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My 2011 carrots for the Golden Bunny. February 5, 2011

Posted by @Karen_Fu in change, faith, human quality, life challenges, New Year, terrorism.
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2011 is here. Well it is already here for over a month until the metal (Golden) rabbit pops in just 3 days ago in the Lunar New Year. Perhaps munching some carrots and looking for play, baby bunny may well bring us a brighter outlook than last year.

I have just returned home from a series of visits to different places. I think there has been a lot of changes lately — some good, and some not so good. Some catching up with relatives & a few old friends seem to open up many important issues. But I think I just want to dwell on one — human relationships.

So what is there in store for us all around the world? I came out of the Mass Rapid System just a few hours ago to realise that even the nearest station in an almost harmless place is also putting up with clusters of CCTVs (Close Circuit TVs). I couldn’t believe it when I start to count how many of these security measures have come into the neighbourhood. There are already CCTVs at crossroads and some at lifts of public housings. This is to me abnormal since I have been growing up on a tiny dot of land where there used to be given peace all around, and basically everyone used to trust almost everyone. Under that condition, you need almost no security then. Today,securty measures are installed in car parks, canteens, lifts, schools, offices, MRTs, buses etc. The only place that appears to be clear of CCTVs are the toilets. I suppose no one will want to place a CCTV in every water closet. But who knows, in time to come even such privacy may soon disappear when people start to get paranoid about how terrorists work. Till that point, I think almost all kinds of trust will be evaporated. And for that matter, terror will really take its toll.

So my first golden carrot for the bunny is to wish is that we regain trust as people. ‘No trust = no harmony’: a simple equation that all bunnies old & young should be able to understand. To add in a simple reality is that human relationships are wanning mainly because we think too much in the wrong direction. Almost every crazy day, we read about fights. Doesn’t matter what kind and nature of fights they are, it is often stemmed out of jealousy & over emphasis of self interests. Technological advances may solve certain problems to a point, but ultimately its we ourselves who decide if we are willing to let go and forget, simplify and move on. It is often the various self-interests that blind our minds to progress. And it is also the very fact that people tend to run on double-edged swords that cut not only themselves but others too. Divorces are common not only in the west but also in the east where marriage is no longer that lasting as it used to be. ‘Till dealth do us part’ does not ring an eternal bell. It ironically happens in times when people are living better in comfort.

While I envy those who marry, have kids and a family; I do get alarmed by the reality of how many of these marriages actually work. It often makes you wonder what this world is getting to be like the flickery climate — where you don’t know when the floods or draughts would come in. The most comfortable climate is one that bears warmth, sunshine with some drizzles of snow and free breezes of wind. Not thunders or storms that wreck havoc. Family ties are the most important in maintaining society’s harmony. If such units are destroyed, the multiplier effect from broken families is huge impact to a peaceful society.

Most of us know that our future lies in our hands. The future can only betray us when we betray ourselves. To me, I do not see solving problems any harder unless we choose them to be. It is all in our hands to recognize our priorities for survival that is both happy and lasting. Technologies are supposed to assist us attaining solutions and we should not abuse technologies out of greed to the point that it will someday get the better of us. This is the wisdom and intelligence that I feel is crucial. Just because one could argue in profound words that differentiates one from the other & only believe that only that certain group of knowledge is the best to lead and therefore shunning away all other possible solutions; is not only stupid, but also dangerous.  We want a meritocratic place where people are credited fairly because of what they’ve positively done to society, not silly looking ideas of appearing ‘intelligent’. In that manner, can we be sure to say that such research is truly beneficial. I often find sickening arguements coming from people whose eyes are grown on top of their heads. They think they know it all because they have come from certain classes in society. That is elitistism & elitistism usually have sorry outcomes.

Our problem is not complex. And shockingly the nature of the problems are often similar. Then why is it that we love to expand and complicate them is often beyond me. Surely there are many different scenarios behind different sets of problems, but my point is why should we always use added knowledge to add up more problems when added knowledge is supposed to solve them?

I used to believe that top schools yield the kind of knowledge that we need to perform. Now I doubt if such systems do work. Times have changed, ideals and norms have changed. Let’s wish that the new year spells far less violence like what we are seeing now in various cities around the world. There is a migratory trend that really says something about societies and it is defintely unhealthy.  [People are moving out from what it was the technologically advanced cities fraught with high crime and violence to other places that seem to be safe and peaceful.] And hopefully when the bunny comes hopping in, it knows where to burrow and where to hop in times of trouble. Being passive and docile at times may be better than being mighty & aggressive. Sometimes we need to check our pace, and the year of the bunny may just be the year to check it out before propelling forward just yet in that powerful leap.

Hope I’ve made sense. While writing this, I am redefining what my own wishes are. I still very much prefer the old 80s to 90s and a life of tranquil. I really hate the current greed and all. But what can I do when I live in a pragmatic city where the emphasis of money is getting more and more important ?  — Karen Fu


1. Bill Joy: ‘Why the Future doesn’t need us’

‘A’ or ‘C’-The Future Talent We Need Now. August 1, 2010

Posted by @Karen_Fu in creativity, human quality, Innovation, talent.
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[pic source: www.scivit.de; www.cgb-reunion.org]

I’ve just met another typical parent today. Someone who claims that today’s standard is higher than yesteryears as the technologies to be learnt are far more advanced than before. While it’s true to claim that today’s students learn far more, one cannot deny that our forefathers took the pain to lay the foundations. Should more advanced knowledge be the main guaage to measuring one’s talent? I doubt it. But it appears that taking more tests and the ability to score high in more tests appear to be the mark of excellence. To a lot of extent, a lot of what our predecessors have done are forgotten.

Can we safely say that to invent a bicycle is less intelligent/creative/innovative than to invent a motorcycle? Or can we discriminate someone who could fold a plane in a piece of paper and say the engineer who just made another fighter jet is far cleverer?

I thought this is the kind of mentality that cuts off other areas of knowledge and creativity.

More than half a century ago, scoring 5 Distinctions for the University of Cambridge Examinations used to be a stellar set of grades. Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and his wife were top students of their cohorts. While I cannot recall how many ‘A’s they have scored, I am very sure they did not have 10 / 11/ 12 or even 13 As in one shot. Definitely they did not have stand in tutors/enrichment classes to get them to the grades they had. Today, getting a string of A’s is a common sight. This used to be confined to top schools in Singapore. It wasn’t meant to be even reachable among the masses. Not to mention those who are in the 50th/60th percentile of the year’s cohort. However today, a student, under the tutorledge of both school and private home teachers + many on enrichment classes, these students could be stellar students able to reach the stars like anybody else. Naturally the pride goes up. And it is good that the esteem has risen. They have put in a powerful effort to gain the grades and that is admirable. What looks mediocre now was what it was exceptional. Today’s top student is someone of a super hybrid of As, list of accomplishments at national and international levels armed with a few rare skills. The skills of these students are highly noted. Once I went to an European seminar, and a professor from a top northern European country even suggested that the entire Singapore population to migrate to his country. He claimed that there were ample land space for all to go over to settle. To add on, the mix of cultures and race would enrich his entire country.

I was surpirsed or rather should I claim that was a shock. Never had I heard something like that. It could mean a whole bunch of other things as well. But I’m not too sure since he didn’t explicitly spelt it out. He merely suggested it.

While this is all very encouraging, I am actually worried. Not that I worry about the academic ability. But I worry about the true definition of ‘talent’. If we are not careful, we might make a U turn backwards as far as learning is concerned, for learning is not merely about accumulating knowledge, but to learn how to learn. We may be misled to miss the points of other traits, notably creativity and more importantly, moral ethics and a wide horizon of other non-academic subjects that we all need to learn — political and socio-economic astuteness. The possibility of getting ‘A’ scorers to get complacent and even arrogant is very real, and it is happening now. And the humility to bend and move in ways that most cannot do in a leadership way that is like no other, so a nation could remain as prosperous and sustainable.I think this latter portion is way more important. What was an ‘A’ may not meet what is a ‘B’ with other non-academic skills that could easily make up for the loss of an ‘A’.

We want creative leaders / followers who can think not just out of the box, but in any given situation in different professions. Flatted or not, the world is now in its evolved state that anyone with any skills could work in anywhere under any different scenario. Everywhere in the world, people keep blaming that people from poorer countries are undercutting them. If they could cut you at a lower price, someone somewhere would do a better deal. The competition is that steep and everyone’s in.

I often wonder why our gradautes could fade after the top of the crop while other graduates could just perform better & eventually surpass us. There’s clearly something we need to change. I have a school friend who was rendered as a sort of failure. She wasn’t stupid. For if she were, she wouldn’t have cross the hurdles to be in the top high school here. She merely miss the senior high school year & she was seen as an academic failure. Soon, she went off to Arizona State University. Following year till final year, she had been on the Dean’s list. She went on to Penn Uni for Masters (if I’m not mistaken.) She wouldn’t have made it if she stayed here. The level of freedom to research and learn were far more flexible, so your mind just grow. It did for me too when I was overseas, so I knew what she was talking about. Definitely there was something in.

For a changing world, you need people who genuinely loves to learn for the sake of learning,and a zeal that makes people fuel more energy to create new exciting ways of living that enhances quality.Not a group of people who are stuck in an area for just ‘A’s. ‘A’s are not enough anymore for a  world that runs on very rapid change.

For what was an ‘A’ in the past may not be an ‘A’ now. And what was a ‘D’ or even a ‘F’ in the past may changed to be a ‘B’ or even an ‘A’ now.

So what are the grades for? And what are talents?

Only time, not report cards, will tell. – Karen Fu

Thought I add this in from LinkedIn: US competitor in the next 10 years February 4, 2009

Posted by @Karen_Fu in Uncategorized.
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Who is more likely to challenge the economic strength of the U.S. in the next 10 years? China or India? Why?

Asked by Jason Rodriguez

My public answer:

“I can’t even see the link… anyway I will answer from what your question asks: it is an interesting question if you put the time frame as a span of 10 years. If its 30-50 years, it could have been a different answer. So lets focus on what may be happening in the next 10 years. I think the US will still remain in dominance and lead in various areas of science and technology because it has a very superior foundation that cannot be taken away that easily. Unless there are few things happening: -natural disasters that befall the country that could bleed the nations resources. -further turmoil economically that cannot be salvaged effectively within the next few years; which will send the foreign talent in the US to move out or back to their native land. – social unrest and spike in crime. – unexpected challenges arising from warring states in the middle east or even from the north. – increase in unemployment rate – increase in social breakdown mainly due to economic hardship in a very bad way. Notwithstanding, China and India, if they share the above same problems will face similar predicaments. Despite so, even if they could control the current crisis well and maintain in positive growth, I don’t think they can beat the US within 10 years. Maybe in 20 or 30 years, with constant postive growth, improvement in their infrastructure and education; health and security. I do not know that much about india other than seeing the indians here on business. They are impressive people who can match with the Americans anytime. But the problem with their country is that the benefit from their rapid growth doesn’t spread uniformly throughtout the country. If they stand alone in groups like Mumbai, New Delhi, with other prospering cities, it could have put them up in a better situation. Comparatively, China has a better spread. I recently attend an arts event held by the mainland Chinese. Together with what I have seen so far, they are learning very quick. I don’t even think that English is their stumbling block given their hunger for knowledge. Last years Bejing Oylmpics somewhat showed their determination to come up as a strong nation despite the environmental odds and the negative press review. Considering that, I think China is very determine to make it. India is very well known for finance talent and software talent. A lot of able people at top international financial establishments. Their ability in technology especially in developing inexpensive products is also a force to reckon with. Both cultures are historically very vibrant. If they want to prosper and surpass the states, they must learn to create a sense of order. Especially political and social sense of order so that economically and politiaclly they can set up for greater ambitions. They also lack creativity and imagination when compared the States due to the lack of expressive freedom in thinking. If that grip is lessen, it will be a totally different story.