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'Wired' founder on Chinese creativity

China | Technology

You will find one thing in common on store shelves almost anywhere in the world: a wide range of goods from clothing to electronics that carry the stamp “Made in China”.  On the other hand, it would be hard to purchase a finished product made locally in any given retailer around the world.

And harder still would be to find any modern product stamped “Created in China”. And that is a situtation that looks likely to last, at least for a while.

Despite a few zigs and zags over the last one hundred years, the Chinese have stayed consistently on the path of learning from what they refer to as "the developed societies". Imitation seems inevitable in this learning process, but even the very best imitation is not creation. The learning process will not definitely result in creating something.     

The gap between imitation and creation could be compared to the gap between a book and its translation. A book about technology that was translated into Chinese in 2010 is just such a case. The gap might not only be related to the time difference but also to the ideas about creation.


Kevin Kelly is the founding Executive Editor of Wired, an American magazine devoted to reporting on the trends in technology and how they affect the broader society. When his new book What Technology Wants was published in October 2010, one of Kelly’s old works just came out in Chinese.

It is Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World, published in America as early as in 1994. In the eyes of Chris Anderson, the current Editor of Wired, Out of Control is perhaps the most important book of the 1990s. Some significant worldwide phenomena such as the rise of the Internet and the diffusion of democracy and decentralization since the mid-1990s were both anticipated and illuminated in this book.

In late 2010, Kelly visited China promoting the Chinese edition of Out of Control. The Chinese audiences began to know about Kelly’s ideas. In addition to Out of Control, some of the interviews and articles about him in English were translated into Chinese.

So far, the media reports in the Chinese-speaking world about Kelly and his ideas are largely a basic introduction. It is not uncommon for the people who’re interested in the current trends in technology to start speaking about this “éminence grise of Silicon Valley”. But as for what on earth Kelly’s ideas are about, what background they are situated in and what they would mean to one’s own life, it appears not very clear.

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