Thoughts…

Was contemplating…. Just been thinking why my web traffic is so low and ruminating about the long tail of web economics… maybe some of my blog posts are pretty lameass, i dun have anything sensational, like sex, chicks, parties or anything ridiculously hedonistic… I am basically re-publishing links.. But hey, some other sites do make a lot of money re-publishing stuff, guess you call that luck..

I am not gonna change my blogging style, anyway, its good to keep it simple and not think too much abt the web traffic. It may bring some extra cash but also lotsa unwanted attention, and anyway i am 990,000 visitors away from any significant revenue contribution.

Back to luck, i found this quote from Okdork. It was an interview with Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook. (I met him before! lol)

“Success is very much the intersection of luck and hard work. First, you have to find an opportunity, and then you need to man up to the work necessary to make it something good. Having just one or the other won’t result in anything at all.”

Its been 3 weeks since i came back from the Bay Area aka Silicon Valley. I realized the main difference between these two localities is really the social environment — the people, the conversation, the activities such as TechCrunch events, Stanford ETL talks…”. I guess you could call this culture as well. Or if you crystallize it further, its the people. In Singapore, as I have always been critiquing about, young Singaporeans are not open-minded, we know too little of the world beyond our local spheres of knowledge. We lack understanding of different cultures and mindsets. How many of your friends know whats going on in Palestine, Samuel Alito or even who’s the prime minister/ president of the neighboring Southeast Asian countries… How many times have we reached out to the foreigners such as the Chinese, Indian and Vietnamese scholars amongst us in NUS? I used to get blank stares from friends every time I start commenting on the politics in US, China, Malaysia, people would ask me wy I even care about whats going on in some place so far away and has no direct relevance to our daily lives. These are the same people who do not see value in interacting with foreign students sitting next to them in classes, tutorials seminars… I admit i did not do that too much either, in terms of talking to the foreign students in NUS. One important thing i learnt from the Valley is the value within every human being, how interesting every single one of them can be once you interact with them, the Russians, the Indians, the Taiwanese, Chinese, Palestinians, Jordanians, Brazilians…

I have this theory that Singaporeans have this “big-nation” mentality that we are big and do not need to care about everyone around us because we can survive on our won and do not need them. The cushy, relatively affluent lifestyles of Singaporeans may have fostered that. We trust too much on efficiency of our government systems. We complain alot, knowing that someone, somewhere will do something about it. We take alot of things for granted, the thousand-strong maid contingent that throng Orchard Road on Sundays can attest to that, so do the thousands of Indians that throng Little India and the Thais that throng Beach Road and…. We rely alot on foreign labor in order to sustain our chronic lack of human labor and at the same time, contributing to an “invisible” workforce that does all the dirty work that lubricates our chushy existence. Dirty dishes disappear, buses always come on time thanks to hardworking Malaysians, new buildings pop up in light speed housing more multinational corporations and contributing to the economy’s growth. Singapore is great in tapping on the advantages of outsourcing, but are we remembering to focus on concentrating what little local Singaporean workforce we have on the high-value services so we do not get overwhelmed by hungrier, more driven and ambitious foreigners and immigrants?

Singapore is a great case study for Thomas Friedman’s World is Flat philosophy. In that book, i remember him mentioning that nations today are competing for citizens. The capitalistic fundamentals and commitment towards free markets underpin the need for competition for greater resource efficiency. Singapore, a developed economy, has to stay at the forefront of economic innovation. Not only that, our small geogrpahical size and small populace merit “national innovation” as well. We need to innovate as a country. We need to master the science of harnessing external resources to contribute to internal benefits and build up our intrinsic value as a significant player on the global economic chess-game. Our educational policy in attracting bright young students from the region, complemented by an insidious social programme of integrating them into our society, hoping they will marry here and make Singapore home after they complete their studies and are obliged by a 6-year bond is a masterstroke. I see this as an evolution of our old stratey of attracting MNCs to invest in Singapore in the ’60s and ’70s through danling economic carrots such as tax breaks, pioneer status. Just that, we no longer can attract corporations today as effectively as yesteryear, but we surely can drill down and attract the components of corporations – the humans. From Corporations to Humans.

Where does this leave Singaporeans? We are faced with ever increasing competition in all aspects of society from all levels of education to all sectors of economic contribution. I think this is good. It keeps us on our toes. We have 3 basic types of responses:
– turn a blind eye to changing global realities,
– learn to compete and beat the new entrants,
– complain and give up.

In America, there is this phenomenon called “white flight”. This is due to competitive asian immigrants besting the local american white kids in math,s cience and almost everything else ins chools. As a result, American parents pull their kids out of school, leave these newly competitive educational battlegorunds and migrate their families and kids to less competitive school where they think their kids will grow up normally in a “supportive” atmosphere of learnig.

One word. Bullshit.

I hope Singapore doesn’t learn this American trend. We should not turn a blind eye and ignore our new foreign friends either, as in Scenario 1. We have to globalize our thinking and understand that competition is here to stay. We have to interact more with our foreign friends, learn what they think of Singapore, how we can improve, learn about their home nations and cultures and appreciate the intricacies of diversity of our global village. Singaporeans think that exchange programs broaden their scope and exposure and they willingly pay 7000 bucks for that experience. I say most of these affluent families can save their money, they can have that same perception-broadening experience right in our backyards within NUS, or for a peek into the other less-educated spectrum of foreign society, go to Orchard Road, Little India, Beach road on weekends to learn about foreign culture.

Shit, i wrote too much. What started as a rambling extended far too long. Maybe I can use this essay for other purposes by turning in as an assignment somewhere.. haha.. Hopefully it made sense, otherwise, go click on that “next blog” button on top of this page and thanks for your attention. Till next time..

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2 thoughts on “Thoughts…

  1. I agree with you. While there are exceptions, I opinionate that in general, the local culture is more inward looking and myopic.

    Yet at the same time, I do feel it takes two hands to clap. While many have tried to interact (and successfully too) with the non-local community, there are many instances where the foreign community do not reciprocrate and interact too. The root of the problem I feel lies more in our Asian culture, somewhat cloistered and relatively passive.

    Of course, it’s not all that bad too. Won’t you feel that Asians in general are more respectful and humble?

    I guess we could take a leaf out of the book from every culture. It takes time Bjorn for a drastic social change.

    Just a passing thought. 😛

  2. An interesting post Bjorn and yes a little long 🙂 I guess you are comparing Singapore to what you experienced here in Silicon Valley. Remember that the valley is one of the most dynamic areas in the world, so I think it’s a little unfair to hold comparisons between the culture in the valley and Singapore. Many factors contributed to the valley being the way it is right now. However, you should definitely keep this great attitude and work hard on infusing positive change in your region.

    By the way, many cities in the US and in other countries are trying to replicate the success that Silicon Valley has witnessed since the 1950s. For example, Dubai is trying very hard to become a tech and a business hub for the entire Middle East. They started a project called Silicon Oasis that provides sexy incentives for global companies to invest into building R&D labs and operational offices over there. China and India are playing the same game too. Countries are competing for talent.

    I guess I’m starting to digress into many other ideas now so let me stop. By the way, what’s your take on Hamas winning the elections in Palestine?

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