Sunday, July 09, 2017
Why Singaporeans will not matter in the future.
I thought I'd spend Sunday writing about some of the key conclusions from the book Homo Deus by Yuval Harari within our local context. This is a very interesting read which I strongly recommend to all readers. In fact, you might be better off skipping Sapiens and going into Homo Deus straight because it talks about the future instead of the past.
a) Politically Singaporeans do not matter
If you look at the Oxley Road matter, one takeaway is that ordinary Singaporeans do not really matter in this unfolding drama, the support for our constituencies will not collapse overnight whether we preserve or demolish 38 Oxley Road. Ditto for the Elected Presidency.
The more interesting insight I gained from reading Homo Deus is the philosophical question of whether PAP is a political party or an algorithm. I find the algorithm argument convincing because the PAP is one of the most successful and consistent political parties in the world. Imagine the PAP as some sort of computer process or daemon with the Constitution and associated Statutes as some kind of database.
The PAP algorithm under the hood may work like this : Keep unemployment low within 5%, keep economic growth reasonable at 2-3%, manage constituencies to cover all basic and security needs. If all these conditions are being met, no opposition party can gain enough foothold to block a Constitutional amendment which further allows PAP to tweak the Constitution to continue to meeting these hard economic guidelines further entrenching their power.
Unlike the ministers that direct the PAP, the PAP is a highly intelligent algorithm without the requisite consciousness that knows Singaporeans better than Singaporeans themselves. Where Singaporeans can make a difference is only during rare cases like in 2011, when they gave an entire GRC to the Worker's party which triggers a flag for the PAP to make bigger changes to its social policies. But any intelligent programmer will know that code can be written to adjust to external sensor. This external sensor being an election poll.
b) Militarily Singaporeans do not matter
This is a much easier argument to extend because the nature of war itself is changing. A fat, overweight soldier can be a butcher in the battlefield because he can command a squad of attack robots. The consciousness of a solder is no longer an asset in a world where command and control can be simplified suing highly-refined AIs.
This will be a province of a few select Elite Singapore battle scholars.
c) Economically Singaporeans do not matter.
The ordinary Singaporean will have about 20-30 years head-start but will will become irrelevant much faster than his counterpart from another country because we are embracing a Smart Nation with a much bigger sense of urgency.
Look no further than the emergence of a robo-advisor, a low cost financial planner that would not push products down your throat or create a conflict of interest. The technology will not just render an army of financial professionals unemployed, it will create a better environment for millenials to invest their money. In the future, a robo-advisor might even be able to replicate active fund manager capabilities. I see this happening within 10 years.
As more technologies begin to disrupt the services, the population will split into a caste of "useless" citizens and a "super-elite" core that will control and direct an army of artificial intelligences to keep the economy humming.
I actually believe that the creation of the "useless' caste has already started.
I had a conversation with a bunch of friends the other day where 80% of the subject matter is about events in the virtual world such as : What games to play. How to power level your Necromancer and what we bought in the latest Steam Sale.
A world in which Singaporeans do not matter may be welcomed by many Singaporeans
What I painted on this blog is very dystopian but I also believe that it would be welcomed by many Singaporeans who finally get the rest they desire. There will be no Marxist nightmare because the proletarian are too busy killing Diablo to overpower the bourgeois elite.
The ordinary "useless" class will withdraw from the marriage and breeding market ending years of heartache and frustration (Already happening based on the latest survey). They can plug into a virtual world where you can have a sense of achievement and even lead meaningful lives. (Unless you power-level and depend on someone else to give you free xp, which is akin to living on your inheritance). A world where non-degree males have problems finding employment, a government algorithm only needs to provide enough basic universal income to sustain a lifetime of plugging in playing games for an entire lifetime or watching Netflix videos.
The population will likely drop and the Singapore will be ruled by an enhanced and very small caste of High Programmers/Policy makers.
Your future Ikigai will be to reach 1000 paragon points.
What can you do?
This is not a question that I will need to answer as I have already retired once. But this is a serious challenge for my children.
The first answer for everyone is to simple embrace the future. For this to take place, some form of Universal basic income for internet bandwidth and food needs to be provided for the population. Efficiencies may make this a very small burden even for 5% of the population that pays taxes.
The next best answer is to attempt to join the super-elite. This is not going to be easy as the skills in the future would be advanced degrees in both biology and computer science. But perhaps 5-10% of the population will make the cut.
My answer is for folks within our generation to amass enough wealth to support just one or two generation ahead of ours. Investing in companies that will bring in this new age will maintain prosperity for our children who may or may not qualify to be super-elite.
If they fail, the family line will end with them but they will have comfortable lives. If they succeed, they will work very hard to keep the nation advancing into the future and may be able to continue going one perhaps a few generation more.