The Aggregate Weekly Newsletter🔬September 9th, 2019

Hello! I am Lars E. Schonander, a writer for MediaFile and a blogger on international affairs, tech, and general wonkery. Happy Monday! Here is my weekly newsletter with a weekly analysis with interesting data, along with links related to things I found particularly interesting that week. Any Questions? Send me a message or just respond to this email!

The Weekly Data:

For this week, due to the Hong Kong protests I decided to a topic related to China. I have been following some protesters from Hong Kong, particularly Wilfred Chen, mainly because he does a great job at skewering the critics of the Hong Kong protesters and has provided great insight on the nature of the protests.

Regarding the dataset, on his feed I discovered a organization called China Labour Bulletin, which is based on Hong Kong. What China Labour Bulletin does is report on the various worker right abuses that occur to Chinese workers, from not getting paid, poor worker conditions, and many other things that affect the quality of the average laborer in China.

They have a map that displays strikes in China, which they collected from around 2011 to 2019. This data however, can be exported to a CSV file, so it can be further analyzed.

To begin, I simply counted the latitude and longitude coordinates for each event, and then binned them using a hex map.

While somewhat of a population map in practice, one notes that several historic Chinese industrial trends are notable. The south with the most strikes represents the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, which became one of the richest parts of China i the 80’s and beyond due to the special economic privilege that Deng Xiaoping granted to Shenzhen. The coast versus interior divide can also be seen on this map, with more activity generally occurring on China’s coastline versus the interior provinces. The exception to the divide is the city of Chongqing, which is actually one of the most populous cities in China and is actually under direct rule by the Chinese government, much like Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin, which makes Chongqing the exception because it’s not on the coast. For reference to how prestigious the city was in the past, during WW2 the Nationalist government of China move the capital to Chongqing.

On the empty side, it is noticeable that most of Tibet is empty, along with the Manchurian provinces, and that northwestern China past Gansu province is pretty sparse, sans some strikes in Xinjiang.

However, if one looks at the provincial level, the above patterns look more noticeable.

As seen, Guangdong province, which contains Shenzhen and borders Hong Kong, has far more strikes than the other provinces. While this can be true because of the sheer productivity of the province, it can also be explained because the China Labour Bulletin is based in Hong Kong, so it’s easier to get information about strikes in Guangdong then any other province.

Finally, I took a look at the most common reasons to strike. This data was nested, so it needed to be unnested and counted in a fashion that counted the same event multiple times if the strike had multiple reasons for occurring.

As seen below, the most common reason for a strike was because of wage arrears which in this case would be salary payments that were overdue because they were missing.

It should be noted that China despite being a communist nation in theory in practice things can be a bit … strange. This ranges from the Chinese government cracking down on Marxist organizers, to Chinese workers establishing unions, and then officials being less then happy about the prospect of a labor union.

Now, some links…

Ben Thompson (Stratechery): What is a Tech Company?

At first glance, WeWork and Peloton, which both released their S-1s in recent weeks, don’t have much in common: one company rents empty buildings and converts them into office space, and the other sells home fitness equipment and streaming classes. Both, though, have prompted the same question: is this a tech company?

Of course, it is fair to ask, “What isn’t a tech company?” Surely that is the endpoint of software eating the world; I think, though, to classify a company as a tech company because it utilizes software is just as unhelpful today as it would have been decades ago.

Rand Corporation: The Future of Fentanyl and Other Synthetic Opioids

Deaths involving synthetic opioids in the United States increased from roughly 3,000 in 2013 to more than 30,000 in 2018. In fact, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are now involved in twice as many deaths as heroin. This book offers a systematic assessment of the past, present, and possible futures of synthetic opioids in the United States. It is rooted in secondary data analysis, literature reviews, international case studies, and key informant interviews. The goal is to provide decision makers, researchers, media outlets, and the public with insights intended to improve their understanding of the synthetic opioid problem and how to respond to it.

Neal Stephenson: In the Beginning was the Command Line

With one exception, that is: Linux, which is right next door, and which is not a business at all. It’s a bunch of RVs, yurts, tepees, and geodesic domes set up in a field and organized by consensus. The people who live there are making tanks. These are not old-fashioned, cast-iron Soviet tanks; these are more like the M1 tanks of the U.S. Army, made of space-age materials and jammed with sophisticated technology from one end to the other. But they are better than Army tanks. They’ve been modified in such a way that they never, ever break down, are light and maneuverable enough to use on ordinary streets, and use no more fuel than a subcompact car. These tanks are being cranked out, on the spot, at a terrific pace, and a vast number of them are lined up along the edge of the road with keys in the ignition. Anyone who wants can simply climb into one and drive it away for free.

Leo Lewis (Financial Times): Hideo Kojima on ‘Death Stranding’ and the art of cinematic video games

For over an hour now, Hideo Kojima has been valiantly trying to stick to his own rules. But the craftsman’s pride is clearly under strain. The legendary gamesmaker has agreed to an FT interview on the understanding it will not delve too deeply into Death Stranding – a title trading heavily on pre-release mystique, that ranks, for many reasons, among the most anticipated video games of all time. But, finally, Kojima’s resolve seems to break.

“Death Stranding… even now, I don’t understand the game,” he pretends to confide, still giving nothing away. “Its world view, gameplay, they are all new. My mission is to create a genre that does not currently exist, and which takes everyone by surprise. There is, naturally, a risk in that…”

Michael Bang Petersen,Mathias Osmundsen, & Kevin Arceneaux (PsyArXiv): A“Need for Chaos” and the Sharing of Hostile Political Rumors in Advanced Democracies

The circulation of hostile political rumors (including but not limited to false news and conspiracy theories) has gained prominence in public debates across advanced democracies. Here, we provide the first comprehensive assessment of the psychological syndrome that elicits motivations to share hostile political rumors among citizens of democratic societies. Against the notion that sharing occurs to help one mainstream political actor in the increasingly polarized electoral competition against other mainstream actors, we demonstrate that sharing motivations are associated with ‘chaotic’ motivations to “burn down” the entire established democratic ‘cosmos’.

What I’m Reading

Image result for deviant globalization

For a class on globalization I am currently taking, one of the required books is Nils Gilman, Jesse Goldhammer, and Steven Weber’s book, Deviant Globalization. While I have seen Nils Gilman expound on this concept on Twitter before, along with the idea of the plutocratic insurgency, actually reading and devouring the book gave me a new perspective on all the dark things that have occured in the world because of globalization, from trafficking of various sorts, to the destruction of the environment.

Oddly enough, the idea of deviant globalization reminds me of an idea that the French postmodernist Paul Virilio had on the negative impacts on technology. One idea that Virilo had is that the creation of a new piece of technology also creates its capability of doing harm. The creation of the airplane for example, creates the idea of the airplane hijacking. In this case, the enacting of globalization also paves way for it’s dark inverse, which uses the same mechanisms that regular globalization uses, except for dark means.

What I’m Working On

I’m starting to write my economics thesis, which I have decided will be on Git and GitHub, and the power that company’s back standards have on the adoption of tools. I been always wondering why Git has become the dominant form of VCS, so this will be a an excellent way to explore this question.

The resources I’m using to figure this out range from classic works from A Theory of Interdependent Demand for a Communications Service from Bell Labs in the seventies, the work Hal R. Varian, Google economist did on standards, to more techy resources like Gwern and Joel Spolsky’s idea on commoditizing your complement.

I have to thank Nadia Eghbal for responding to a email I sent to her at the end of last year providing me with some good initial suggestions. You should follow her.


Thanks for taking the time to read this, I will be back next Monday. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter or reach out via email.