Can Singapore churn out another Steve Jobs?

October 7, 2011

The demise of Steve Jobs has left in its wake a host of questions in this house gentlemen: for many it has propelled the whole notion of innovation and creativity beyond the cliché. As for the perceptive observer of tech developments, it has stirred a fury of discussions on the whole idea of whether we are really going about the business of creating competitive advantage in the right way.
Sitting here as I have done and listening to the various speakers. One should or shall I say must be prompted to ask: why do we continue to show a poverty of ambition when it comes to innovation and creativity?
My theory is this Gentlemen. The flaw must reside somewhere in our social and cultural DNA. Since time in memorial the culture of business has become encrusted with certain myths that has managed to graft themselves with our collective consciousness – one could even as these days, they have come to pass as even conventional wisdom – the one which I consider a solvent to the whole idea of innovation and creativity; and by this I do not refer to not only the business of churning out mesmerizing gizmos that continues to titillate consumer demand. But also the idea of how governments should relate to citizens and beyond.
Gentlemen I will not mince my words here: what I consider to be travesty of reason and ineptitude is how we have allowed the architects of our elite culture to successfully define and sell us all the whole idea of success – I have no doubt these custodians of power may have been driven by altruistic goals. However, I am also aware, the manner by which they have set the trajectory to achieve excellence may well be wrong.
Allow me to explain. Most of you in this house were scripted to paper chase; by the time most of you hit 30; you may have more options that’s when you will probably begin mulling over the largesse of your stock options and spend most of your time trying to figure out how to get that office with the sea view; by 40, most of you have probably come to terms to with the fragility of your own mortality – trust me, short sightedness and teeth which were never meant to be used beyond 30 has a way of humbling a man down – you worry about whether you have enough set aside for that once in a lifetime operation. Or whether your kids will be able to make it to college without causing cancer of the wallet. At the same that’s also the period when you believe that it’s high time for you to pick up golf or some other expensive horizontal hobbies like keeping a mistress on the side – in other words gentlemen life proceeds very much in a linear fashion.
Some of you may say there is nothing wrong with this image as what it represents may well be the timeless and universal life cycle of any hard working salary man – my point is that idea didn’t come from deep inside you – it was scripted somewhere into your head at a very age – and if that’s not bad enough that message is subconsciously repeated like a broken record till it has permeated the ground water of our being that we have grown so accustomed to this taste – that we fail to take note of the cogent: this is nothing more than an acquired taste. That my friends is the real problem.
I am not saying this road is a dead end, sure you can tear across it and I am sure if you keep to the first gear to stick to the yellow bricks, judging from the number of dead wood here – it may even work out well. The problem that is seldom asked: what if everyone aspires to only this populist belief of what it means to be successful? To paraphrase, what if everyone just wants to get into Lee Kuan Yew & Co, instead of winging it on the high road to end like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Lee Kah Shin? There my friends sums up of our plight. As I can think of no other way to successfully obliterate the spirit of innovation and creativity.
And this brings me to my point Gentlemen – for years our fraternity has extended a home away from home to those who were once named and shamed by our government – it is now that we must call on them to lead the way – for years these mavericks have cut their bones in the West; they have learnt many things that they can teach us by revivifying many of our old dusty ways – I therefore propose that we actively search these people out with a view of reasoning with them – it is time that we called in our tab.
(House sitting excerpt from the 309 sitting in the Imperium in Primus Aldentes Prime – recorded by the Chronicler of the Brotherhood – The Book of Ages – The Brotherhood Press 2011)


Gentlemen, we are all businessmen. We are purveyors of dreams, but this is only possible if we bother ourselves dilligently with nurturing creches of ideas. So tell me what is the fucking point of waving our card of neutrality when it comes to this whole matter of naming and shaming these scholars? Come it to think of it when has the Interspacing Guild taken a position on anything. If they ran the game, we would all probably still be picking ticks off each others back in some cave. So now you see why I don’t think we can afford to remain neutral – this is shortsighted as it is incredibly stupid not to see value in something that clearly has a latent value. Am I calling Philip Yeo a fool? Only time will tell. But I say this, screw this neutrality motion that is tabled in the Imperium – and let us a take a firm position on this matter. If we stand in one line, the motion will be passed by the midnight sitting – Gentlemen, this is long term investment in human capital; at first these fallen angels will go through hell, every door will be closed to them, but fortunately, we are in the business of picking locks as well – Gentlemen, this is strictly business, but I can assure all of you this; if there is enough grist in the mill, I am sure the system will spit the winners out to that other side of the gulfstream. Over there Gentlemen, they will compete with the very best in the world, they will see things that we will never ever see in our lifetimes and fly so high that we probably need two years to make an appointment with one of these highflyers. I am sure that if we cultivate a long term friendship with the damned now when they are grilling in the hottest place in hell, one day, if the need arise, we can at least knock on their doors and they would have no choice but to say to us, “when I was down, you gave me wings, now tell me how can I be of assistance brother?” I do not think this is an opportunity that we should pass up on, only a fool will throw this opportunity away. A bloody fucking fool at that!

Darkness 2006 The Odessa Project.

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