Category Archives: 读书笔记

What aspect of Chinese characteristics contributed to its huge population throughout history?

Interesting question and answers

Answer by Andy Lee Chaisiri:

Chinese technology was 1,000+ years ahead of everyone else

Like this, but with horses and rice.

Imagine if today's crops suddenly became 30x more productive, that would cause a population boom, right? Agriculture is how human populations exploded in size compared to hunter-gatherer civilizations. So let's talk about some of those tools of agriculture and how population booms were achieved in an era of horse and plow:

Seed Drill: "What if we planted the seeds under the soil?"

Seed drills are tools that bury seeds at a correct depth in a timely manner. Planting seeds at a good depth increases the chances of an individual seed sprouting, without being eaten by birds. The use of seed drills also allows for planting in nice orderly rows with good spacing so the sprouting plants have enough room to draw nutrients from the soil without mutually starving each other. Not every grain will germinate, but using seed drills to plant crops in rows increases the chances of any individual grain germinating. This allows you to eat more grains because you know only a small quantity is needed to replant fields.

Chinese were using metal multi-tubed seed drills as early as 200BC. Seed drills make an appearance in Europe in 1566AD, about 1700 years after their appearance in China. As for how they were planting seeds before that…

Limbourg Brothers for the Duc de Berry (ca. 1415) 'Les Tres Riches Heures

You had a guy with a bag of seeds planting them by hand, then another guy rakes over the earth to cover them. That method leaves a lot of seeds exposed to be eaten by birds, or are planted too shallow to germinate. The crops that do germinate will be competing with other plants that are growing too close to it, and weeding the fields becomes very difficult, if not a waste of time. Out of the grains you wind up harvesting, a larger amount has to be partitioned for future planting, thus less are eaten.

Compared to this hand planting method, using a seed drill to plant crops in rows is 10x-30x more efficient in terms of how much grain you can harvest vs needing to save them for the next planting.

Iron Mouldboard Plough: "Metal cuts better than wood?"

Imagine a plough. You'd probably think of something made out of metal (perhaps with a wedge) right? Well, plows weren't always like that. The earliest ploughs in human history were basically a plank of wood that you knifed into the ground. Around 300BC, Chinese started using plows that were shaped in a way that they simultaneously cut into the earth and turned it too by 100CE, they were made entirely out of iron. Turning the earth is important for getting more nutrients out of your land, and can even turn 'barren' land fertile. 

Around 400AD, a similar mouldboard plow appears in the Roman empire, but widespread adoption is delayed with the fall of the empire. In 1700AD Dutch traders brought Chinese iron mouldboard plows back to Europe, and an agricultural revolution soon followed. Now, what was plowing like without an iron mouldboard plough?

A painting from the 16th century showing a farmer at work, by Pieter Brugel

That is a piece of wood being used to slice into the ground. Because that wooden plough doesn't have a mouldboard the cut soil needs to be tilled through further labor. Iron was expensive and labor intensive to produce, so at best you would have a thin sheet of iron covering the edge of your mostly wooden plough.

So, why did Chinese have all of these iron agricultural tools centuries earlier than Europeans? Because their methods of iron (& steel) production were also centuries ahead.

Blast Furnace: "Like baking a sponge cake made of iron"

The Iron Age is considered to have begun around 1700-1500BC. To extract iron from an ore of iron oxide, the iron has to be separated from oxygen and other impurities in a high temperature process which takes carbon to extract the oxygen out of the ore as carbon dioxide. This is called 'smelting'.

The earliest smelting of iron ore was done at temperatures below the melting point of iron. This left a spongy mass of iron that needed to be shaped by hammering, a very work intensive process.

But some time around 600BC, Chinese developed a furnace that could create a heat intense enough to melt iron, the blast furnace. Once liquified, iron could be poured into casts already in the shape of tools that were needed. The iron casting industry was officially supported by dynastic governments, leading to widespread adoption of iron tools made to a standard.

Now a special note about the difference between iron and steel. Cast iron is very high in carbon content, making it hard but brittle. Steel is iron that has a perfect balance of carbon to retain an edge but also maintain just enough flexibility to avoid brittleness. Around 200BC, Chinese learned that if air was blown over iron as it was being cast the carbon content could be reduced and what you wound up with was steel. Around 600AD steel tools began to widely replace iron ones.

The earliest evidence of blast furnaces in Europe is 1100AD, with widespread adoption occuring in 1400AD. The process of creating steel I described above first appears in the western world in 1855, and there's some contention that the 'inventor' may have actually gotten the idea from Chinese workers in the US.

As another illustration of the difference in iron production, by 1078AD the foundries of northern China could produce 114,000 tons of iron a year. In 1788AD, England produced about 50,000 tons of iron.

Horse Collar: "Over 1,000 years of choking horses"

Imagine a horse pulling a plough. Now, how did you imagine that plough being attached to the horse, with a horse collar, right? Unfortunately for horses, before the collar was invented there was the throat girth harness, which sounds as awful as it is. A plough (or any other load) attached by a throat-girth harness means that a horse is basically pulling with a noose around his trachea. Around 300BC, someone in China thought "What if the horse pulled with its chest instead of its throat?" and so the breast-strap harness was born and horses across China breathed a sigh of relief. This was improved on in 500AD with the horse collar as we know it.

The breast strap harness appears in Russia in 700AD, and shows up further west in Norway around 800AD. The horse collar appears a bit later in 900AD, with widespread adoption by 1200AD.


The difference between China and Europe's population levels throughout history is the difference between their agricultural technology. China had time saving, force multiplying tools (that didn't strangle horses) for centuries, even millenia before adoption in Europe.

What aspect of Chinese characteristics contributed to its huge population throughout history?

今天在用人人网的时候,突然想到上学时候学的政治课,马克思的《资本论》里面讲到过社会发展的规律,和目前我们在做的SNS有一些指导意义。
翻箱倒柜的找了半天,都没有找到以前的政治课本,于是到网络上搜了一段描述,用来对比。

社会发展的动力与规律
转自维基百科 http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/历史唯物主义
历史唯物主义认为:生产力和生产关系之间的矛盾,经济基础和上层建筑之间的矛盾,这是人类社会的基本矛盾。这两对矛盾存在于一切社会形态之中,贯穿于每一个社会形态的始终,决定着其他各种社会矛盾,是推动社会发展的基本动力,决定着社会历史的一般进程。
在我们这里,技术架构是生产力,业务功能是生产关系。
生产力和生产关系的辩证关系是:
生产力决定生产关系:生产力对生产关系起着决定作用、支配作用,其主要表现在两个方面:第一,生产力的性质决定生产关系的性质。第二,生产力的发展变化决定生产关系的改变。
生产关系反作用于生产力:这种反作用表现为两种情况:第一,适合生产力的性质和发展要求的先进的生产关系,促进生产力的发展;第二,不适合生产力的性质和发展要求的落后的生产关系,阻碍生产力的发展。
生产力和生产关系之间的矛盾运动:生产力和生产关系之间的矛盾,在生产发展的不同阶段具有不同的情况。在一种生产关系产生和确立后的一段时间内,它与生产力的性质和发展要求是基本适合的,对生产力的发展具有积极的推动作用,促进生产力以前所未有的速度向前发展。虽然这时生产力和生产关系之间也有矛盾,人们也会自觉或不自觉地对生产关系作某些调整,但却不会引起生产关系的根本变革。
在我们这里,用户行为是经济基础,盈利模式是上层建筑。
经济基础和上层建筑的辩证关系是:
经济基础决定上层建筑。首先,经济基础的性质决定上层建筑的性质,一定的上层建筑总是为了适应一定的经济基础的需要而建立起来的;经济上占统治地位的阶级,必然在国家政权和意识形式上占统治地位。第二,经济基础的变革决定上层建筑的变革,当经济基础发生变革后,上层建筑迟早会发生变革,以求得与经济基础相适应,经济基础的变化发展还规定着上层建筑变化发展的方向。
上层建筑对经济基础具有能动的反作用。这种反作用表现为,上层建筑为经济基础提供政治保障和意识形态形式。这种反作用,取决于上层建筑所服务的经济基础的性质。当上层建筑适合于经济基础的要求时,它就起到巩固经济基础和促进生产力发展的作用。当上层建筑不适应经济基础的要求时,它就起到阻碍和生产力发展的作用。
经济基础和上层建筑的矛盾运动:经济基础和上层建筑的相互作用,表现为经济基础对上层建筑的决定作用和上层建筑对经济基础的反作用。经济基础的决定作用,是第一性的;上层建筑的反作用是第二性的。经济基础的决定作用是根本性的;上层建筑的反作用是派生的和从属的。经济基础的决定作用与上层建筑的反作用,构成二者之间的矛盾运动,体现为上层建筑必须适合经济基础发展的基本规律。

读书笔记 2010.03.15

第二部分,执行的要素
我理解这一步分讲的是一些基础组件,有了这些基础组件就可以搭建起执行的大楼。
首先第三章讲的是自己,首先要严格要求自己:
自己要了解人
自己要了解事
自己要明确方向
自己要跟进
自己要赏罚分明
自己要培养下属
自己要了解自己
书上是用例子解释的上面这些基本素质的,但是要都做到,真得不容易。

第四章讲的是文化,一个人可以严格要求自己,一群人一起,就会形成文化。
如何建立执行的文化,首先要统一价值观,其次是建立奖惩制度并贯彻。
在这章里面,多次提到“情感强度”。比较低的情感强度是执行的阻力。

更新笔记 2010.03.08

今天更新,在过程中有很多的想法,记录几句话:

首先进度计划的太紧了,这是后续各种困难的来源。

比较复杂的问题,一般都是人和人的问题。
沟通大概要花一半的时间,而灵感只需要5分钟。
代码,画时间最多的,不是最复杂的部分,是最枯燥的部分。
遵守约定很重要,可以极大的提高效率。

读书笔记 2010.03.06

今天听管理培训课程,收获颇多。

第一个收获是,能力和意愿的循环关系。
第二个收获是,智力工作者掌握生产工具,与传统工人不同。
第三个收获是,要因人因事而异的做出判断,管理没有对错。

讲课的王老师好像住的离我家很近。

读书笔记 2010.03.05

今天回家比较晚,只有20分钟时间读书。

第三章开始,讲的是执行的要素,只看了1/3的1/7:了解。了解真的很难,了解事,了解人,还要了解人和事之间的关系。
增进了解的各个例子,讲的都是沟通。不同的情景采用了不同的沟通方式。

2/7是“事实”,这7个基本行为,很困难。读起来比较慢。
争取周末都看完,下周可以尝试改变,提高生产力。

读书笔记 2010.03.04

今天读书50分钟,读完了第一部分,共两章。

读《执行》的第一章,有一个让我印象很深刻的比喻,执行是Missing Link。从猿到人的进化过程中,缺少关键的化石证据。在从计划到完成的过程中,同样缺少一个关键的步骤,就是执行。两者都是公认的存在,也都同样难以量化。
这一章有一段话,说关于实施微观化管理,我理解就是亲力亲为。我联想到了今天在更新时候遇到的推进问题,明天开始要想个办法,让每个人的劲往一处使,心往一处想。

第二章,执行文化带来的区别,全都是事例。每一个事例阐述了“执行”的一方面作用。执行,可以及早的发现问题;执行,可以知道计划很难执行;执行,可以知道自己的实力;执行,要将力量整合在一起。

想想以前的团队,每次讨论都在努力达成一个效率最高的方案,并且可以迅速的开展,在进度中还经常会调整具体方案。最终的结果,总是与最初的目标相同。是什么赋予了每个人这样的力量呢?

读书笔记 2010.03.03

读书20分钟,遇到很多问题。记录以备将来参考。
读的是《执行》,Larry Bossidy+Ram Charan著,上周项目组述职时候拿到的。

之前自己对“执行”的关注局限在如何提高执行的效率。今天的20分钟,看过目录和导言,我认为这是一本写给高级管理者(即领导)的书,而我现在还是在做具体事情的角色。对日常工作的直接指导意义不会很显著。

第一章开端的第一个例子,是个失败的例子。标准、制度、战略、市场、人员、目标、激励、信心,以上这些都没有让目标达成。
这引起了我的兴趣,因为我们正在做“激励”,做“制度”,做“标准”。

我想前两章在阐述“执行的重要性”的同时,会有很多具体的例子。明天继续读。