Missives from China

by alkjashRadimentary1 min read17th Feb 20184 comments

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Driving in China

You’ve heard of the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma. But have you heard of Iterated Chicken?

Heat Lag

Day 4: Temperature is experienced differently here. People wear wool coats over turtlenecks in 70 degree weather. Counted two other people wearing T-shirts out of thousands.

Day 5: It’s freezing out. I really miss my winter coat.

A Fatal Error

Two days before Chinese New Year, I went to the supermarket and bought my own snacks.

Feeling Like a Native

A man on a moped asked me for directions today. To the place I was walking.

Evolution of Fashion

Day 2: Two cute little girls seen wearing spinning pinwheels in their hair.

Day 3: Every little girl is wearing them.

Day 4: Boy spotted wearing pinwheel. Two girls spotted wearing double pinwheels.

Day 5: Grown ass women with rainbow pinwheels in their hair.

Blood, Sweat and Tears

Would anyone attempt this mountain if the height of its summit could be perceived from the base?

Feeling Attractive

Watched too many Asian idol dramas recently. Average Chinese people are pleasingly homely in comparison.

An Electrifying Coincidence

My wife is from Edison, New Jersey. Her ancestors brought the light bulb to China.

Feeling Like a Native, Part 2

Out of place on a crowded street. Overheard dialects from all over China. Realized Chinese people are tourists, even in China. I’m right at home.

4 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 11:18 AM
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This is great and comical. But does it belong here?

It’s the personal blog section, it’s all good.

I've thought a lot about iterated chicken, especially in the presence of agent variations.

I suspect the local long term iteration between a rememberable (sub-Dunbar?) number of agents leads to pecking orders, and widespread iteration in crowds of "similarly different" agents leads to something like "class systems".

For example, in the US, I think every human knows to get out of the way of things that look like buses, because that class of vehicles expects to be able to throw its weight around. Relatedly, the only time a Google car has ever been in a fender bender where it could be read as "at fault" using local human norms was when it was nosing out into traffic and assumed a bus would either yield or swing wide because of the car's positional priority.

What have you noticed about chinese traffic patterns? :-)

I'd be pleased if social pecking orders do form out of iterated chicken. I'm really curious what happens in the absence of agent variations. Are there standard examples of iterated chicken in social interaction? The story of who of my wife and I does the cleaning, e.g., was until recently an iterated game of "who can stand the gunk the longest," and I feel like a number of recurrent social interactions such as awkward silences might be recast into such a framework.

The Chinese traffic pattern I was referring to: we drove down a bunch of one-lane two-way roads in the city with just barely enough space to pull over and let other cars squeeze through. A number of times we were just barrelling down these streets at each other and stopping to pull over way past the time I would have wanted to.

There's a similar interaction with pedestrians; oftentimes pedestrians will just walk into a smaller street without a crosswalk despite the eminently visible incoming vehicle with no signs of stopping, and expect the vehicle to slow down for them.