We recently stayed a few days in Shenzhen, China, the tech capital of the world. I’ve read that 90% of the world’s electronics are built here. It is indeed home of the largest Foxconn factory and maker of the iPhone.
Our hotel was therefore not-surprisingly high-tech. There is a robot butler that will deliver certain things to your room, such as a replacement toothbrush. I nearly bumped into one as it was coming out of the elevator. It stopped as soon as it detected me and our near-collision.
All of the light switches in our room are capacitive-touch switches instead of mechanical ones. Any contact with the plate will illuminate all of the available switches.
In the ceiling of the room is a passive IR sensor with a light sensor to detect our presence in the room. When we aren’t there during the day, eventually the blackout curtains close to keep out the sub-tropical sunlight, any lights that are turned on are turned off, and the AC adjusts for efficiency.
The control of all of these smart technologies is very cheap and even cheaper in Shenzhen and more importantly, the area is rich with skilled labor for such things, which is a big reason Apple has their devices built here; the hardware is readily available and there is a large, affordable, highly-skilled workforce available as well.
This is why I agree with Mike Rowe’s emphasis on developing trade skills, even as (or especially as) a stepping stone towards a deeper and formal education. At the macro level, a country needs a solid base of affordable workers skilled in a specific trade that has growth potential for the country. For example; China has strategically positioned itself as the worlds manufacturer by emphasizing technical tradecraft and that is bringing wealth to the area.
While walking through a local shopping area in Shenzhen, my wife and I talked about how people in the West (our former-selves included) underestimate just how developed many areas of China are. It’s not a backwater, backwards nation. There is a lot of wealth and development that makes life in China comfortable and productive.
There is, of course, plenty of wealth disparity and China is still up-and-coming. In Shenzhen, I couldn’t count all the cranes erecting massive housing and business towers and the haze from massively productive factories is ever-present. But they are also getting smarter about that haze and about the general health of the environment over-all. Recently China stopped accepting trash from a lot of countries—a move towards a cleaner China.