They present Chinese ingenuity in a charmingly harmless way - uneducated but plucky tinkerers, building some madcap machine out of scrap. In doing so, they subtly misrepresent Chinese industry by omission. China is rapidly transitioning away from low-skill, low-margin manufacturing to high-skill, high-margin R&D. The old jokes about Chinese R&D being a photocopier are wearing increasingly thin, as firms like Huawei become global players.
The article opens with the line "One visible sign of China's recent economic growth is the rise in prominence of inventors and entrepreneurs.", as if the photos that follow are in any way representative of invention in China. The real story is that Chinese R&D investment now amounts to over $160bn/yr and is set to surpass that of the US within the decade.
I'm reminded of the aphorism "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." It seems we're still laughing at the 700m Chinese citizens who are uneducated peasants, rather than preparing to fight the 700m who are urbanised and increasingly well-educated.
Why not just appreciate what they've accomplished by their ingenuity, without adding all this geopolitical drama?
The US press tacitly accepts US world domination:
"'Withdraw all foreign forces and withdraw all foreign arms.' That official was Condoleeza Rice and she was not referring to U.S. forces, she was referring to Iranian forces and Iranian arms. And that makes sense, too, on the assumption that we own the world because, since we own the world U.S. forces cannot be foreign forces anywhere. So if we invade Iraq or Canada, say, we are the indigenous forces. It’s the Iranians that are foreign forces."
"I waited for a while to see if anyone, at least in the press or journals, would point out that there was something funny about this. I could not find a word. I think everyone regarded that as a perfectly sensible comment." (http://www.zcommunications.org/we-own-the-world-by-noam-chom...)
US forces can never be 'foreign' from an American speaker's point of view, and that makes no claims about whether they are indigenous or not.
That quote is trying to stir up fuss where there isn't any.
To me this is article is utterly inspiring. This is about the hope of the individual. It's about a bunch of smart, motivated people taking big risks to better themselves and the people around them. They're thinking big, dreaming big, doing big, and surely ignoring the people around them who are telling them that they can't. Are some of them missing the mark? Absolutely! But if there's a statement being made here, it's an incredibly positive one.
I'm just not getting your point here.
Chinese manufacturing was a threat, Indian outsourcing industry was also a threat. But the nature of threats was different. Chinese manufacturing and Indian software services was a threat ONLY because of their cost factor. And that was hardly any advantage these big nations had over the US, and the US didn't care because the day a cheaper alternative was found- It would mean the end for both China and India.
The scary situation is when you find populations of the scale of China and India. With all their human resources, desperateness, passion and energy attack the big-ticket problems in the world.
That is the kind of scenario which builds next super powers which replace the existing super powers.
I'm more into software development than manufacturing, but I would assume similar (and other) cracks are appearing in China as well. Especially with cheap(er) robots (also used in the west) and optimized factory processes.
Do you know examples, besides these inventors which are (probably) exceptions, of Chinese passion/energy attacks? The problems we hear about usually are huge projects which either are abandoned after building (unsafe, unusable) or destroy massive parts of nature and get people thrown out of their houses by the state. Both I wouldn't consider attacking big-ticket problems; former does nothing, the latter replaces one problem with a few others. But that might just be propaganda which is peddled in the west to 'educate us'. I'm eager to see good examples.
I don't know from where you got this data. Because I'm an Indian, staying in Bangalore. If anything the demand for programmers is only increasing by the day. There is lot of demand of work inside India. These days you don't have to get the project from the west.
For every failed case of an outsourced project I can list tens of successful project executed at shoe string budgets. And beyond all this, you think outsourcing was scary? According to me outsourcing was only a way to get an entry into these things.
I've been meeting and talking to a lot of entrepreneurs here around in Bangalore circles. And I can tell you the product and start up scenario is set to go places in the time to come. Its no longer your 'college -> outsourcing company' situation anymore. There are plenty of awesome folks doing start ups. There will be failures initially, but progress is the only forward. Besides the India as a nation is itself rapidly transforming itself. Its a big nation and has its own problems, but with every year things are only getting better and will continue to.
I don't much about China, but I see things might be pretty much the same there.
>>Both I wouldn't consider attacking big-ticket problems
There are plenty of big-ticket problems we doing here in India. We had our first mission to moon, another planned to launch soon. There is also a mars mission. Some years back this would be unimaginable without the help of a country like US.
But again we are only getting self sufficient by the day.
I'm happy to hear people are transforming themselves. What i'm referring to is the difference between 15 years ago and now ; the 'West' expects general higher quality from the outsourcing companies and that seems painful. Sure projects can 'succeed' as you say, but that says not much about quality. If something 'works' it can succeed short term and then fail later.
I have a lot of examples (even from the embedded world where it does get scary), but HP outsourced an internal product (in Java) to India. My colleagues at the time were asked to check the code coming back from India (and HP didn't outsource to small companies and didn't pay little either); not only did (and does) it not work, the code was almost completely unreadable. One of my Pet Peeves being that a lot of Bachelor and Master of CS guys and girls in India have no idea what recursion is and so you see incredibly complex, huge methods in the code which try to solve a problem (directory traversal for instance) which can be solved in a few lines using recursion. An often used attack is to start with some while(true) and then stack up if statements and a number of variables to try to keep up where you are until you have 'enough depth'. And this not only once; the codebase is littered with it. Without sensible comments or method naming, it's very hard to figure out what the intent was.
Maybe this is rare instead of normal (I don't think so); i'm just saying that this is what other companies send us to 'make it work'. And this is what I have seen from my Indian friend's companies as well. Next to that my friends who are Indian and live there fulltime say this as well. They don't really see it as a problem generally because, like you say, projects succeed despite of it. Until they go out of business (and go work for a company big enough to not care (yet?) about this).
Are there any good sites showing off Indian software startups? Would be great to see that.
Though a job board, its a good indication who is hiring and what they are hiring for.
I don't deny that there are bad programmers out here in India. But that hardly says anything about the situation here. If you look it, then you will see the problem of bad programmers is there almost in every country.
There are bad programmers in the US. But that is irrelevant to the fact that companies like Google have started there.
You have bad programmers everywhere of course. The thing is that when the prices per hour go up you expect the quality to go up. I know that when I pay $50/hour in parts of Europe, Russia, Ukraine I'm getting high quality professionals (depends on the region; it goes anywhere from E40-E300/hr). When I pay $50/hr in India, this has not been my experience at all; price seems to be quite unrelated to quality. The prices rose from $5 to $50 in some cases, but the quality remains quite bad. But don't get me wrong; i'm not trying to say that all coders in India are bad (I know this would be a very stupid remark indeed); i'm only talking about the mass outsourcing factories I worked with in India (for clients, paid by clients) compared to the EU/East EU ones. I was trying to make the mass out sourcing link argument which i'm seeing; price/quality are (starting to) be off compared to the EU so people looking to hire are more prone to hire locally.
Rather than thinking the chinese as just competition, we should also think of them as a world asset.
I'm sure it'll be great for the world and all, but what happens when they aren't quite as thankful for you as you are for them?
There's a little sign up the the tax assessor's office here that says something to the effect of if you're about to do something around your house and you're not sure if you need a permit, you probably do.
So, "only in China" then?
I know a couple people who have built and flown questionably safe ultralights without a knock from homeland security and many, many people who have built gigantic contraptions/vehicles for Burning Man that are just as crazy as anything presented here.
DIYers have a ton of freedom. As soon as you start commercializing and selling them- that's when you run into red tape.
"Underwater shock waves produced by the explosion stun the fish and cause their swim bladders to rupture. This rupturing causes an abrupt loss of buoyancy; a small number of fish float to the surface, but most sink to the sea floor. The explosions indiscriminately kill large numbers of fish and other marine organisms in the vicinity and can damage or destroy the physical environment, including extensive damage to coral reefs" 
Things are tough all over. Now that I apparently have your permission, maybe I'll go camp out in Bill Gates's back yard tonight and spotlight some deer.
If the fish aren't biting and your children are starving, you're going to do what you have to do.
Here is a story about a UK teen who asked a Formula One team to help him with a fake arm. They didn't give him any money, but they helped with fundraising and engineering and he has an amazing arm now.
Compare that to this YouTube video of people making false arms out of old soda bottles.
That noted, there are some pretty incredible achievements by people missing both hands/arms. One that springs to mind is Jessica Cox (via reddit iama), who is both a black-belt in Taekwondo, and has a pilots licence.
edit: I actually have some rights to have an opinion, as I'm a licensed pilot and an experimental aircraft owner.
And wooden blades might not be so crazy. Apparently, the Bell 47 heli uses wooden blades, and the Kaman K-MAX use a wood/fiberglass construction for the rotor: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaman_K-MAX
Smaller props for airboats and such are sometimes made of wood, but the stresses involved might be different.
I know model RC helis often use wooden blades too, but the difference in scale and safety requirements would make that a moot point, I guess.
Some of the other pictures, like the artificial arms, are far more worthy of merit.
I suspect the hopeless cases are vastly over-represented because they make for an easy news story fluff piece. Actual innovation is frequently subtle and boring unless you look at the detail.
I think jdietrich has a point about the implication that this is a Chinese specific phenomenon. Every country has people working on projects like this. I'm in New Zealand and we got jetpacks and cruise missiles made by guys working in sheds. Neither the crazy people nor the brilliant geniuses are representative of the population as a whole.
However, two remarks:
1) That first plane really does not look like it can fly (and it also says the test flight failed). Thin carboard wings!
2) The riksha pulling robot: What is that between its legs? :)
Don't you want your own submarine? I do.
Check out this homemade Russian sub. Great pics.
Politics aside. DIY still implies the same thing as it would in Popular Mechanics here in the US (something simple that all of us can do, under a budget).
5 reminds me of the Red Bull Flugtag