Archive for the ‘China’ category


Stanley Moss’s latest Global Brand Letter out now

10.01.2022

Finally, a happier post. For many years (since 2004), my dear friend Stanley Moss has been publishing his Global Brand Letter, which is not only a wonderful summary of the year (or the last half-year, since he often writes every six months) in branding, but an excellent record of the evolution of culture.
   He has finished his latest and, for the first time, he has allowed me to host a copy for you to download and read (below). I commend it to you highly. Keep an eye out for future issues, while past ones can be found on his website at www.diganzi.com.

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Posted in business, China, culture, design, globalization, interests, internet, marketing, media, publishing, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »


Lucire’s Twitter account is back

17.12.2021

I can’t yet reveal why, but I’ve come across the work of Hong Kong-trained and based designer Caroline Li, and it’s really good. She’s done a lot of book covers, and I know first-hand how hard it is to have a small canvas to work from. Maybe I’m just used to magazines. Check out her work here.

After nearly two months, Lucire’s Twitter account has been restored.
   Earlier in the week, they had requested—again—that I upload my ID to prove that I was who I said I was, despite this having been done countless times already in the past two months.
   Today, I received another ‘it appears that this issue may have been resolved.’ I had my doubts and was about to send them a reply giving them a piece of my mind, but I checked, and sure enough, Lucire’s account was back.
   I don’t know if my letter to Twitter New Zealand Ltd.’s directors, via their lawyers, did the trick, or whether my private information finally reached someone literate with reasonable intelligence.
   I gave the lawyers till today (the 17th) to respond, though the timing of the resolution could be a coincidence.
   It showed just how terrible Twitter’s systems have been and how right I was to call the entire process farcical.
   To think that Facebook did better when Lucire’s Instagram was deactivated, and we were only out for a week. And I have had plenty to say about Facebook over the years, as you all know.
   It’s a shame that we never got to play with Zoho Social’s premium version trial with all our social media accounts intact. I just hope that now that we’ve reactivated all our gadgets (IFTTT, Dlvr.it, etc.), that they work as they once did. (As they certainly didn’t when we used our temporary @luciremagazine account on Twitter.)

When I was waiting for my new phone to arrive, I didn’t know what all the DHL status updates meant. I looked online to see if I could get a clue as to how long each stage took, especially the “last mile” delivery. There were very few screenshots or public traces. Here’s the trace from my package in case it helps someone else the same boat. (Vivaldi put the DHL website header near the bottom when I made the screenshot.)

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Posted in business, China, design, Hong Kong, internet, New Zealand, technology | 1 Comment »


Xiaomi’s tiny idiosyncracies

11.12.2021

There were a few surprises switching to Xiaomi.
   First up, it asked me to do a voice identification by saying these four words, 小爱同學. Only thing is, it doesn’t understand Cantonese.

   The default weather app was able to give me details based on exactly where I am (location service turned on, and I was given fair warning that it would be). That’s superior to Meizu’s default weather app, and the after-market Android one I downloaded years ago for my old Meizu M2 Note.

   This was a bit disturbing for a Chinese-spec phone: there’s still a Google app in there. I wonder if it sent anything before I restricted it, then deleted it. Permissions included being able to read your contacts’ list. I didn’t agree to Google getting anything.

   It prompted me to turn on the phone finder, even after we had established that I’m in New Zealand and everything was being done in English. Nek minnit:

   I’m finding it remarkable that a 2021 phone does not incorporate the time zone into file dates. I expected this to have been remedied years ago, but I was surprised to see that the photos I took, while the phone was on NZDT, had their timestamp without the UTC plus-13 offset. As a result, I’ve had to set the phone to UTC as I’ve had to do with all prior phones for consistency with my computers’ work files. The plus side: unlike my previous two phones, I can specify UTC rather than a location that might be subject to daylight saving.
   Unlike the M2 Note, but like the M6 Note, it doesn’t remember my preferred mode when it’s being charged by a computer via USB. I have to set it every time. The newer the technology, the more forgetful?
   Otherwise it’s proved to be a very practical successor to the Meizus, MIUI is prettier than Flyme (although I’m missing that skin’s translation features and the ability to select text and images regardless of the program via Aicy), and on the whole it’s doing what I ask of it, even picking 5G in town. Importantly, it receives calls and SMSs, and the battery isn’t swelling up.

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Some surprises on day one with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 5G

07.12.2021



Top: Decent enough specs for the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 5G. Above: Very respectable download speeds (in the header) as the phone updates 71 apps.

My Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 5G is here, and it’s proved better than the reviews suggested.
   First up, kudos to the seller, YouGeek on Aliexpress, who not only double-checked to see that I wanted the Chinese version, but was considerate enough to send me, without any prompting, a New Zealand power adapter. The wrapping was the most secure I’ve ever seen from any Aliexpress vendor, like a hefty transparent Michelin man.
   DHL did the delivery two days ahead of schedule, which pleased me no end.
   The phone itself surprised me. I imagined 6·53 inches would be too big and 199 g too heavy, but neither has come to pass. It’s marginally taller than the outgoing Meizus but not ridiculously so, and as I have large hands, the width is fine. I haven’t noticed the weight increase, either.
   The blue finish, which isn’t available on the export Note 9T 5G, is probably the best colour of the three on offer, and frankly I don’t care if the back is plastic or metal. As long as it keeps the bits inside, it’s fine.
   What also isn’t on offer for export is precisely these specs: MediaTek Dimensity 800U running at a maximum of 2·4 GHz, 6 Gbyte of RAM, and 128 Gbyte of internal storage. The model code is M2007J22C.
   Other surprises: it’s Android 11 (security update, October 1, 2021) running MIUI 12·5. Now, whether it was straight out of the box, I can’t swear to, since it prompted me to do an update not too long after I switched on and logged in.
   It did try to get me to give a voice print to unlock its features by saying four Chinese words. Naturally I said them, but it seems Xiaomi doesn’t recognize Cantonese! The fingerprint scanner wasn’t that easy to set up—it took numerous attempts before it recognized my finger—but I got there, and now it’s programmed, the home screen does launch quickly.
   The first order of business was to take myself off ad personalization (so easy, they even take you to the screen during set-up), then download Bromite as the browser, to stop using the clumsy default; and replace Sogou keyboard with Microsoft Swiftkey. The rest was getting the apps to mirror the old phones’, which was pretty simple thanks to various APK sites such as APK Pure. The only one that did not function at all (a blank screen after the logo) was Instagram, but you expect Facebook, Inc. products to be buggy. An Uptodown download of a version from June 2021 solved that.
   Despite what other reviewers found, I discovered that the watermark on the photos was switched off by default. I’ve seen the grand total of one advertisement on the default apps, so the notion that Xiaomi is heavily ad-driven doesn’t seem to be the case with mine. There is a possibility that the combination of Chinese spec, English language, and a New Zealand IP address isn’t one that advertisers want to reach. There are far fewer app notifications than I got on the Meizus.
   After updating the OS, there were 71 apps that also needed the same treatment. Those came down at lightning speeds, even on wifi, at over 20 Mbyte/s.
   I’ve synced my messages, call logs and contacts, though surprisingly the phone could not work out that the New Zealand 02 numbers were the same as +64 2, and those had to be manually added. The old Meizu M2 Note had no such trouble back in 2016.
   The default typeface choice in MIUI is much easier on the eyes than the default Android fonts.
   Interestingly, the default music player here also fails to pick up local music on an SD card, rendering it useless, much like Meizu’s (are they copying one another, to have the same bug?). Once again, it was InShot’s Music Player to the rescue, and it works fine here. Sadly, I do have to relink a lot of the album covers.
   Screenshots aren’t as intuitive, as the volume control invariably appears if you do the power–volume switches’ combination, but a screenshot feature in the pull-down menu does the job.
   The battery life is interesting, as I’ve used it for about six hours since it was charged up to 100 per cent, and it fell to 65 per cent in that time. That tells me the 5,000 mAh is good for 18 hours of sustained usage, which included setting up, Bluetooth-linking it to the car and the M2 Note, running apps, using Here Maps for some navigation, and using some mobile data. I haven’t viewed any videos yet, and I don’t play any games. I’ll be interested to see how it fares on a more regular day: earlier reviews had led me to believe it could last over a day. I’m sure it can without the heavy use I’ve put it through in its first six hours.
   I understand that with the pace of change in China, this phone, launched this week one year ago, is already obsolete, but as far as I’m concerned, I hope I’m future-proofed for another six years—that’s how long the M2 lasted before things like its short battery life and inability to receive some calls became an issue. (And this was despite the M6 Note having come into service from 2018 with a short break to get serviced at PB.) It’s been a very pleasing first six hours, without the stress of having to put on a Chinese OS myself, and continuing to be Google-free.

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Posted in China, design, internet, New Zealand, technology | 1 Comment »


Xiaomi’s confusing nomenclature

04.12.2021

I’m starting to understand Xiaomi’s naming conventions but it’s a mess, especially coming from a marketer’s point of view.
   I ordered the Note 9, which is superior to the 9. So far so good.
   But what I’m getting is not what’s called the Note 9 here (or in any export market, from what I can tell). It’s the Note 9T, since it runs the new MediaTek Dimensity 800U and not the “old” MediaTek Helio G85. Here’s hoping the case I ordered through a Chinese vendor is for the correct phone since the two have a different shell.
   It’s not just any Note 9, but the Note 9 5G, which apparently has minor differences between the regular one and the 4G. Will it mean a very different case? Who knows?
   There’s also a Note 9 Pro, which doesn’t have 5G but has some superior specs but only runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G. And that Note 9 Pro is the Note 9 Pro Max in India because what the Indians call the Note 9 Pro is the Note 9S in other export markets.
   Pro doesn’t always mean a better spec in China: the Marvel R crossover, for instance, has four-wheel drive, but the Pro model has rear-wheel drive, although better equipment inside.
   It’s appeared on some British and Philippine sites but one site purporting to show all available variants of the Note 9 (including Chinese ones) doesn’t have this model.
   Out of sheer luck, since I was never after the most powerful, I seem to be on to one of the better phones in the Note 9 line-up. In terms of real-world use, we’ll soon see.
   My Meizu M2 Note (Meilan Note 2) isn’t lasting the day in terms of battery capacity, and it seems to drain very rapidly once you head south of 50-odd per cent. A quick browse of a few pages yesterday, using the 4G, saw it drop from 55 to 42 per cent in minutes, then into the 30s even after I switched off the screen and reception. With that and the missed calls, its successor cannot come a moment too soon, even if that successor weighs 199 g.

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What succeeds my Meizu M6 Note?

29.11.2021

My Meizu M6 Note has had to be retired, due to an expanding battery, something which I probably shouldn’t have tolerated for so long (it began happening months ago). I only made the call to stop using it last week after the volume buttons could no longer function, and I probably should have stopped earlier still* as it would have been easier to get the SIM and micro SD cards out!
   My original plan was to go slightly newer and opt for a Note 9, and I had located a vendor on Aliexpress who was prepared to send it to me with the Chinese Flyme OS installed. But my sense is that Meizu is now past its prime, and everything seems to be shutting down.
   I had been logging into the app store daily for over a year to earn points, but Meizu informed us that it would cease to record log-ins, and we had to redeem what we could by January. Its now-useless default music app I’ve already blogged about. No one answers international queries any more and from what I can tell, official Meizu reps seldom frequent the Chinese forums—while the international forums consist of frustrated users talking among themselves.
   And this is coming from a self-confessed Meizu fan. I chose the M2 Note back in 2015–16 and if it weren’t for the damaged screen, I might never have bought the M6 Note. For now, I’m back to using the M2, which is slower, and the battery doesn’t hold its charge quite as well any more, but at least everything from the M6 Note has synced to it. With my app usage lower than it was in 2012, I don’t notice any real lags in performance within the programs I do use, something that I couldn’t say even two years ago when I was still popping into Instagram daily. Only the camera gets annoying with its slowness. I have gone away from the Swype keyboard though, as Swype no longer sends verification codes to your email to sync your custom word dictionary. I’m muddling my way through Microsoft’s Swiftkey, which has proved a tolerable successor (the chief gains are the ability to access en and em dashes and ellipses from the keyboard without switching languages). It seems to forget that you’ve pressed shift in order to write a proper noun (you have to do this twice for it to stick!) but it is learning words like Lucire and Autocade as well as my email address.
   Readers may recall that after I had the M2 Note’s screen repaired, it would no longer charge, except at the store in Johnsonville (Repair Plus) that fixed it! The lads there would never tell me why they could charge it and I couldn’t and just grinned, while I told them how patently ridiculous the situation was, that even a new charging cable could not work; in fact none of my chargers did. They didn’t seem to care that this was the predicament they put me in. The issue—and I don’t know if they are to blame—is that the charging port is looser than it was, and it needs a very decent micro USB connector. That was thanks to PB Tech for telling me the truth—and a thumbs-down to Repair Plus for not even trying to sell me a better cable! Moral of the story: use people for the one thing that can do, but don’t expect much more from them, not even basic after-sales service.
   With its “fault” remedied about a year and a half ago, I had a phone to use once I put the micro SD and SIM cards back in, though Amanda isn’t able to hear me that clearly on it when I’m at the office, and I’m sure I’ve missed calls and SMSs probably due to limits with the frequencies it uses (though I had checked six years ago it would handle the Vodafone 3G and 4G frequencies).
   So a new phone is needed because the “phone” function of the M2 isn’t up to par. I don’t need the latest and greatest, and thanks to the pace of development, a phone launched in 2020 is already obsolete in China. It seems that if Meizu is on the way down that I should go to its arch-rival, Xiaomi, and get the Note 9’s competitor, which roughly has the same name: the Redmi Note 9.
   The Xiaomi names are all confusing and the Indian market has different phones with the same names, to add to the confusion already out there. I don’t profess to know where the S, T, Note, Pro, and the rest fit, but let’s just say I’ve been led to get a Redmi Note 9.
   PB had first dibs but as the sales’ rep could not tell me whether I could easily put the Chinese version of MIUI on it, in order to rid myself of the Google bloatware, then I couldn’t safely buy one. I wasted enough time on the M6 Note on that front, and my installation of its Chinese OS could well have been down to a fluke. He also refused to tell me the price difference between the sale units and the shop-soiled demo ones other than it was small, and, ‘You may as well buy a new one.’
   There’s no irony here with privacy: Chinese apps at least tell you what legislation covers their usage, unlike western apps which don’t mention US Government snooping yet Google passes on stuff anyway. In all the years I’ve used the Meizus there has been nothing dodgy in terms of the data received and sent, as far as I know, and there’s nothing questionable constantly running such as Google Services that transmits and drains your battery.
   There are some great sites, a number of which are in India, that teach you how to turn off some of Xiaomi’s bloatware’s notifications, but they seldom annoyed me on the Meizu. I’ll soon find out first-hand how good they are.
   Why the Redmi Note 9? It was one of the few on Aliexpress that I could find with the Chinese ROM installed, saving me a lot of effort. I won’t have to root it, for a start. When your choice is down to about half a dozen phones—Aliexpress and Ebay vendors are so keen to get export sales they make it a point not to sell Chinese—you’re guided on price and your daily usage. I’m a firm believer that a phone should not cost the same as a used car. Bonuses: the big battery and the fact it isn’t too bright (that’s just me); detriments: 199 g in weight and a humongous screen.
   The vendor (YouGeek) was conscientious enough to send me a message (along the lines of ‘Are you absolutely sure you want the Chinese version?’) which cost me a couple of days since I don’t always pop back to the site (and you can’t read messages on the phone browser version anyway). Now we’re on the same page, they’ve dispatched the phone. We’ll see how things look in a couple of weeks. There’s no turning back now.

* PS.: From How to Geek: ‘Once you notice the battery is swollen or compromised in any way, you should immediately stop using the device. Turn the power off, and above all else, do not charge the device. Once the battery has reached such a point of failure that the battery is swollen, you must assume that all safety mechanisms in the battery are offline. Charging a swollen battery is literally asking for it to turn into an exploding ball of noxious flammable gas right in your living room.’ I wish I was told this when I first went to PB months ago when the battery began expanding and I enquired about phones.

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Posted in business, China, India, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


November 2021 gallery

06.11.2021

Here are November 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 


 

Notes
Nice to see BoConcept advertise on Lucire’s website (they were an early print advertiser).
   Triumph 1300, Hillman Avenger Super and Range Rover advertisements via the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   More on the Ford Sierra at Autocade.
   Mindfood advertisement on the Lucire website: it might not be worth a lot but I’m still happy to take some money off my colleagues.
   Aston Martin Rapide, photographed by me.
   Audi R8 Typ 42, more at Autocade.
   More on the 1968–70 Dodge Charger at Autocade.
   Mercedes-Benz 280SL pagoda and Fart via George Cochrane on Twitter.
   Renault 15 via the Car Factoids on Twitter.

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GM and Ford keep falling down the top 10 table

30.10.2021

It’s bittersweet to get news of the Chevrolet Corvette from what’s left of GM here in New Zealand, now a specialist importer of cars that are unlikely to sell in any great number. And we’re not unique, as the Sino-American firm pulls out of entire regions, and manufactures basically in China, North America, and South America. Peter Hanenberger’s prediction that there won’t be a GM in the near future appears to be coming true. What’s the bet that the South American ranges will eventually be superseded by Chinese product? Ford is already heading that way.
   Inconceivable? If we go back to 1960, BMC was in the top 10 manufacturers in the world.
   Out of interest, I decided to take four years—1990, 2000, 2010, and 2020—to see who the top 10 car manufacturers were. I haven’t confirmed 1990’s numbers with printed sources (they’re off YouTube) and I don’t know exactly what their measurement criteria are. Auto Katalog 1991–2 only gives country, not world manufacturer, totals and that was my most ready source.
   Tables for 2000 and 2010 come from OICA, when they could be bothered compiling them. The last is from Daily Kanban and the very reliable Bertel Schmitt, though he concedes these are based on units sold, not units produced, due to the lack of data on the latter.

1990
1 GM
2 Ford
3 Toyota
4 Volkswagen
5 Daimler-Benz
6 Mitsubishi
7 Honda
8 Nissan
9 Suzuki
10 Hyundai

2000
1 GM
2 Ford
3 Toyota
4 Volkswagen
5 DaimlerChrysler
6 PSA
7 Fiat
8 Nissan
9 Renault
10 Honda

2010
1 Toyota
2 GM
3 Volkswagen (7,341,065)
4 Hyundai (5,764,918)
5 Ford
6 Nissan (3,982,162)
7 Honda
8 PSA
9 Suzuki
10 Renault (2,716,286)

   If Renault’s and Nissan’s numbers were combined, and they probably should be at this point, then they would form the fourth largest grouping.

2020
1 Toyota
2 Volkswagen
3 Renault Nissan Mitsubishi
4 GM
5 Hyundai
6 Stellantis
7 Honda
8 Ford
9 Daimler
10 Suzuki

   For years we could predict the GM–Ford–Toyota ordering but I still remember the headlines when Toyota edged GM out. GM disputed the figures because it wanted to be seen as the world’s number one. But by 2010 Toyota is firmly in number one and GM makes do with second place. Ford has plummeted to fifth as Volkswagen and Hyundai—by this point having made its own designs for just three and a half decades—overtake it.
   Come 2020, with the American firms’ expertise lying in segment-quitting ahead of competing, they’ve sunk even further: GM in fourth and Ford in eighth.
   It’s quite remarkable to me that Hyundai (presumably including Kia and Genesis) and Honda (including Acura) are in these tables with only a few brands, ditto with Daimler AG. Suzuki has its one brand, and that’s it (if you want to split hairs, of course there’s Maruti).
   Toyota has Lexus and Daihatsu and a holding in Subaru, but given its broad range and international sales’ strength, it didn’t surprise me that it has managed to have podium finishes for the last three decades. It’s primarily used its own brand to do all its work, and that’s no mean feat.
   I’m surprised we don’t see the Chinese groups in these tables but many are being included in the others’ totals. For instance, SAIC managed to shift 5,600,482 units sold in 2020 but some of those would have been counted in the Volkswagen and GM totals.
   I won’t go into the reasons for the US manufacturers’ decline here, but things will need to change if they don’t want to keep falling down these tables. Right now, it seems they will continue to decline.

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On Cantonese, for Te Papa’s Chinese Languages in Aotearoa project

26.10.2021


 
What a real honour to promote my reo! Thank you, Dr Grace Gassin and Te Papa for spearheading the Chinese Languages in Aotearoa project and for this incredible third instalment, where I get to speak and promote Cantonese!
   Obviously I couldn’t say anything earlier, especially during Chinese Language Week, but I am extremely grateful the very distinct Chinese languages are being given their due with this project!
   My participation began with Grace and I having a kōrero last year, and how Chinese Language Week was not inclusive. The organizers of that make the mistake of equating Chinese with Mandarin, and claim that Cantonese and other tongues are dialects, which is largely like saying Gaelic is a dialect of English.
   Do read more at the Te Papa blog as Grace goes into far more depth, and brings everything into the context of the history of Aotearoa.
 

 
   It turns out that Grace had been thinking about this for quite some time and had already shaped ideas on recording the Chinese languages here in Aotearoa as part of her job as curator, Asian New Zealand histories. She is a fluent Hokkien speaker, a dialect we Cantos often write as Fukkien, though that can lead to unfortunate puns with Anglophones. She also has some command of Cantonese—certainly far, far more than any Hokkien I know.
   There was such an amazing crew on this, with Yong-Le Chong (who is a Cantonese speaker, incredibly learning the language from television!) directing and prompting me off-camera and Tim Hamilton as DOP—plus Grace and Daniel Crichton-Rouse from Te Papa producing and supervising. Luckily I said nice things about Tim’s work in Lucire (not knowing he would be the DOP) prior to this!
   I was a bit under the weather when we filmed, having had a cough for many weeks and dodgy eggs at a café two days before. Big thanks to the crew for putting up with this and for believing me when I said it was not COVID (a test had confirmed that, and it was just before the August 2021 lockdown, when the notion of COVID in the community was unfamiliar).
   My thanks to Kent Favel and Erica Harvison for their permission to film at my Alma Mater, St Mark’s Church School, and to my darling partner Amanda.
   Note that the Māori terms in this post are only italicized because of the international readers who form the larger part of my visitors; in New Zealand these are words that are commonly used, and are not italicized.

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Posted in China, culture, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Wellington | No Comments »


Big Tech: you’ve already lost against mainland China

21.10.2021

Big Tech often says that if they’re broken up, they won’t be able to compete with mainland China.
   Folks, you’ve already lost.
   Why? Because you’re playing their game. You believe that through dominance and surveillance you can beat a country with four times more people.
   The level playing field under which you were created has been disappearing because of you.
   You’re the ones acquiring start-ups and stifling the sort of innovation that you yourselves once created.
   If the US believes it should create more tech champions, or more innovators, then Big Tech needs to get out of the way and let people start the next big thing.
   But we know this isn’t about China.
   It’s about them trying to preserve their dominance.
   We all know they’ll even sell data to Chinese companies, and they’re not too fussed if they have ties to the Communist Chinese state.
   To heck with America. Or any western democracy. Their actions often underscore that.
   Without the innovation that their enterprise system created, they’ll increasing play second fiddle in a game that mainland China has played for much longer.
   I already said that Chinese apps have surpassed many western ones, based on my experience. Through a clever application of The Art of War.
   And if the world stays static, if all everyone is doing is keeping the status quo in order to get rich, and innovation is minimized, then it’s going to look like a pretty decaying place, sort of like the alternative Hill Valley with Biff Tannen in charge. Just recycling the same old stuff with a whiff of novelty as a form of soma. Pretty soon that novelty turns into garishness as a few more moments are eked out of a decaying invention.
   Where’s the next big thing, the one that’s going to have a net benefit for life on this planet?

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