The problem with “6 in 10 Singaporeans think media regulations are balanced”

EDIT: I overgeneralized and misrepresented the out-group earlier by saying “they said they don’t care”. Technically, they didn’t say they care. Minor but significant distinction. It makes the whole thing a little bit murkier.

Here’s the article you’re most likely to encounter:
6 in 10 Singapore residents find film and arts content regulations ‘appropriate’: Reach

First, let’s dig up the actual press release. Straits Times isn’t the most reliable of sources. Google for Reach Singapore, and you land on their site. To their credit, the press release is right there (which I suppose is how/where the Straits Times got their information?)

Here’s a pdf of the press release. Here’s what popped out to me:

1: A significant group of the people polled don’t really care about the regulations.

[1] 33% of people didn’t say that the regulations didn’t matter to them, so I think can make some reasonable assumptions about how they might’ve voted. It’s pretty unlikely that they’d think “I don’t care about X regulation, but I think it’s too harsh.”

Frankly, if a person says that X regulation doesn’t matter to them, I wouldn’t be giving much (or any!) weight to their opinion. The information is useful, “Oh, roughly 33% of Singaporeans don’t really care about regulations”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have anything meaningful to say about media policy. Quite the opposite, I think.

2: The people who actually care about the problem felt that the regulations were restrictive.

[2] “Respondents who were frequent patrons of film and arts performances and who also saw the issue as an important one, were more likely to feel that current regulations were somewhat restrictive.”

This reminds me of the NLB saga, where the people who were most eager to pulp the books used the worst grammar, while authors and book lovers responded with tremendous emotion.

So we have a conclusion that implies everything is okay:

In summary, the study found that the majority of respondents felt that current film and arts regulations are balanced.

My question to you is, does the majority necessarily have a thoughtful, constructive perspective about media regulations?

6 in 10 Singaporeans think media regulations are okay, but 3-5 of them don’t really care! Meanwhile, the artists, filmmakers, playwrights, etc. are the ones who suffer. Or are unfortunately underrepresented, at least.

“As values and norms evolve with time, the challenge will be to gradually calibrate film and arts regulation in a manner that the majority in society finds to be balanced.”

Not all opinions are equal. My worry is that when we try to appease the crowd, we do so at the cost of our best and brightest talents. And we can’t afford to do that.

EDIT: On hindsight and after some discussion with friends, I think the most conclusive thing we can really say about the study is that it’s difficult if not impossible to draw any real conclusions from such a study. Everybody will just continue with however they felt about things prior.

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TEDtalks I want to watch or rewatch

Formatting is a bit messed up but that’s not the thing so

  1. Robert Neuwirth: The hidden world of shadow cities
  2. Kevin Kelly: How technology evolves 
  3. Ray Kurzweil: The accelerating power of technology 
  4. Ashraf Ghani: How to rebuild a broken state
  5. Sasa Vucinic: Why we should invest in a free press
  6. Iqbal Quadir: How mobile phones can fight poverty
  7. Jacqueline Novogratz: Invest in Africa’s own solutions
  8. Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, happiness and spaghetti sauce
  9. Helen Fisher: Why we love, why we cheat
  10. Richard Dawkins: Why the universe seems so strange
  11. Steven Levitt: The freakonomics of crack dealing
  12. Eve Ensler: Happiness in body and soul
  13. Mena Trott: Meet the founder of the blog revolution
  14. Ze Frank: Nerdcore comedy
  15. Jimmy Wales: The birth of Wikipedia
  16. Ross Lovegrove: Organic design, inspired by nature
  17. Dan Dennett: Let’s teach religion — all religion — in schools
  18. Rick Warren: A life of purpose
  19. Julia Sweeney: Letting go of God
  20. Hans Rosling: The best stats you’ve ever seen
  21. David Pogue: Simplicity sells
  22. Al Gore: Averting the climate crisis
  23. Majora Carter: Greening the ghetto
  24. Dan Dennett: The illusion of consciousness
  25. Jane Goodall: What separates us from chimpanzees? 
  26. Seth Godin: How to get your ideas to spread 
  27. James Watson: How we discovered DNA 
  28. Nick Bostrom: A philosophical quest for our biggest problems 
  29. Stefan Sagmeister: Happiness by design
  30. E.O. Wilson: My wish: Build the Encyclopedia of Life 
  31. James Nachtwey: My wish: Let my photographs bear witness
  32. Bill Clinton: My wish: Rebuilding Rwanda
  33. Carl Honoré: In praise of slowness
  34. Charles Leadbeater: The era of open innovation
  35. Martin Rees: Is this our final century?
  36. Robert Wright: Progress is not a zero-sum game
  37. Rives: The 4 a.m. mystery
  38. David Bolinsky: Visualizing the wonder of a living cell
  39. Will Wright: Spore, birth of a game
  40. Jonathan Harris: The Web’s secret stories
  41. Hans Rosling: New insights on poverty
  42. Bill Stone: I’m going to the moon. Who’s with me?
  43. Dan Dennett: Dangerous memes
  44. Thomas Barnett: Let’s rethink America’s military strategy
  45. David Rockwell: A memorial at Ground Zero
  46. Robert Thurman: We can be Buddhas
  47. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: Want to help Africa? Do business here
  48. Stewart Brand: What squatter cities can teach us | Talk Video | 
  49. David Kelley: Human-centered design | Talk Video | 
  50. Sergey Brin + Larry Page: The genesis of Google | Talk Video | 
  51. Chris Anderson: Technology’s long tail | Talk Video | 
  52. Richard Dawkins: Militant atheism | Talk Video | 
  53. Tom Honey: Why would God create a tsunami? | Talk Video | 
  54. Jeff Bezos: The electricity metaphor for the web’s future | Talk Video | 
  55. Evelyn Glennie: How to truly listen | Talk Video | 
  56. Lawrence Lessig: Laws that choke creativity | Talk Video | 
  57. Larry Brilliant: The case for optimism | Talk Video | 
  58. Maira Kalman: The illustrated woman | Talk Video | 
  59. Richard Branson: Life at 30,000 feet | Talk Video | 
  60. Stephen Petranek: 10 ways the world could end | Talk Video | 
  61. John Maeda: Designing for simplicity | Talk Video | 
  62. Zeresenay Alemseged: The search for humanity’s roots | Talk Video | 
  63. Deborah Scranton: An Iraq war movie crowd-sourced from soldiers | Talk Video |
  64. Steven Pinker: The surprising decline in violence | Talk Video | 
  65. Steven Pinker: What our language habits reveal | Talk Video | 
  66. Andrew Mwenda: Aid for Africa? No thanks. | Talk Video | 
  67. Jeff Skoll: My journey into movies that matter | Talk Video | 
  68. Jacqueline Novogratz: Patient capitalism | Talk Video | 
  69. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: Aid versus trade | Talk Video | 
  70. William Kamkwamba: How I built a windmill | Talk Video | 
  71. Patrick Awuah: How to educate leaders? Liberal arts | Talk Video | 
  72. Alan Kay: A powerful idea about ideas | Talk Video | 
  73. David Macaulay: An illustrated journey through Rome
  74. Jaime Lerner: A song of the city
  75. Robin Chase: The idea behind Zipcar (and what comes next)
  76. Chris Anderson: TED’s nonprofit transition
  77. Bill Strickland: Rebuilding a neighborhood with beauty, dignity, hope
  78. Deborah Gordon: The emergent genius of ant colonies
  79. Gever Tulley: 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do
  80. Lakshmi Pratury: The lost art of letter-writing | Talk Video | 
  81. Daniel Goleman: Why aren’t we more compassionate? | Talk Video | 
  82. Amory Lovins: Winning the oil endgame | Talk Video | 
  83. Ron Eglash: The fractals at the heart of African designs | Talk Video | 
  85. Paul Collier: The “bottom billion” | Talk Video | 
  86. Yves Behar: Designing objects that tell stories | Talk Video | 
  87. Mark Bittman: What’s wrong with what we eat | Talk Video | 
  88. Alisa Miller: The news about the news | Talk Video | 
  89. Joshua Klein: A thought experiment on the intelligence of crows 
  90. Paul Ewald: Can we domesticate germs? | Talk Video | 
  91. Amy Tan: Where does creativity hide? | Talk Video | 
  92. Al Gore: New thinking on the climate crisis | Talk Video | 
  93. Stephen Hawking: Questioning the universe | Talk Video | 
  94. Neil Turok: My wish: Find the next Einstein in Africa | Talk Video | 
  95. Nicholas Negroponte: 5 predictions, from 1984 | Talk Video | 
  96. Dave Eggers: My wish: Once Upon a School | Talk Video |
  97. Kevin Kelly: The next 5,000 days of the web | Talk Video | 
  98. Kwabena Boahen: A computer that works like the brain | Talk Video | 
  99. Martin Seligman: The new era of positive psychology | Talk Video | 
  100. Helen Fisher: The brain in love | Talk Video | 
  101. AJ Jacobs: My year of living biblically | Talk Video | 
  102. Freeman Dyson: Let’s look for life in the outer solar system | Talk Video |
  103. Clay Shirky: Institutions vs. collaboration | Talk Video | 
  104. Peter Diamandis: Stephen Hawking’s zero g flight | Talk Video | 
  105. Nicholas Negroponte: One Laptop per Child, two years on | Talk Video | 
  106. Robert Full: Robots inspired by cockroach ingenuity | Talk Video | 
  107. Dean Ornish: Your genes are not your fate | Talk Video | 
  108. Chris Jordan: Turning powerful stats into art | Talk Video | 
  109. Murray Gell-Mann: The ancestor of language | Talk Video | 
  110. Wade Davis: The worldwide web of belief and ritual | Talk Video | 
  111. David Perry: Are games better than life? | Talk Video | 
  112. Steven Johnson: The Web as a city | Talk Video | 
  113. Stefan Sagmeister: Designing with slogans | Talk Video | 
  114. Steven Pinker: Human nature and the blank slate | Talk Video | 
  115. Philip Zimbardo: The psychology of evil | Talk Video | 
  116. David S. Rose: How to pitch to a VC | Talk Video | 
  117. Eve Ensler: What security means to me | Talk Video | 
  118. Ann Cooper: What’s wrong with school lunches | Talk Video | 
  119. Irwin Redlener: How to survive a nuclear attack | Talk Video | 
  120. Peter Hirshberg: The web is more than “better TV” | Talk Video | 
  121. Sugata Mitra: Kids can teach themselves | Talk Video | 
  122. Spencer Wells: A family tree for humanity | Talk Video | 
  123. Bill Joy: What I’m worried about, what I’m excited about | Talk Video | 
  124. George Smoot: The design of the universe | Talk Video | 
  125. Franco Sacchi: A tour of Nollywood, Nigeria’s booming film industry | Talk Video |
  126. Isaac Mizrahi: Fashion and creativity | Talk Video | 
  127. Stewart Brand: The Long Now | Talk Video | 
  128. John Francis: Walk the earth … my 17-year vow of silence | Talk Video | 
  129. Robert Wright: The evolution of compassion | Talk Video | 
  130. Robert Thurman: Expanding your circle of compassion | Talk Video | 
  131. Feisal Abdul Rauf: Lose your ego, find your compassion | Talk Video | 
  132. James Forbes: Compassion at the dinner table | Talk Video | 
  133. Dayananda Saraswati: The profound journey of compassion | Talk Video |
  134. Jackie Tabick: The balancing act of compassion | Talk Video | 
  135. Rives: A story of mixed emoticons | Talk Video | 
  136. Paola Antonelli: Design and the Elastic Mind | Talk Video | 
  137. Virginia Postrel: On glamour | Talk Video | 
  138. Jared Diamond: Why do societies collapse? | Talk Video | 
  139. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Flow, the secret to happiness | Talk Video | 
  140. Paul MacCready: Nature vs. humans | Talk Video | 
  141. Aimee Mullins: Changing my legs – and my mindset | Talk Video | 
  142. Bill Gates: Mosquitos, malaria and education | Talk Video | 
  143. Peter Ward: A theory of Earth’s mass extinctions | Talk Video | 
  144. Sherwin Nuland: The extraordinary power of ordinary people
  145. Paula Scher: Great design is serious, not solemn | Talk Video | 
  146. Joseph Pine: What consumers want | Talk Video | 
  147. Rob Forbes: Ways of seeing | Talk Video | 
  148. Greg Lynn: Organic algorithms in architecture | Talk Video | 
  149. Scott McCloud: The visual magic of comics | Talk Video | 
  150. John Maeda: My journey in design | Talk Video | 
  151. Kary Mullis: Play! Experiment! Discover! | Talk Video | 
  152. Jennifer 8. Lee: The hunt for General Tso | Talk Video | 
  153. Nicholas Negroponte: Taking OLPC to Colombia | Talk Video | 
  154. Steven Strogatz: The science of sync | Talk Video | 
  155. Dan Gilbert: Why we make bad decisions | Talk Video | 
  156. Philip Rosedale: Life in Second Life | Talk Video | 
  157. C.K. Williams: Poetry of youth and age | Talk Video | 
  158. Jacqueline Novogratz: An escape from poverty | Talk Video | 
  159. Bruce McCall: What is faux nostalgia? | Talk Video | 
  160. Dan Dennett: Cute, sexy, sweet, funny | Talk Video | 
  161. Tim Berners-Lee: The next web | Talk Video | 
  162. Stuart Brown: Play is more than just fun | Talk Video | 
  163. Aimee Mullins: My 12 pairs of legs | Talk Video | 
  164. Dan Ariely: Our buggy moral code | Talk Video | 
  165. Mike Rowe: Learning from dirty jobs | Talk Video | 
  166. Brenda Laurel: Games for girls | Talk Video | 
  167. Evan Williams: The voices of Twitter users | Talk Video | 
  168. Juan Enriquez: The next species of human | Talk Video | 
  169. Barry Schwartz: Our loss of wisdom | Talk Video | 
  170. Milton Glaser: Using design to make ideas new | Talk Video | 
  171. Mary Roach: 10 things you didn’t know about orgasm | Talk Video | 
  172. Dan Ariely: Are we in control of our own decisions? | Talk Video | 
  173. Joachim de Posada: Don’t eat the marshmallow! | Talk Video | 
  174. Seth Godin: The tribes we lead | Talk Video | 
  175. Al Gore: What comes after An Inconvenient Truth? | Talk Video | 
  176. Sean Gourley: The mathematics of war | Talk Video | 
  177. Nate Silver: Does racism affect how you vote? | Talk Video | 
  178. Tim Ferriss: Smash fear, learn anything | Talk Video | 
  179. Renny Gleeson: Our antisocial phone tricks | Talk Video | 
  180. Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success | Talk Video | 
  181. Jim Fallon: Exploring the mind of a killer | Talk Video | 
  182. Sophal Ear: Escaping the Khmer Rouge | Talk Video | 
  183. Tom Wujec: 3 ways the brain creates meaning | Talk Video | 
  184. Eames Demetrios: The design genius of Charles + Ray Eames 
  185. Arthur Benjamin: Teach statistics before calculus! | Talk Video | 
  186. Gever Tulley: Life lessons through tinkering | Talk Video | 
  187. Diane Benscoter: How cults rewire the brain | Talk Video | 
  188. Clay Shirky: How social media can make history | Talk Video | 
  189. Liz Coleman: A call to reinvent liberal arts education | Talk Video | 
  190. Ray Kurzweil: A university for the coming singularity | Talk Video | 
  191. Michelle Obama: A plea for education | Talk Video | 
  192. Stefan Sagmeister: The power of time off | Talk Video | 
  193. David Logan: Tribal leadership | Talk Video | 
  194. Jacqueline Novogratz: A third way to think about aid | Talk Video | 
  195. Taryn Simon: Photographs of secret sites | Talk Video | 
  196. William Kamkwamba: How I harnessed the wind | Talk Video | 
  197. Karen Armstrong: Let’s revive the Golden Rule | Talk Video | 
  198. Tim Brown: Designers — think big! | Talk Video | 
  199. Misha Glenny: How global crime networks work | Talk Video | 
  200. Rebecca Saxe: How we read each other’s minds | Talk Video | 
  201. Steve Truglia: A leap from the edge of space | Talk Video | 
  202. Joshua Silver: Adjustable liquid-filled eyeglasses | Talk Video | 
  203. Hans Rosling: Let my dataset change your mindset | Talk Video | 
  204. Janine Benyus: Biomimicry in action | Talk Video | 
  205. Shashi Tharoor: Why nations should pursue soft power | Talk Video | 
  206. Hans Rosling: Asia’s rise — how and when | Talk Video | 
  207. Stefana Broadbent: How the Internet enables intimacy | Talk Video | 
  208. David Deutsch: A new way to explain explanation | Talk Video | 
  209. Julian Treasure: The 4 ways sound affects us | Talk Video | 
  210. Sam Martin: Claim your “manspace” | Talk Video | 
  211. Marc Pachter: The art of the interview | Talk Video | 
  212. Ryan Lobo: Photographing the hidden story | Talk Video | 
  213. Sunitha Krishnan: The fight against sex slavery | Talk Video | 
  214. Loretta Napoleoni: The intricate economics of terrorism | Talk Video | 
  215. Shereen El Feki: Pop culture in the Arab world | Talk Video | 
  216. Shaffi Mather: A new way to fight corruption | Talk Video | 
  217. Sendhil Mullainathan: Solving social problems with a nudge | Talk Video |
  218. Derek Sivers: Weird, or just different? | Talk Video | 
  219. Dan Buettner: How to live to be 100+ | Talk Video | 
  220. Vilayanur Ramachandran: The neurons that shaped civilization 
  221. James Geary: Metaphorically speaking | Talk Video | 
  222. David Cameron: The next age of government | Talk Video | 
  223. Blaise Agüera y Arcas: Augmented-reality maps | Talk Video | 
  224. Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! | Talk Video | 
  225. Johanna Blakley: Lessons from fashion’s free culture | Talk Video | 
  226. Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover | Talk Video | 
  227. Nicholas Christakis: The hidden influence of social networks | Talk Video | 
  228. Stephen Wolfram: Computing a theory of all knowledge | Talk Video | 
  229. Jonathan Klein: Photos that changed the world | Talk Video | 
  230. Natalie Merchant: Singing old poems to life | Talk Video | 
  231. Adora Svitak: What adults can learn from kids | Talk Video | 
  232. Alan Siegel: Let’s simplify legal jargon! | Talk Video | 
  233. Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions | Talk Video | 
  234. Shekhar Kapur: We are the stories we tell ourselves | Talk Video | 
  235. Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world | Talk Video | 
  236. Eric Mead: The magic of the placebo | Talk Video | 
  237. Tim Berners-Lee: The year open data went worldwide | Talk Video | 
  238. James Cameron: Before Avatar … a curious boy | Talk Video | 
  239. Daniel Kahneman: The riddle of experience vs. memory | Talk Video | 
  240. Kevin Kelly: Technology’s epic story | Talk Video | 
  241. Aimee Mullins: The opportunity of adversity | Talk Video | 
  242. Hans Rosling: Global population growth, box by box | Talk Video | 
  243. Nalini Nadkarni: Life science in prison | Talk Video | 
  244. Clay Shirky: How cognitive surplus will change the world | Talk Video | 
  245. Charles Leadbeater: Education innovation in the slums | Talk Video | 
  246. Michael Shermer: The pattern behind self-deception | Talk Video | 
  247. Michael Sandel: The lost art of democratic debate | Talk Video | 
  248. John Kasaona: How poachers became caretakers | Talk Video | 
  249. Rory Sutherland: Sweat the small stuff | Talk Video | 
  250. Brian Cox: Why we need the explorers | Talk Video |
  251. Christopher “moot” Poole”: The case for anonymity online | Talk Video | 
  252. John Underkoffler: Pointing to the future of UI | Talk Video | 
  253. Lawrence Lessig: Re-examining the remix | Talk Video | 
  254. Sharmeen Obaid-ChinoyInside a school for suicide bombers
  255. Matt Ridley: When ideas have sex | Talk Video | 
  256. Elif Shafak: The politics of fiction | Talk Video | 
  257. Benoit Mandelbrot: Fractals and the art of roughness | Talk Video | 
  258. Maz Jobrani: Did you hear the one about the Iranian-American? | Talk Video | 
  259. Laurie Santos: A monkey economy as irrational as ours | Talk Video | 
  260. Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks | Talk Video | 
  261. Sheena Iyengar: The art of choosing | Talk Video | 
  262. Nicholas Christakis: How social networks predict epidemics | Talk Video |
  263. Stacey Kramer: The best gift I ever survived | Talk Video | 
  264. Hans Rosling: The good news of the decade? | Talk Video | 
  265. Sebastian Seung: I am my connectome | Talk Video | 
  266. Thomas Goetz: It’s time to redesign medical data | Talk Video | 
  267. Martin Jacques: Understanding the rise of China | Talk Video | 
  268. Naomi Klein: Addicted to risk | Talk Video | 
  269. Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning | Talk Video | 
  270. Elizabeth Lesser: Take “the Other” to lunch | Talk Video | 
  271. Thomas Thwaites: How I built a toaster — from scratch | Talk Video | 
  272. Charles Limb: Your brain on improv | Talk Video | 
  273. Arianna Huffington: How to succeed? Get more sleep | Talk Video | 
  274. Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders | Talk Video | 
  275. Rufus Griscom + Alisa Volkman: Let’s talk parenting taboos | Talk Video |
  276. Eric Berlow: Simplifying complexity | Talk Video | 
  277. Tom Chatfield: 7 ways games reward the brain | Talk Video | 
  278. Joseph Nye: Global power shifts | Talk Video | 
  279. Patrick Chappatte: The power of cartoons | Talk Video | 
  280. Heribert Watzke: The brain in your gut | Talk Video | 
  281. Noreena Hertz: How to use experts — and when not to | Talk Video | 
  282. Madeleine Albright: On being a woman and a diplomat | Talk Video | 
  283. Jacqueline Novogratz: Inspiring a life of immersion | Talk Video | 
  284. Dale Dougherty: We are makers | Talk Video | 
  285. Stanley McChrystal: Listen, learn … then lead | Talk Video | 
  286. Chade-Meng Tan: Everyday compassion at Google | Talk Video | 
  287. Eythor Bender: Human exoskeletons — for war and healing | Talk Video |
  288. Isabel Behncke: Evolution’s gift of play, from bonobo apes to humans
  289. Mark Bezos: A life lesson from a volunteer firefighter | Talk Video | 
  290. Deb Roy: The birth of a word | Talk Video | 
  291. Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days | Talk Video | 
  292. Emiliano Salinas: A civil response to violence | Talk Video | 
  293. Daniel Tammet: Different ways of knowing | Talk Video | 
  294. Bill Ford: A future beyond traffic gridlock | Talk Video | 
  295. Shea Hembrey: How I became 100 artists | Talk Video | 
  296. Rory Stewart: Time to end the war in Afghanistan | Talk Video | 
  297. Josette Sheeran: Ending hunger now | Talk Video | 
  298. Paul Bloom: The origins of pleasure | Talk Video | 
  299. Damon Horowitz: We need a “moral operating system” | Talk Video | 
  300. Stefan Sagmeister: 7 rules for making more happiness | Talk Video | 
  301. Leonard Susskind: My friend Richard Feynman | Talk Video | 
  302. Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles” | Talk Video | 
  303. Harvey Fineberg: Are we ready for neo-evolution? | Talk Video | 
  304. Sam Richards: A radical experiment in empathy | Talk Video | 
  305. Marcin Jakubowski: Open-sourced blueprints for civilization 
  306. Caroline Casey: Looking past limits | Talk Video | 
  307. Dave Meslin: The antidote to apathy | Talk Video | 
  308. Geoffrey West: The surprising math of cities and corporations 
  309. Brian Goldman: Doctors make mistakes. Can we talk about that? 
  310. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon: Women entrepreneurs, example not exception 
  311. Sheena Iyengar: How to make choosing easier | Talk Video | 
  312. Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0 | Talk Video | 
  313. Jonas Gahr Støre: In defense of dialogue | Talk Video | 
  314. Jane Fonda: Life’s third act | Talk Video | 
  315. AJ Jacobs: How healthy living nearly killed me | Talk Video | 
  316. Daniel Goldstein: The battle between your present and future self 
  317. Stefon Harris: There are no mistakes on the bandstand | Talk Video | 
  318. Cheryl Hayashi: The magnificence of spider silk | Talk Video | 
  319. Srdja Popovic: How to topple a dictator | Talk Video | 
  320. Luis von Ahn: Massive-scale online collaboration | Talk Video | 
  321. Annie Murphy Paul: What we learn before we’re born | Talk Video | 
  322. Kathryn Schulz: Don’t regret regret | Talk Video | 
  323. Charles Limb: Building the musical muscle | Talk Video | 
  324. Charlie Todd: The shared experience of absurdity | Talk Video | 
  325. Allan Jones: A map of the brain | Talk Video | 
  326. Paul Zak: Trust, morality — and oxytocin? | Talk Video | 
  327. Richard Wilkinson: How economic inequality harms societies
  328. Pamela Meyer: How to spot a liar | Talk Video | 
  329. Richard Seymour: How beauty feels | Talk Video | 
  330. Graham Hill: Less stuff, more happiness | Talk Video | 
  331. Jarreth Merz: Filming democracy in Ghana | Talk Video | 
  332. Amy Lockwood: Selling condoms in the Congo | Talk Video | 
  333. Jean-Baptiste Michel + Erez Lieberman Aiden: What we learned from 5 million books 
  334. Joan Halifax: Compassion and the true meaning of empathy
  335. Dan Ariely: Beware conflicts of interest | Talk Video | 
  336. Alex Steffen: The shareable future of cities | Talk Video | 
  337. Eve Ensler: Suddenly, my body | Talk Video | 
  338. Philip Zimbardo: The demise of guys? | Talk Video | 
  339. Joe Smith: How to use a paper towel | Talk Video | 
  340. Eduardo Paes: The 4 commandments of cities | Talk Video | 
  341. Brené Brown: Listening to shame | Talk Video | 
  342. Jonathan Haidt: Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence 
  343. Larry Smith: Why you will fail to have a great career | Talk Video | 
  344. Jennifer Pahlka: Coding a better government | Talk Video | 
  345. Bryan Stevenson: We need to talk about an injustice | Talk Video | 
  346. Susan Cain: The power of introverts | Talk Video | 
  347. Chris Bliss: Comedy is translation | Talk Video | 
  348. Jenna McCarthy: What you don’t know about marriage | Talk Video | 
  349. Drew Dudley: Everyday leadership | Talk Video | 
  350. Peter van Uhm: Why I chose a gun | Talk Video | 
  351. Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life
  352. Diane Kelly: What we didn’t know about penis anatomy | Talk Video | 
  353. Juan Enriquez: Will our kids be a different species? | Talk Video | 
  354. Sebastian Deterding: What your designs say about you | Talk Video | 
  355. Dalia Mogahed: The attitudes that sparked Arab Spring | Talk Video | 
  356. JR: One year of turning the world inside out | Talk Video | 
  357. Jean-Baptiste Michel: The mathematics of history | Talk Video | 
  358. Renny Gleeson: 404, the story of a page not found | Talk Video | 
  359. Rory Sutherland: Perspective is everything | Talk Video | 
  360. Doris Kim Sung: Metal that breathes | Talk Video | 
  361. David Pizarro: The strange politics of disgust | Talk Video | 
  362. Ryan Merkley: Online video — annotated, remixed and popped
  363. Heather Brooke: My battle to expose government corruption | Talk Video | 
  364. Melissa Marshall: Talk nerdy to me | Talk Video | 
  365. Jason McCue: Terrorism is a failed brand | Talk Video | 
  366. Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are | Talk Video | 
  367. Clay Shirky: How the Internet will (one day) transform government 
  368. Rachel Botsman: The currency of the new economy is trust | Talk Video |
  369. Leslie T. Chang: The voices of China’s workers | Talk Video | 
  370. Robert Neuwirth: The power of the informal economy | Talk Video | 
  371. Kirby Ferguson: Embrace the remix | Talk Video | 
  372. Daphne Koller: What we’re learning from online education
  373. James Stavridis: A Navy Admiral’s thoughts on global security
  374. Daphne Bavelier: Your brain on video games | Talk Video | 
  375. Arunachalam Muruganantham: How I started a sanitary napkin revolution! 
  376. Gary Greenberg: The beautiful nano details of our world | Talk Video 
  377. Maz Jobrani: A Saudi, an Indian and an Iranian walk into a Qatari bar 
  378. Markham Nolan: How to separate fact and fiction online | Talk Video | 
  379. Paolo Cardini: Forget multitasking, try monotasking | Talk Video | 
  380. Michael Dickinson: How a fly flies | Talk Video | 
  381. Afra Raymond: Three myths about corruption | Talk Video |
  382. Andreas Schleicher: Use data to build better schools | Talk Video | 
  383. Keith Chen: Could your language affect your ability to save money? 
  384. Young-ha Kim: Be an artist, right now! | Talk Video | 
  385. James B. Glattfelder: Who controls the world? | Talk Video | 
  386. Shabana Basij-Rasikh: Dare to educate Afghan girls | Talk Video | 
  387. Edi Rama: Take back your city with paint | Talk Video | 
  388. Cesar Kuriyama: One second every day
  389. Tyler DeWitt: Hey science teachers — make it fun
  390. Leslie Morgan Steiner: Why domestic violence victims don’t leave 
  391. Colin Powell: Kids need structure
  392. Andy Puddicombe: All it takes is 10 mindful minutes
  393. Angela Patton: A father-daughter dance … in prison
  394. Cameron Russell: Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model. 
  395. Maria Bezaitis: The surprising need for strangeness
  396. Meg Jay: Why 30 is not the new 20
  397. Angela Lee Duckworth: The key to success? Grit
  398. Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley
  399. Geoffrey Canada: Our failing schools. Enough is enough!
  400. Pearl Arredondo: My story, from gangland daughter to star teacher 
  401. Rita Pierson: Every kid needs a champion
  402. Nilofer Merchant: Got a meeting? Take a walk
  403. John McWhorter: Txtng is killing language. JK!!!
  404. Rose George: Let’s talk crap. Seriously.
  405. Dan Ariely: What makes us feel good about our work?
  406. Jessica Green: We’re covered in germs. Let’s design for that.
  407. Hyeonseo Lee: My escape from North Korea
  408. Elon Musk: The mind behind Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity … (rewatch)
  409. David Anderson: Your brain is more than a bag of chemicals
  410. Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong (rewatch)
  411. Amanda Palmer: The art of asking (rewatch)
  412. Bruce Feiler: Agile programming — for your family
  413. Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud
  414. Lisa Bu: How books can open your mind (rewatch)
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0150 + 0151 – Restatement of Purpose

I have often felt purposeless, for the most part. Sometimes I get caught up in something and get all excited, but it usually ends up being temporary, illusory. It goes away. It doesn’t map meaningfully onto reality, so it becomes a flight of fancy that becomes more trouble than it’s worth.

We’re all going to die. And eventually everything will become nothing. So that makes a lot of seemingly meaningful things become really pointless. The idea of becoming some authority figure for the sake of it doesn’t gel with me. I’ve tried to buy into that, but it never lasts because it ultimately strikes me as a little silly. I’ve run through a lot of that. The problem is, just coasting through life strikes me as a little silly, too. You end up getting into problems that you don’t have enough energy, resources or know-how to solve, and the whole “The Universe Will Provide” idea strikes me as myopic, privileged and powerless. I’m sure I’m interpreting that a little too narrowly, but there’s no avoiding that.


So. We have this LifeGame, and we ought to make the most of it. We don’t have to, but I’ve kind of played around in the “I decide not to decide” space for long enough, and I find that suboptimal. That’s Mixed Feelings Park. And I don’t want to spend life in Mixed Feelings Park, I want to spend it in Flow, and in the Good/Light Playground. I want to be happy, full of joy. No anxiety. This means developing skills, abilities. This means some degree of will-to-power, not for its own sake but so that you can navigate LifeGame with more finesse. You don’t want to get stuck here and there, you don’t want to mope and be miserable because some random small monster takes you down. I want to be strong so I can protect and help others.

Okay? So I think I’ve resolved that. LifeGame, to play or not to play? I choose play. Since you’re going to play, you have to take it seriously (while acknowledging that it’s ultimately a game). I mean serious here in the sense of “earnest” rather than “grave”. Poker can provide a useful analogy. Taking poker seriously means learning how the game works, learning the odds, learning the hands, learning to read people. It also means not getting overly attached to the outcome. You can have fun with it. You can play with it like an artist, rather than get bludgeoned by it. You know you might lose everything, but at least you did the best you could and you had fun. You played your cards right.

Choosing an overall strategy

So. I choose to acknowledge LifeGame, and I choose to play it, and I choose to play it well. Choosing to play it well means figuring out what your personal utility functions are. What gets you off, sustainably over the context of your LifeGame? So a cigarette gives me utility over 5 minutes. Heroin might do the same. I think if you have 5 minutes left to live, heroin is a great idea.

The problem is that you seldom knowingly know that you have 5 minutes to live. I can reasonably assume that I have at least 10-20 years left, and at best I might have a 100 years left. Cigarettes greatly diminish the quality of that life. So they’re a detrimental choice in LifeGame. When you start thinking in terms of such broader contexts, things like eating and living healthily, exercising, etc make more sense. Getting into petty disagreements and arguments on Facebook and the Internet make less sense. They might be fun in the short term, they might feel meaningful in the short term, but they’re really just distractions.

If you’re not building assets that compound over time, you’re wasting your time- at least, again, assuming that you have at least 10 years to live. If you have an hour left to live, shoot up all you like. Ignore me. These are thoughts for optimizing a good 40-80 years of LifeGame.

What to do?

Okay. So what do I do, then? What do I want to create? What do I want to experience? My wife was asking me about this.  What am I excited about? I did some pretty dramatic things by getting married and buying a house and getting a job. I got a couple of cats. I have a job with awesome colleagues. But things have been fairly stagnant since then. Or at least, they’ve been progressing steadily, but it feels a little “boring” in its steadiness. My daily routine is a little boring. This is my own problem, not anybody else’s. I should figure out how to get more out of my own life, I should figure out how to be at peace with myself if I die tomorrow.

Anyway, I realize that I’ve been carrying tonnes and tonnes of thoughts in my head for over a year, maybe. And it takes a bit of shaking around, a bit of colliding with other ideas, a bit of video-watching, people-talking, all of that stuff… before it starts to coalesce into something meaningful. And I feel like I’m on to something here, by taking what I’ve learnt over the past 1.5 years, by taking these new ideas and perspectives and lens and applying them to older, more fundamental pursuits.

Legion Of Heroes -> The Pipeline

I went through a phase where I was very obsessed with the idea of becoming a hero. I’d use “visaisahero” (Visa Is A Hero) as a username on multiple places. It was my MSN name. I was obsessed with this idea of becoming a hero- somebody who rose above herself and her circumstances to achieve great things for others. But somehow that never really took off the way I wanted it to. It was a vague, naive, narcissistic and fantastic ideal. It wasn’t actionable enough. The fundamental dream was real inside my head, but I hadn’t figured out what I was going to do about it. I had this vague idea that I’d just write about heroism, write blogposts about how to be heroic, and that I’d fake it until I made it.

That sort of died-ish. In the meantime, I had been writing about Singaporean politics and media news and stuff, and that got me a bunch of attention. But I never quite managed to let go of my original Heroes idea. I always felt that life could be much more interesting than as determined by happenstance. There had to be other people like me out there, people who were working on interesting things, tackling interesting problems, and there had to be a way to reach out to them and help them achieve great things. I created a community on Facebook called \(n_n)/ for friends to invite other thoughtful friends, so we could have nice conversations. These were really pleasant and thoughtful, but the nature of the medium made it more of a relationship/friendship building space rather than a vehicle for any serious change or construction. The only place I can actually imagine that actually happening is on an independent site or forum of some sort.

I knew that I wanted something. I knew I wanted more than what I was, what I had. But I didn’t know how to make it any more precise than I already had so far. I wanted to be more, to be better. But in what sense?

Creative Collision (synaptic stimuli!)

I was watching a couple of TED talks earlier when I was having lunch. First I re-watched Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk about genius and creativity. Then I watched Bill Gates talk about Innovating to Zero. And something stirred in me. As I watched these, I re-thought about other things that I’ve enjoyed watching, and how they cause certain conceptual collisions inside my head that trigger off a chain reaction. I realize that I ought to have a better formula for getting unstuck when I get stuck. I realize that I ought to share that formula with others who might be in the same boat as I was. And then things start getting clearer.

I don’t need to try and achieve something lofty. Rather, I need to try to achieve something highly specific and localized, that only I can do. And it can (even should?) start with something almost ridiculously hyper-precise, and hyper-unique to my own condition. Let me attempt to phrase it.

I personally want to see a slight shift in the world, where people celebrate scientific achievement and throw themselves at achieving the goals that improve the lot of our species. Specifically, the work of people like Elon Musk and Bill Gates come to mind, but really, anybody who’s doing basic research, anybody who’s improving science and technology, anybody who’s helping to lift people out of poverty, solve our energy problems, so on and so forth. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel there, I am willing to follow the visions of people who are smart and have put in the work already.

I am tired and underwhelmed of spectator sports and the path-of-least-resistance that “the media” often takes. I find it almost sad and ridiculous that people worry about celebrities and about sports when there are things happening at much larger scales. I suppose those things might seem more scary because they’re so consequential, but the idea of living life while caring about artificially created meaning scares me. I don’t mean to insult people who do that. I’m almost kind of jealous of people who can pick a sports team and be loyal to it for life and decide that that’s somehow a meaningful thing to do. For me it feels too artificial and constructed. And yes I know that all meaning is ultimately constructed, but shouldn’t we be working on things that have real and positive repercussions on other people?

Not necessarily. It’s all arbitrary. There is no single right way of doing things. Just ways of doing things that might be us amusing ourselves into the abyss, or us trying to build something and help people… also in the face of the abyss. I personally find that there’s something really exciting about the work that really smart people are doing, and it excites me more than sports or celebrities. If you disagree, then this isn’t the place for you. I’m still happy to share this precious planet with you, but you should probably go hang out somewhere else.

Paul Graham describes essays as cleaned-up trains of thought. My vomits aren’t cleaned up at all. They’re fully messy, fully random, fully chaotic. Everything just gets spilled out, and it probably makes little to no sense to anybody other than myself. But that’s okay, I can clean them up later. I’m just dumping out the lego bucket.

I think there must be kids out there in the world right now who are going through what I went through 10 years ago, 5 years ago. And I think back to how lost and confused I was at those points in time. I wonder what I would do if I encountered my younger self right now. What questions would I ask him? What advice would I give him? How would I help him make better decisions, without exactly telling him what to do, or asking him to do my bidding? That’s the blog that I need to have. I need to clean up the messy path that led me from there to here, so that others can skip the mistakes that I made en-route. So I need to be highly specific.

I’m going to write a bunch of blogposts that detail the biggest mistakes I made. The biggest lessons I learned. The things that I wasted my time with. The things I wish I did earlier. The videos, movies and books that made the biggest difference to me.

The people I will be writing for? ENTPs. Geminis. People with ADHD. People who did well in school early on, but became underachievers afterwards. People who were told they were smart, but weren’t taught to work hard. People with horrible time management skills. People who are flighty, unreliable, untrustworthy. People who used to read books under their desks at school. People who are addicted to Facebook or Reddit instead of building things in their spare time that might have lasting value. People who have always felt like they ought to be building something, but suspect that they’re not good enough, or that they might embarrass themselves by failing, or that the world doesn’t quite need what they have to say, do, or offer.

One of the most important things I’m realizing right now as I write this is how much of this stems from all of the things that seemed so silly and foolish when I were younger. Everything great seems really naive, stupid and ignorant when it’s still a fragile, vulnerable seed. You shouldn’t shut people out or down when they start on these paths. Rather, you should help them refine their thoughts. You should ask probing questions that will clear their heads.

I was hoping that this vomit or post was going to be really simple and straightforward, really succinct and fast. But instead I meandered through the whole thing. That’s okay. I’m getting it out. I have a lot more stuff to get out. And then I will sort it all. Then I will look at the streams, and I will tidy them up. And it will be useful to at least one other person out there. And it will remind me of my own journey, and it will give me a sense of how I’m going to move forward. We ARE going to innovate to zero. We ARE going to lift billions of people out of poverty. And I’m going to try and figure out how I can participate in that, get involved. And it’ll be really fun, exciting and meaningful. And we can go out with a smile on our faces, that our LifeGames were well-played.

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0149 – Fury

Defining Fury

I have been struggling for a word to describe a condition that sometimes comes over me. I sometimes want to call it Rage, and in the shower earlier I initially thought it might’ve been Lust, and perhaps I ought to put the two together and call it RageLust. But then it occurred to me- it ought to be Fury. This is at least partially influenced by the Fury condition that you get in Final Fantasy 7, which builds your Limit Break meter faster.

If none of that made sense, I’m going for the 2nd meaning of Fury you get if you Google “define fury”. That is, “extreme strength or violence in an action or a natural phenomenon”, as in “the fury of a gathering storm”.

According to Etymonline:

fury (n.) late 14c., “fierce passion,” from Old French furie (14c.), from Latin furia “violent passion, rage, madness,” related to furere “to rage, be mad.” Romans used Furiæ to translate Greek Erinyes, the collective name for the avenging deities sent from Tartarus to punish criminals (in later accounts three in number and female). Hence, figuratively, “an angry woman” (late 14c.).

Yeah, punishing criminals with avenging deities is the vibe I’m going for.


Anyway, some context. Yesterday, I was taking a long walk with my wife to go and meet my parents. Along the way, I passed by the house that I grew up in- which we sold about two years ago because we couldn’t quite afford it anymore. The person who’s bought it since has renovated it, and while it looks a lot “cleaner” because of all the fresh paint, it also looks a lot less charming. A lot colder. And I felt a certain rage in me at the desolation of my childhood home.

Now, I immediately juxtapose these visceral, from-the-gut reactions with some calm thoughts. Nobody is entitled to anything. Earth will eventually crumble, as will the rest of the universe. A house is just a thing. There are billions of humans who’ve never had the chance to live in a nice house, and perhaps never will. So my rage isn’t grounded in any sort of ethical or moral calculus. It’s purely reactionary, purely relative. I once had something that I didn’t appreciate while I had it, and it bothered me to see it being “mistreated” in my eyes.

I have felt similarly on other occasions, when I feel like something was being “mismanaged” or “misunderstood”, but I didn’t have any power or authority to do anything about it. In moments like those I feel incredibly powerless, and for a moment I regret not living a life of jealous, catty rage- because I hadn’t prepared myself. It’s like being a calm, happy-go-lucky civilian town and seeing your family and friends get bullied by a neighbouring military town. You realise that the world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and that might makes right. You aren’t power-hungry, you don’t wish dominance over others. You just want to stop being pushed around. You just want to stop feeling powerless as you watch people with more power crash around clumsily and damage the things you care about, even if these things are completely arbitrary and will eventually be dust.

It fills me with Fury to think about how families ill-treat their children. It fills me with Fury to think about all the injustice in the world, even though I know that it’s unlikely that I’ll ever do anything significant about it on a global scale. It feels me with Fury when I witness people get bullied but I can’t really do very much about it. In those moments I wish I were stronger. I wish I had put in the effort that my ChillBro inner self didn’t bother with, because all will end anyway, no point worrying so much about anything.

Choosing To Be Stronger

I feel a shift in my fundamental perspective on that. I feel like I’ve been here before. I know that it won’t last, because it never lasts, so I’m writing this in an attempt to calcify it at least a little bit. This is a recurring pattern that has recurred enough that I ought to do something about it. I’m tired of being weak when it counts. I’m tired of being powerless when it counts. People don’t appreciate kindness and mercy unless you have the strength and/or power to enforce real, credible threats. Speak softly and carry a big stick- I’ve never bothered with the big stick. This has proven over and over again to be really inefficient. I feel the same way about quitting smoking.

A series of suboptimal outcomes makes you realise there must be a superior global outcome, or the effort required for the high road is almost definitely less bad. It’s when you spend so much time in Mixed Feelings Park that you realise finally that you might as well go through the Dark Woods and get to the Happy Playground. (If none of that made sense, read How To Beat Procrastination by Wait But Why.

Eventually you realise that working out and staying fit is cheaper and happier than being an unfit slob. Doing your homework is cheaper and easier than panicking every day. Not smoking is happier and healthier than smoking. The problem with all of those things isn’t that the better path isn’t obviously better, but that the short term things seem to be too costly in the short run and don’t seem to have much clear payoff in the long run. The main problem for me when it comes to procrastination, etc might be a lack of faith. I don’t trust myself. I can’t trust myself. The data has shown that I am an untrustworthy person. Any big plans will definitely fail. So I might as well just do whatever will straightforwardly give me immediate pleasure, like cigarettes.

But I’ve done that a couple of times now. I’ve repeated that cycle a couple of times now, and each time I do it I end up pretty miserable and upset. I convince myself that misery is normal in life, and that I’m always going to be anxious and scared and unable to trust myself and dependent on stupid shitty things like cigarette and internet addiction but this really isn’t the case! Or rather, it’s so bad that it’s worth fighting against even if you don’t know whether or not you’ll make it out the other end. I’m tired of living with all these chains. But I also recognise that thrashing against the chains is useless, you have to use the Fury and direct it at a very specific link of a very specific chain and cut that. And that gives you more freedom. You have to be specific. You have to be precise. You have to be directed. I am not very good at any of those things. I am not very good at managing my own time. I’m not very good at breaking down big things into littler things. But I will have to do this now.

I’ve come to realise that cigarettes suck. They give you a very short term sense of control over your own emotional state, your own brain state. You get to excite yourself or calm yourself down in a couple of minutes, it’s very short simple and easy to complete. But ultimately the habit controls you. The highs get less high. I can see how I might fall back into smoking though. I would fall back into smoking if I lost sight of my grander vision, if I decided that fuck it, even though cigarettes suck, they’re familiar and reliable. It’s all a reliability game. It boils down to how much you can trust yourself. And trusting yourself is something you develop

Wow, this entire landscape is a lot more complex than I was hoping it was going to be when I started writing this. But that’s clearly obvious on hindsight. If it were simple I’d already have solved it a long time ago, as would billions of other people. This is a hard, challenging problem with dangerous loops and traps and illusions for you to get suckered by. Basically I need to

- keep myself motivated by reminding myself of what I’m fighting for, what I’m fighting against, who I want to be, who I don’t want to be.
- I then need to take lots of really simple, short actions that are quick and easy to do, to prove to myself that I can actually be a trustworthy person- I just have bad history but I deserve a second chance, and I need to start with the really simple things.

This word vomit is one such thing today. After this I’m going to clear out my one-tab. Then I’m going to refocus and maybe do another vomit. This Fury cannot subside too soon, not until I have done at least some of the things I know that I must do but I have lacked the energy to do for so long. Not now. Not anymore. It’s been enough.

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The PRC guy at my coffeeshop

Original post on Facebook

There’s a PRC guy who works at the coffeeshop downstairs from my block. I first encountered him when I first moved into my flat, about a year and a half ago. He only spoke Mandarin then (I think).

He’d primarily clean tables and take drink orders. He was brash and came across as rude and unlikeable. He spoke loudly, roughly. When I tried to order from him, he’d respond in Mandarin- and my Mandarin is pretty bad but I’m pretty sure he was cursing me (or his fate). He’d then avoid me altogether. Which, you know, kinda sucks for me as a patron. But I didn’t want to make a big deal about it.‪#‎justminorityproblems‬

Yesterday though, he cheerfully came over and took orders from me and my wife. He was friendly. We ordered a milo and a bandung, and when it turns out that the bandung was a can and my wife wanted to switch to a milo too, he happily obliged with none of the frustration and confusion I got from him a year earlier. It was a pleasant interaction and we thanked him gratefully.

This morning I went down to buy breakfast and he was making drinks. I’m drinking his kopi as I write this.

All of this gives me a lot of thoughts and feels. It was so easy to judge him and hate him, filthy stupid foreigner, learn the language, why are you here. But he was probably scared, confused, felt abused and ostracized in an unfamiliar country. A year later, he’s a part of the ecosystem and I’m glad to have him around. And it’s pretty cool to see him learn a language, develop new skills, take more responsibility… all the sort of things that we tell ourselves that WE ought to be doing, while we enjoy our relative position of privilege.

Lately I’ve been toying with the idea that it’s healthy, interesting and fun to think that we’re all here to teach each other something. A student can teach a teacher, a child can teach a parent, and a migrant worker can teach this Singaporean. Patience, tolerance, kindness. It makes for a more beautiful world. And delicious kopi.

Original post on Facebook. Share!

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Why I Am A Marketer

This is a quick and dirty draft I wrote while at work.

There’s this Italian guy on TED- Ernesto Sirolli who said there are three parts to business- you make it, you sell it, you handle the money.

Peter Drucker said the same thing: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two—and only two—basic functions: marketing and innovation.” “Everything else is either just executing on what innovation and marketing unearth (production, sales) or helping innovation and marketing do their job (HR, accounting, etc).

I hate handling the money- I just hate it, full stop. I will outsource it to people and processes I trust. I just need to see the most big-picture stuff. Are we in the green? Can we keep going? Good enough for me.

I like product innovation, I like reading about it, learning about it, and I really appreciate it, but I don’t like doing it myself. Or rather, I know for a fact that there will always be others who are better at it than me.

Marketing though, that falls right within my core competencies and interests. I’ve always loved ideas, books, movies, art, theater, dance. Framing. Context.

Marketing is the process of creating a customer, where a customer is a novel and stable pattern of behavior. It’s about helping people see themselves in a different way, it’s about improving the meaning or value of something often just by rearranging and realigning things, sometimes by removing things. The amount of value you get for the amount of work done is almost magical to me. Consider the following: Let’s replace “lose your virginity” with “make your sexual debut”. Do you see how that makes things completely different? Or how about this- let’s replace “drugs are bad for you” with “drugs are for losers”. (OK, I know, there are mental illness implications/consequences, but do you see where I’m coming from?)

My marketing “career” began when I was playing in a shitty band as a teenager. We weren’t that great as musicians. But I focused on building relationships with concertgoers who were interested in having a great experience. I got us to wear coordinated outfits, I set up our MySpace page all nice and showy, I posted witty comments on everybody’s walls. I came up with the onstage banter, I positioned us as a fun, dancy band. We got to play on one of the largest stages in my country because we could pull a sizeable crowd, even though we were one of the shittiest bands around.


When I got on stage, with the lights and the roar of the crowd, I knew that marketing was the life for me. It still is. I won’t build the rocket that gets us to Mars, or the electric driverless cars that will save us from killing each other on the roads, but I sure as hell am going to devote my energies towards making them palatable for everybody.

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Why should we blog?

It’s always been self-evident to me, but let me try to spell it out. A blog is the intersection of conversations and book-publishing. Why should have conversations, and why should we publish books?

It allows for the accelerated exchange of ideas. A blogpost has a potentially limitless audience throughout space-time. Something you write can touch and move people long after you’re dead. It can inspire and provoke and be referenced and riffed. And it’s essentially free to publish.

If you have intelligent, thoughtful discussions on Facebook, or on Hacker News, or on Quora, and you don’t translate the fruit of those discussions into a blog that is accessible by search, you’re missing out on hundreds of thousands of hits, potential connections, intelligent input, exchange. And those of us who blog benefit disproportionately from your inaction. (But I’d much rather live in a world where EVERYBODY blogged, because that would mean a richer cross-fertilization of ideas. My % slice of the pie might be smaller, but it would be a bigger slice becaus the pie would’ve expanded so much. And it would taste so much better, too.)

And the audience typically self-selects, so if you write about what you care about, you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who care about the same things. Sometimes people will disagree with you, which is great because it forces you to clarify yourself, to make your thinking more precise. You’ll notice flaws and weaknesses in yourself that you didn’t realize before. It’s accelerated learning. You’ll grow and improve. The brain is a muscle, and a blog is a gymnasium for the mind. After a while you’ll start noticing that you’re sharper and quicker than people.

You’ll learn to think and write better. You’ll develop a public record of your thoughts and writing, and you can psychoanalyze yourself over time. I can look back right now at blogposts from 2010 to see what my thinking was like 4 years ago. I can study it for bad logic, flaws, etc. I can improve myself.

If you find yourself repeating yourself in different conversations, you can just write a blogpost about it and share the link with everybody. That saves time. I’m writing this blogpost after having a conversation with a friend who asked “Why should we blog?”. I’m answering this question in a blogpost, so now I can send it to everybody.

There’s very limited downside (you do something once, it lasts forever) and nearly unlimited upside- your writing will go to places you can’t go yourself. My blog got me invited to see the Prime Minister, it allowed me to respond to kids going through the same problems I did when I was younger, it got me employed by awesome employers.

I’m sure I repeated myself a little bit, and I may have left some of it out, but in essence the benefit is tremendous and accelerated mind expansion. Your mind gets to collide with itself, it gets to collide with other minds, it gets to have its signals amplified, shared, remixed, etc.

It’s like asking a musician, why record your performances? Why play other people’s songs? Why collaborate with other musicians? In all cases, the answer is- because music is beautiful, and the more you play it, the more you immerse yourself in it, the more you share, the more you listen, the better you get at it, and the more joy you bring to yourself and to others. And imagine if all of that was essentially free, and it was what you could be doing with little pockets of spare time (like when you’re on public transportation, for instance.)

Over time, it compounds into a hideous advantage. And it’s free, so I think it’s ridiculous when smart people don’t blog. You mean you tell people the same thing, in conversation, over and over again? When you could essentially publish stuff for free? C’mon guys, we’re living in the future. More blogs, please. More thinking, more thoughts, faster. Let’s go.

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