Tech, Photo Opps and the Great Wall
Decimated by the very steep incline of our hike up a particularly difficult section of the Great Wall, I leaned against the railing to rest. A few minutes later, three Chinese students approached me with the semi-universal hand motion for wanting a photo.
I stepped away from the rail so that I could best capture their likeness against the magnificent panoramic view behind them. But, they quickly motioned for me to switch positions. In fact, I had completely misinterpreted the situation. It wasn’t that they wanted me to take a picture of them — instead they wanted me to be in a picture with them. As my Beijing-born wife later explained, “This was probably the first time they had seen a person who isn’t Asian in real life.”
One of the goals of this trip to China has been to learn more about how the country is embracing startup-inspired thinking that we have typically associated with the West. But the episode at the Great Wall helped put all this thinking into a slightly more realistic context.
Yes, large pockets of innovation are growing and thriving in many areas of this country. However, the massively uneven pace of change (here and elsewhere) makes it easy to forget the importance of devices that we now essentially take for granted. For many, a camera-equipped smartphone brings insights and opportunities that may have been completely impossible just a few short years ago.