their trust.

In general I am skeptical of "Communism is bad because the government will X" arguments where private industry is capable of doing X in as thorough a way for the average citizen's practical liberty and especially where private industry is already trying X.


Yes communism is bad because of other reasons, and because it failed every single time it was tried. Btw. China is not a communist state for a long time.

Just run by a party that happens to identify themselves as the Communist Party China (CPC). Also the kids that still have to take Marxist and Mao theory in high school and university wish the country would admit to no longer being communist also.

Yeah but naming can be safely ignored. Examples:

North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic


Ya, but just don't say China isn't communist in a Chinese public forum, you might offend a 同志.

> communism is ultimately like telling every car where they should go rather than just putting up street-signs.

Ironically, in the capitalist future, each car will decide where to go through a computer system controlled by a single company instead.


Central control is efficient, if you can get the right signals to the controller, and do it fast enough to have a tight feedback loop. Humans alone can do none of this at scale, but modern computing can do the "feedback" part easily. It's now the "signals" and "controller" parts that need to be figured out.

Central control is efficient? Despite every government that tried to control the economy utterly failed? You will need to provide some solid source to claim this kind of things. The problem lies with the concept, not with how fast the loop happens.

Evidence is in mathematics. Central control is always more efficient, because control overhead is constant everywhere but the central node, where it grows linearly, whereas in fully distributed system overhead grows exponentially at each node. That's why anywhere you have more than a dozen of humans or even computer systems talking together, a hierarchy develops. Note that even companies fiercely competing on the market are internally run top down. And "vertical integration", so hot a topic in business nowadays, is essentially a code word for "centrally planned economy".

Distributed systems have many interesting properties, like resilience / fault-tolerance and flexibility. But efficiency is not one of those properties, as evidenced by ridiculous amount of waste generated by the process of competition.

Note that I'm not arguing the soviets were right and the world should be run from Moscow. I do however believe that spectacular failure modes of centrally planned economies were caused mostly by slow, incomplete and unreliable feedback loops, and not because the idea is inherently bad (it works for businesses pretty well). Moreover, I hate this clueless criticizing I frequently see that "centralized = bad", "distributed = good". Truth is, "distributed = wasteful", "centralized = efficient", but sometimes it's worth to be inefficient to get the benefits distribution brings.


Are corporations generally run as central control, or does it vary wildly?

Genuine question as my knowledge of org charts is roughly as simplistic as this cartoon: https://www.businessinsider.com/big-tech-org-charts-2011-6?o...


Generally, yes. If you are told what to do by your manager, who is told what to do by their managers, etc. this is central control. The alternative would be to have companies run as markets internally: that is, multiple teams doing the same stuff, competing against each other for internal resources. I've heard there were companies trying that out, but I've never heard of it actually working for anyone.

> Are corporations generally run as central control, or does it vary wildly?

Corporations want to be centrally controlled, but the control is so poorly organized in most cases it's chaotic at best. And then there are multiple forms of organizations, not every of them works top-down, there are organizations that leave a lot of opportunities for working level employees to propose new ideas and initiatives.


> there are organizations that leave a lot of opportunities for working level employees to propose new ideas and initiatives.

Note that's still central control, just with fatter signalling pipe which can send ideas upstairs, and not just results. Directions and evaluations still come from the top.


> Directions and evaluations still come from the top.

Precisely not as I have pointed out. It's like saying a democracy is a centrally controlled system as well, since you only have one government. But in practice the government listens to the people in order to decide what to do next. It goes both ways.


Democracy does not mean "government listens to people". Every sane government, democratic or not, does listen to people to some extent. Democracy involves particular set procedures - like voting in candidates, referendums - through which the people do get to express their opinion, and which make that opinion binding. The government can't refuse to follow it, lest it loses legitimacy. There's nothing like that in a typical company or corporation.

You will tell the car where you want to go. Thats a key difference.

Will you? Or will the car go to whomever paid most for on-line ads?

(And I'm not even joking. Somebody soon will have the "brilliant" insight that "going to a place" isn't what the consumers truly want - surely, they want for some thing they desire to happen, and they may be flexible about the physical location of that thing, or about who's gonna do that thing.)


I assume they have their own wikipedia.


How’s the quality of the content as compared to Wikipedia’s?

Variable, but generally worse. It's much more tightly censored than Wikipedia: for example, edits are manually reviewed by admins before going live. Also, most community features (talk pages etc) have been removed, so it's constantly gamed to push spam, copy pastes etc and the mods don't really care unless it touches a red line topic like politics.

Can't be worse than Spanish Wikipedia.

What's wrong with Spanish Wikipedia?

I don't know about the Spanish one, but the Croatian one caused a lot of controversy both internally and externally because it was took over by extremely conservative (and sometimes blatantly pro-faschist) group of mods, to the point where a Minister of Education discouraged students of using it as a source.

https://www.dailydot.com/layer8/croatian-wikipedia-fascist-t...


funny to think that, back at college (circa 2003) , when wikipedia was still a relatively new and scary things for academics, we were actively discouraged from using it as a reference for information, let alone a source to cite

Considering how politicized wikipedia ( like most of tech industry has gotten in recent years ), doesn't shock me. Jimmy Wales has pretty much come out and said wikipedia will no longer be user driven but ideology driven. Which is one of the reasons the other co-founder of wikipedia has criticized wales and wikipedia.

Wikipedia is great for most generic topics, but for "sensitive" topics, it's pretty much propaganda. Considering how heavily wikipedia is censored by wikipedia itself, maybe a taste of their own medicine will make them change their position, but I doubt it.

Sadly, as more and more people use the internet, it'll be censored more and more by the elites in china, US, russia, EU, etc. What we are seeing is the internet becoming an overt tool of propaganda rather than a platform of discussion or exchange of ideas. Even worse, it seems like there are tons of support for censorship, especially amongst the young "educated" demographics.


If you are making claims like this, you might want to source it. Like a Jimmy wales interview link, a wikipedia link to a "sensitive" topic that have been politized (that does not prove anything but still show that you've done some research).

Also generalization is bad. You might want to visit a skeptic association and follow a course about human cognitive bias (it is helpfull, but it won't "cure" you from them, just make you more self-aware).




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