30 January 2013

Singapore Population White Paper - Is it the loser strategy?

The Singapore Population White Paper calls for growth in population to overcome the aging of population. Is it a loser strategy? Consider when will the growth stop? It will stop when the limited land (though we can expand into sea and expand upward and downward but still limited) is unable to support the large population from long term exponential growth. A better policy will be to ask how can we have economic, happiness and environment protection at zero or near zero population growth rate?
Zero Population Growth Possible?
Some friend emailed me the following http://www.theglobalist.com/printStoryId.aspx?StoryId=8321

While it is an alternative view to this growth based white paper, it unfortunately does not, despite the interesting name of Ponzi, give any good reasoning or evidences to support the possibility of sustainable well-beings at zero population growth. The goals are good but the how-to is not there.

With the world being a connected complex system, it is no longer possible to believe the reasoning linear model arguments. We need to build complex adaptive system model simulation to understand the effects of our linear policy decisions.

Adding to get Growth is Simple - The problem is that it leads to a dead end.
The Singapore Population White Paper can be found here. The key recommendation is to increase the population to compensate for the aging population with the forecast of about 6.5-6.9 millions by 2030. If we just follow the recommendation and extent it further, when can the growth end? By 2050, we will have 9-10 million? By 2070, we will have 11-13 million? By 2100, 40-50 Million? My estimates are probably wrong, because the little area that we have may not be able to support such large population. By my point is hopefully clear, it will progress to destruction due to over-population. When kind of strategy is that if it only leads to eventual death? So I call it the loser strategy.

Change the Question and Change the Strategies.
It is better we question the common wisdom of adding for growth and change the question.
How can we have economic, social and environment well-being with zero or near zero population growth?

Innovation is about Doing More with Less
It takes innovative thinking to find out the different strategies for economic & social well-being at zero population growth.

1st Step Did Someone Else has the answer?
The first step of any problem solving is to look for someone who have solved similar problems. So I tried to look for city-state nations like Singapore and see if they have near zero population growth and still have high per capital GDP. A few nations come to mind, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. Here are what I found ( http://www.indexmundi.com/g/g.aspx?c=sn&v=67).

Someone asked about the population age distribution. Here are the links to Netherlands and Belgium and we can see that the aging population percentage are higher compared to Singapore even in 2010.
The Age Distribution for Netherlands http://www.nationmaster.com/country/nl-netherlands/Age-_distribution
For Belgium http://www.nationmaster.com/country/be-belgium/Age-_distribution

Here is their age distribution for 2010 compared to Singapore:

Compared with Singapore 2012, they have a much higher aging distribution even in 2010. They are doing find in 2010 with such aging, can we not do the same if not better?

But, they are different from Singapore, can we extrapolate?

There are difference of course. But at least we can find out what they are and whether they are applicable to us. Could we find out why they can first before we conclude we cannot.

It is proposed that perhaps the government can form a zero-growth think-tank to come out with strategies to achieve economic, social and environment well-being. Or may be the opposition party can look at this question too.

Lim Liat (c) 30 Jan 2013

See also What Singapore can learn from Europe by Tommy Koh

23 January 2013

How to become Smart or even a Genius?

Smart people has a way of thinking that make them smart. Normal people like us can learn to be smart too by knowing the method and putting the efforts. If we put in the efforts early, it become easier for us to be smart and in the long term to be very smart or even like a genius, especially when we know how to extend our mind with the right software and computer, oops, smart-phone. The secret to a supermind is shared here.

A friend shared on Facebook the following statement written her son. It is a very wise and powerful motto for life. Here it is:

Virtue is demonstrating honesty and integrity in my life by doing what is right.   

What can we learn from it?

Confucius has such a saying:

Analects 7:8 子曰:「不愤不启,不悱不发。 举一隅不以三隅反,则不复也。」
Lack of trying result in lack of understanding. Lack of organized thought result in lack of clarity of speech. Pointing out one corner and not able to think about the other three, then there is no revision.

Smart student revise their lessons early. They spend time to see the patterns of the concepts taught, get them organized, internalized them and enable them to apply them wisely. New knowledge can also be easily captured and added to the framework. Students that are not willing to spend time to revise and reflect, reorganize, and know more, as recommended by Confucius, will not benefit much from the lesson. Such students that refuse or don't spend time to really think by organizing their newly acquired knowledge and just try to take easy way out of memorizing will eventually end up in studying very hard and long hours and yet may still fail in examinations.

The Way to Revise Well:

The way to revise well is to build a mind-map of the concepts taught. The mind-map below show the four steps:

Step 1 is the statement itself. Recall the facts taught.

Step 2 is to analyze, or break down the statements into its components. Try to find patterns, similarities or differences, the flow of thoughts, the grouping, the cause-effect and other kind of relationships among the concepts.

Step 3 is Grouping. Try to group concepts together and discover the parent-child (super-set subset) relationships. 

Step 4 is Extension of Framework.
Which the framework from Step 3, now it just to ask ourselves questions by extending from the various concept branches.

New concepts learned later can be easily added to this framework. As more and more concepts are added, there may be need to breakup or recombine some of the existing branches. There is true learning.

When we need to apply, the mind-map provides us the easy starting point to look-up and get the additional details needed. 

Hope this is useful.

One more thing for the Corporate Leaders and Managers....
Mission, vision and values are important things for any organization to create the right cultures for their business. Values like, honesty, integrity, compassion, creativity etc etc are usually listed and explained. But the best form of explaining values is to express them in observable behaviors so that they can be spotted and copied. Furthermore, values must be institutionalized into policies, rules, standard operating produces, design of office space, show rooms, demonstrated in products and services, internalized in staff and be executed by hiring and firing based on the values. The gap between what is stated on website and brochures and the actual implementation is the common problem of many not too successful organizations. Recall the statement .... virtue is demonstrated by doing .....

Lim Liat (C) 23 Jan 2013

Related Post: For more on mind mapping, follow the series Brain Storming with Mind Mapping - Illustrated with Future of Singapore.

11 January 2013

Facts & Interpretation of Facts:

Facts are facts. But the are temporaries. Your interpretation of the facts and your subsequent actions determine whether those facts will or will not change.
Most of us will be familiar with this famous story used to illustrate optimistic and pessimistic persons:

A business development executive from a shoes company visited a place to assess the market. He discovered the following fact:
  • People living there walk around bare footed. They don't know about such a thing called shoes.
  • Optimistic: It is a great market for shoes.
  • Pessimistic: There is no hope for shoes - they do't wear them at all.
Question: Which is the right interpretation?

Answer: It all depends and both could be right.

The Pessimistic guy acted on his interpretation and did not enter the market and thereby fulfilling his 'prediction' of 'there is no market for shoes there'.

The Optimistic guy work out a promotion program to show the people the values of shoes ---- protection, effectiveness, productivity and beauty etc. He persuaded the leaders there to try out the shoes FOC with other activities to make the leaders look good among his people; more and more people test it and give good reports; a few year later, going bare-foot become a strange thing for the young people there.

What is the moral of the story?
1. watch our interpretation of facts.
2. facts are temporary, your aspiration and hard work can change them.
3. think above the line and take responsibility for what you are and can become; blaming others change nothing.
e.g. Apple in phone business.

One more thing, the story has not ended yet.
The Pessimistic person went to another place where people do wear shoes. He work with his engineers to personalize the shoes to suite the contour of their feet and create a great and profitable business too. Remember point 2 above.

You can choose to be 

  • in the incremental innovation business or 
  • in the disruptive innovation business. 
Pick one where your strengths can help you i.e. it is easy for you and extremely hard for others... then you can be the leader...

All the very best to your adventure in life.

Lim Liat (C) 11 Jan 2013

08 January 2013

Lessons from Optical Illusions

Optical Illusions warn us not to believe our eyes - what we see is actually not the truth! Besides using them to impress people with such simple magic acts, there are more lesson for us.

I first come across such optical illusion diagrams when studying ergonomics in engineering school.
What do you see?
The upper line is shorter than the lower line.
The same effect is created whether I use the arrows or the circles!

Even when I tell you that the lines are actually of equal sized, we still see them as one longer than the other. Our perception is some how distorted by presence of additional lines or circles.

However, if I introduce some key guide lines for comparing their sizes as shown the picture below, we can see very clearly:

What lessons can we learn from these diagrams?

Here are my suggestions or interpretation or implications:
  1. Additional information(represented by the arrow heads or circles) distorts our perception of the truth
  2. There are such things call misleading facts. Facts presented to distort the perception of truth.
    These are what the con man do to us. They present facts to lead us to draw our own conclusion that they set up.
  3. Getting additional information or facts may mislead us in drawing a wrong conclusion. Statisticians warn us that association may not reflect the cause and effects.
  4. Pruning away misleading facts help us to see clearer.
    If you can, take away the arrows and circles from the above diagram and you can see clearly for yourself.
  5. It is difficult for us to be objective.
    Our experience and mind-set has great influence in our perception of things. We have the famous saying of 'we only see what we want to see'. Even though we know the lines are of equal sizes, we don't see it!
  6. Look for guides or references or standards to help us ascertain the truth. (by drawing the vertical lines). When it is difficult for us to ignore the presented information, we want to use reference or guideposts to help us find the truth.
    e.g. when some money is mistaken transfer from one account to another.
           How can we tell it is an honest mistake or a intention stealing?
  7. Don't Over Generalized
    Don't get carry away to generalize that because information may distort there is no need to look for more information. This exercise just warn us that information may help clarify or distort. We need to be wiser.
  8. Recall from Stats that there are two types of error in drawing our conclusions
    • Type 1 false positive: saying it is a virus when it is not.
    • Type 2 false negative: saying it is not a virus when it is a virus.

When reading the news and posts of the social network, I should be
  • not to believe all of them as true. There are hoax, spam, disguised advertising and sabotages.
  • careful not to prejudge or be too quick to jump to conclusions.
  • know that I am prejudiced by my experience and mindset and need to seek multiple points of views.
  • have guide posts type of criteria to seek for more information and for filtering to get to the truth.
An example of non-intentional misleading conclusion can be seen at Fooling Ourselves and Others with Stats - Fertility Rate ...

Lim Liat (C) 8 Jan 2013