Maybe I prefer to be stupid in a smart nation?

December 4, 2014

This morning on the way to a plantation on the west coast. My friend lamented that his ipad couldn’t get a decent connection to google map. Neither was the GPS any help either as since the program doesn’t cover serpentine laterite roads within an estate, it proved as useful as a dashboard mascot.

Fortunately, there was an old school map and compass in the glove compartment.

It’s hardly ideal. It’s even arguable it’s not supposed to be and that’s why it remains a charming way to get from point A to B. As we took a few wrong turns and had to double back warding time. On one of our epic u turns, we stopped at a plantation to ask for directions. The landowner suggested we stay for lunch. During the meal, I found out that he has precisely the thing I was looking for and he was even willing to sell it at a reasonable price. Eventually we reached the plantation for an appointment with an hour to spare.

The deal didn’t go through….only because my gut feel tells me the offer of the landowner we lunched with seems to be a sweeter deal…..not a bad innings when one considers how wrong things can work out so darn right.

The moral of the story – sometimes….not every time I admit….but sometimes, for one to find a really good thing….it definitely pays to wander away from the beaten path and get lost.

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‘I happen to be a very big fan of accidental encounters – that’s to say I much prefer not to know what lies behind that knoll, corner or end of the road.

Don’t get me wrong. Technology is definitely a nifty thing at one level of intelligence – as it allows one to do things efficiently, like ferret out that five chili char kuey teow shop in an unfamiliar stretch of street – even makes possible the whole idea of getting the best deal by shopping online. It could probably even do other things – like tell you where your other half is in the city so that you can ambush her for coffee etc etc etc.

But like I said, I much prefer not to know what’s around the corner at times. As for me not knowing and allowing things to just fall into place remains one of the greatest joys of living. I once came across a mint condition of a first edition Dorian Gray while wandering aimlessly with that familiar air of non committal in a second hand book shop. The first page was signed off affectionately, ‘with all my heart to James….my one and only love.’ (The awful irony – the bugger flogged it off to a used book shop for a tuppence). Those sort of chance encounters never fails to bring a smile to me.

What I am trying to say perhaps in a round about sort of way is when technology becomes intrusive, pervasive and omnipresent to such a point where you don’t even have the option to switch it off, then it’s doubtful whether it that idea can reliably add rather than subtract from the whole idea of a purpose driven life.

As foreknowledge by it’s very nature demystifies…it renders ‘clear’ by gutting out the whole idea of serendipity, epiphany along with that quintessential chance encounter – the special moments when you turn that corner and go wow! And just stand there in awe of that thing.

For example I don’t need to ever know the facebook profile of this or that person. Not so sure that sort of information adds any value to a relationship except imprinting an image on my mind during the encounter. Much rather just find out thru an old fashion conversation over coffee and a couple of scones. Don’t even need a patronizing computer generated matron to tell me when I am driving, she’s recalculating. Rather rely on a map and a compass, as it compels me to look out for landmarks…..mountains, rivers and valleys when I am driving, that sort of experience leaves a very vivid spatial understanding where I am in relation to space that one can never hope to ever get from just the two dimensions of Google map. That’s the same reason why whenever I trek in a jungle or sail. I still use an old fashion sextant to get a fix on my position instead of relying on a meaningless string of numbers to tell me where I am. Neither do I care very much for the idea of automatic payment either – that’s usually seldom ever discussed whenever the whole idea of institutional digitalization is mooted. The art of being able to lift money from your wallet without you ever having an option to say, ‘Er excuse me…but what was this for?’ Much prefer to gripe over a paper bill over the counter and pay grudgingly while making teeth sucking sounds with old fashion cash. That way! At least, I can actually feel the pain when I am splurging out or going overboard.

I guess if we are really talking about the whole idea of crafting a smart nation – then my needs are much more basic. So base that I am not even so sure technology has even anything to do with it.

The simple idea that I don’t have to worry too much about making ends met in the world’s expensive city. The simple idea that I can believe in the idea if I work hard and dedicate myself to improving myself – things will work out for me. And that I don’t have to worry too much about the future. The simple idea that I can continue to live my life under my own terms without ever having to worry whether I would still have enough to see me thru my old age with dignity. That sort of thing.

The simple things that makes life worthwhile. The simple things that may sound stupid to you….but will always be smart to me.’

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