Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Ouch! Singapore society slammed by Apple co-founder

This morning while working at my computer pre-9am I heard BBC interviewer quizzing Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computers, about the counter-culture that Steve Jobs apparently embodied.

Steve W talked about creativity, and noted that -- especially in schools -- the length of one's hair is not important relative to how creative that person is.

You may or may not agree with him. I say, it should be entirely up to you. But then I sat up as he went:

"... look at structured societies like Singapore where bad behaviour is not tolerated. You are extremely punished.

"Where are the creative people? Where are the great artists? Where are the great musicians? Where are the great singers? Where are the great writers? Where are the great athletes?

"All the creative elements seem to disappear. Of course everybody is educated, has a good job, a lot of pay and a nice car.

"You know, some rituals in life, you are never going to get away from all rituals. 'Let's sing and cheer to our school,' you're taught in school, you know, 'My school, right or wrong, and I'd always oppose the other.'

"'And the referees if they make the call that is against our team, the referee made a mistake ....'

"That's not really what it's about. You're just taught this 'nationalism', not to think about what is right and wrong but to take a side, just like in politics at an early age ... and that's not lined up with creativity.

"And they will take a side because [of] other people, it's the thing to do. Somebody else made that rule, not you. You did not think for yourself. So thinking for yourself is creativity.

"And that goes right down to what we were talking about dress, the clothing that you wear. It's like you wear what you want to wear."

Clearly Steve W knows enough about Singapore to talk like that. (And this is going to be broadcast to all of Britain later on tonight.)

I am so embarrassed. But he is right.

This is exactly what my husband has been saying about Singapore. So "thinking-inside-the-box", so sticking to rules, so toeing the line, we are unlikely to produce a Nobel Prize winner.

Talk about a wake-up call. I'm not sure my breakfast sat very well after this.

Singapore the laughing stock -- again.


Chan JY said...

Actually, Singapore does (did) have talent. Examples include the late Goh Poh Seng and Australian English professor Boey Kim Cheng.

The trouble is, not only have most Singaporeans not even heard of them, they are not even interested to find out more.

A little better known controversial character is Mr Chua Lam

But Singaporeans love "simplicity". They tend to stick labels on people who don't conform, seeing people like Chua Lam as nothing more than a dirty old man.

Our government has actually been pandering to public sentiments and opinions. Keeping society safe, sanitised and predictable has gained them unrivalled support over the years. Even when people vote against them, it's always because of bread and butter issues; never one of ideologies.

Fruitfly said...

Just like when MRT Circle Line was down, nobody was to tell anybody anything about it until SMRT official announcements are made and it could be few hours later. If we talked about emergency alert, SMRT failed miserable. Than again, Singapore has too many protocol to observe, as what Apple co-found has noticed, and that make our society a failure not a success.

Teddy said...

Of course we've got talent, he's just never heard of them.
Just a few of our creative people in SG - Dick Lee, Kumar, Zoe Tay, Gurmit.
This guy doesn't know anything.

Anonymous said...

Hi There! Thanks for this post and blog. I just got my Singapore citizenship actually (formerly a Malaysian citizen who has been educated and worked abroad for a long time). I whole-ehartedly agree with the amazing Woz. I have his book "iWOZ" and, as an engineer myself, could really connect with his story. Meanwhile, I'll be trying to do the best I can to promote creativity, especially in the area of education in Singapore and in the world. Here's a blog I started as a result of an outreach program I got involved in between where I work and a local school: Let's see how that goes!