THE INTELLIGENT SINGAPOREAN

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Why I Think Singaporeans Just Need To Slow Down

Posted by intellisg on May 22, 2007

slowdown.jpgSINCE the advent of the industrial revolution, speed and productivity has commanded a premium. Today in the age of globalisation, life has reached a frenetic mind boggling pace. Technology makes it all possible, e-mail on the go, tele-conferencing etc. The pace of work, life and play is imperceptibly ratcheted slightly higher without us really realizing it. I am reminded we can no more return to the quaint cottage industry days, than we can undo the internet. The age of speed is here to stay. But it doesn’t stop us from questioning this new order.

The hamster wheel is an apt pathos of life under this new order. For one it pokes fun at the imperative of speed but it also carries a serious message, one that suggests the future could be closer to dystopia than utopia. What’s the cost to this preoccupation with speed? There’s always a cost. Our sinews, muscles and brain cells can’t keep on getting larger and better to keep up with the culture of speed – surely something must give.

Is it any surprise these days, there’s a crisis in our preoccupation with speed? It’s a condition that affects people at all levels. From kids to university students and even managers, affecting both the affluent and the poor alike. Don’t assume for one moment you are immune just because it hasn’t hit you – it’s like artery clogging food. You don’t know it, till you’re lying flat on your back while everyone draws straws to see who will give you mouth to mouth. The fast forward life is reassuringly insidious, it creeps up on your like a cat burglar. Soon you too will be leading the glorious life of the battery chicken; checking your e-mail on the go while munching on sandwiches and trying to catch your broker before the stock market bottoms out. The fast forward brigade even have a word to describe this division of labor – it’s called multi-tasking, strategic rotation, skills upgrading etc. But whatever they dress it up to be. It just means you’re shifting to a higher gear – what’s happening here? Am I the only one that’s taking the time to smell the flowers? Or is there something really wrong with me? Or just maybe you’re the problem and you just need to seriously consider slowing down.

If I were asked to sum life in this age of modernity Albert Einstein’s dictum of fear would do quite nicely,

“The end of all civilization will be the point when technology exceeds humanity. After that, it’s downhill all the way.”

Have we reached the high watermark? Are we barreling inexorably towards a precipitous cliff? Why hasn’t someone put up an end of the road sign?

Let’s begin by asking ourselves how much damage has already been inflicted on our bodies, minds and spiritual development. For example what happens when we encourage children to learn speed reading? Yes I know they read faster, but can scanning really enhance their understanding? That’s to say does skipping phonics and diagramming sentences improve deep spirited discernment at a jugular level? I don’t know about you but I believe it’s hard if not impossible to read poetry speedily without missing out large chunks of its deeper meaning.

Ultimately the question really hinges on; what you define as “understanding.” I don’t deny for one moment someone who speeds read a textbook would in theory cover a larger text footprint than someone who reads slowly. But surely to equate quantity with understanding is just plain stupid. That’s only progress, if you deny the whole notion of quality against the quantity curve. It’s one that will ultimately militate against the whole idea of deeper understanding. I know this first hand because there are many instances when I find myself revisiting books I have read many a time and on practically ever occasion. I find myself coaxing out nuances and teasing out new meanings which previously escaped me. They’re of course small things, infinitesimal even but nonetheless, it all adds to up to the depth of understanding.

When Microsoft first developed power point – many managers heralded it as the beginning of accelerated understanding. According to industry experts this presentation tool would greatly enhance accuracy, understanding and improve managerial decision making. That only holds true if you believe. The complexity of business can be subject to simplification by compressing schools of thoughts and states of minds into baby food bullet point. I don’t for one moment deny power point improves the overall presentation with its endless options of bells and whistles. But it still doesn’t answer the question; does it really improve decision making and understanding. If understanding here refers to skimming superficially over concepts and ideas, by glossing over the glaring inconsistencies and contradictions – I have a word for form reductionism – its called “rail roading.” Nothing more than a derivative of watching TV, where your nose is pulled as you shuffle along roughly at a speed of a motorized wheelchair to a prearranged script. Others who are more critical of this sort of speed tool simply call it hypnotism. The failure of speed presentation falls flat because it predicated on the assumption its possible to build deep spirited trust and understanding that is supposed to replace stop and go dialogue where time and presentation isn’t as important as winnowing the underlying strata’s of the logic and content. That could be one reason why I haven’t attended a power point presentation in the last 5 years. I don’t want to be hypnotized; I just want a simple conversation over lunch.

The truth remains accelerated or speed anything and it doesn’t matter whether it is food or just home renovations doesn’t really mean all that much when you begin the peel off the veneer of artificiality. There is no scope to discern the varying hemispheres of nuances or even the latitude to coax out the contradictions that adds to the truth. All that needs time and if you ever conducted a job interview before the best way to do is by inviting that prospective candidate over for a BBQ and ask him to bring his wife and kids along. You be amazed how much you can find out about a man’s capacity to manage himself and others by just the way he turns over a T-bone – I kid you not!

Psychologist and Philosophers are only starting to realize how speeding reading, math, cooking etc has resulted in what they refer too as the “paradox of the learning deficit.” When people speed read or speed date or speed anything they may not necessarily understand anything beyond the superficial and much of it has to do with how we are typically hardwired as humans.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. If on Monday I explained something complex to you like the theory of relativity (which I don’t understand myself but do a pretty good job of pretending too) and you were tested on it immediately. You wouldn’t do as well as another person who went through the same lecture rested or did something completely unrelated after the learning experience. That’s to say the second test subject would perform significantly better than you after a period of rest.

One of the reasons accounting for this anomaly according to Dr Chandra is because the brain has networks which need time to develop slowly to make the necessary connections which leads to a higher level of understanding.

As Dr Chandra says:

“There is a whole lot of networking that goes into the process of deep understand, a lot of it has to do with the qualitative aspects of how we relate to the subject matter by typically projecting either our personal experiences to the subject. For example if I were to learn a mathematical formula how to make my air-conditioner more efficient on a hot day and if I were tested on it immediately, I would never be able to perform as well as someone who had the time to lie on his bed and wonder why isn’t it cold? Is my computer heating up the room? Or is it my blanket? Or maybe I am wearing the wrong type of pajamas, that sort of analytical processing will definitely add a competitive advantage to a test subject who took the same test a few days latter. What he’s actually doing subconsciously is synthesizing knowledge based on the information he has been given.”

Since the advent of globalization, certain ideas have become dominant speed as I mentioned forms one of these yardsticks. A derivative of this naturally leads to simplification and their combined effects are nothing less than insidiously corrosive to the deeper understanding. If only one considers that children, students, scholars and even managers are regularly neurologically “programmed” to only register simple speed friendly cues more “competently.” Instead of taking the time to recruit their higher brain functions such as imagination and intuition – we can argue all we are really doing is systematically dumbing down people on a mass production scale.

That’s one of the reasons why academics like Dr Moretti, of Stanford University, is promoting what he coins “distant reading,” which attempts to reverse much of the damage inflicted by speed reading on literature. As he states:

“What we need to understand is the (flaw in) system. These days even professors need not read books at all! (The subtitle of one lecture he gave in Germany says it all: “How to Talk About Literature Without Ever Reading a Single Book.”) It is impossible to understand the rationale for such a relegation of reading to graphs and charts except as a way of institutionalizing large-scale bureaucratic analyses of literature. That is poison.”

Dr Chandra echoes the same sentiments only from a different perspective,

“If you look at generally at schools, corporations and even bureaucracies, these days what happening is a progressive shift towards machine language. Specifically binary language where everything is defined in terms of “1” or “0” – now this may be very good if you are applying those sort of mechanical logic to strip mining or manufacturing nuts and bolts where you can pretty much define the whole world as “yes” or “no” –“black & white” – “right” or “wrong” –“reject” or “pass” etc.

But when it comes to certain vocations like teaching kids how to think out of the box, or even something as qualitative as literature, law, journalism or music or even advanced research all you are doing is dumbing them down to a level where an engineer is no more a technician and a lawyer is nothing more than a delivery boy. In the long run its doing more damage than good and we see this sound bite culture everywhere. For example, newspapers articles in the last 10 years are 25% shorter. Even books are getting wafer thin. I think the drop of is about 37%. And the reason for this is because sound bite culture encourages dyslexia or something close to it, but I just call it impatience and in the long run that will work against the knowledge pool – that’s why the movement to slow down is so compelling – it’s a way of seeing the grey between the black and white – a means of redefining the binary into gradations and that is really how the world is.”

All this suggest there might be real tangible advantages in slowing down. Just because globalization is inevitable doesn’t deny the reality that precisely because its inexorable more and more people these days are opting out of their hamster wheels to enjoy the benefits of slow food and do absolutely nothing except build sand castles with their kids by slow holidaying. The case for reading a book slowly may you may take the twice the time but its one that undeniably enhances the deeper meaning when one discerns words beyond their mere dictionary meaning. Besides where is the fun of it all when you have to rush to do something or for that matter anything – it’s something to think about next time when you find yourself walking too fast.

(By darkness – psychology /socio/political – EP 999272 -2007 – The Brotherhood Press 2007)

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29 Responses to “Why I Think Singaporeans Just Need To Slow Down”

  1. astroboy said

    never thought of doing that bfr.

  2. juicybaby said

    This darkness bambi boy is such a smoothie. I like. 🙂

  3. As It Is said

    You are absolutely correct in pointing out the faster moving pace of life and about speed reading. And you are committing the same mistake in your speed writing. (just a joke).

    Jokes aside. Body, breath and mind. These three formed the essential basic blocks of life. Our body has the predisposition for motion. Our breath has the predisposition for vibration. Our mind has the predisposition for thoughts unceasingly. One can make the body move faster and faster. One can make the breath go faster and faster. But one cannot make the mind think any faster. Why?

  4. anongal said

    Hi Inspir3d & the B’hood,

    I just want to say firstly. I find these repeated spams very irritating. Platinum play casino on Sunday: Culture, Scholars, and George Yeo in London and so on and so forth. I have a suspicion it is probably some idiot who is trying to clog up the traffic here.

    Could Bambi just deal with him or is it possible for inspir3d to block or delete him, bc I dont think it sends the right message to some ppl coming here.

    Dear Bambi Boy,

    How are you? I have always liked your articles, its definitely very thought provoking and interesting. Bc the angle is just different la. However, let us not kid ourselves. I think all of us have very little doubt by now, (after it is two article in a row!) this is just another of the b’hood lightning war strategy that we all know so very well. I just want you to remind you bambi. Do be kind to other bloggers as we are a community and believe it or not, you need them as much as they need all of you. And always remember be polite and courteous. Bye for now.

    Love

    Anongal

  5. anongal said

    and AB and SB pls stop provoking those trolls and spammers. ;).

    May I just politely ask a question, why is Bambi taking it on

    himself to write all by himself this time? Do answer. Is it bc

    he has a strong pull factor or is it bc he is just showing you

    all of you boys, how to do and man’s job (joke, please – do take

    it in good spirits. After all we do put up with so much of your

    dribble ;)) love Anongal

  6. sumiko said

    Hello all,

    Personally I liked the post very much. However, I feel the MSM should be the medium to publish this sort of write up’s. After all they do a better job bc they would be dealing with primary data. As cleverly written as it is and of course leveraging in Bambi’s charisma. I really dont think it is healthy for bloggers to be writing about issues like this. They just dont have the training and facts. Pls dont start flaming me no end. I am just sharing my pov. Thank you and I shan’t say keep it up. As I have told many of you, you should go and join YPAP. Rather that play rebel without a cause. I am sure they will be more happy to accomodate you. Bye Bye.

  7. extraordinary talent said

    Oh, yes, why don’t join the YPAP? Another recruitment campaigner?
    That shows how desperate they are now to get the really talented people on their side.

    I would love to join the YPAP but I fear my mind will be moulded into a “one-track” mind churning out monologues and mimics, and walking like a zombie without skeletons. Hey, any takers there?

  8. drummer said

    “They just dont have the training and facts” – Bill Gates had no training and even less facts. Why can’t you ppl just let them be? Don’t you understand every time you hit them, they will just as a matter of principle come back stronger and better?

    Besides who the hell wants to join YPAP! Have you visited their site lately, look what they are churning out! It a cure for imsonia or if you want to be the Rip Von Winkle of Singapore. No thanks lah, I will stick to the poison, I know.

  9. drummer said

    “Is it any surprise these days, there’s a crisis in our preoccupation with speed? It’s a condition that affects people at all levels. From kids to university students and even managers, affecting both the affluent and the poor alike. Don’t assume for one moment you are immune just because it hasn’t hit you – it’s like artery clogging food. You don’t know it, till you’re lying flat on your back while everyone draws straws to see who will give you mouth to mouth. The fast forward life is reassuringly insidious, it creeps up on your like a cat burglar.”

    So very true for me especially! My life has really opened up since I started reading the IS. Thanks for brain food and the good times! I just wished I got it from the 60 cent rag, but these days my filipino maid tells me, its only good for wipping off bird shit from my windows.

    PS: Yes, I agree there is some spammer here posting abt gambling & casino’s etc and its very distracting, hope someone can do something abt it!

  10. drummer said

    Darkness, I just want to ask you a question. I know you are straight and all that, but I still feel you can provide us all with some insights on this matter. Recently I was blog surfing and I came across this article in yawning bread concerning religion and the issue of gay rights. I was just wondering, what do you think abt this statement by:

    Lim Biow Chuan, a member of parliament from the People’s Action Party. He said, “I think the position of the Church is correct, which is that we should hate the sin (homosexuality) but embrace the sinner.”

    I really hope you can comment, many thanks and have a nice day drummer caleb.

  11. wbg said

    LHL speed reads and his children multi-tasks, no wonder Singapore is so multi-distracted with not one but 2 leaders. What a baka tag-team type of rulership, I don’t even know who is in charge at any one time.

    The YPAP has the same calibre of members as the NYF, all gayle goh and kitana types. Waste of time. So if anyone here joins them, I’m sure Singapore would have a banzai circus party that can last over the 2011 election.

    Sumiko, why are you here watashiwa wakadimasen? Don’t you realise that the end-of-season sale is now on and awaits your $5000 spending spree? Join consumerism! Banzai!

  12. wbg said

    Why question how people are, ningentte sona monone.

  13. astroboy said

    Drummer,

    Surely u dont expect darkness to respond to some idiotic statement made in Parliament do you?

    IMHO he should be sacked on the spot! Our position is very clear; zero tolerance when it comes to mixing religion and politics.

    I do not think, Mr Lim can be taken seriously by serious ppl.

  14. astroboy said

    Drummer,

    I dont really ppl like darkness have time for light weights like Mr Lim. Trust me on this. From his comments I think the majority of sane ppl can more or less dismiss him as irrelevant, incoherent and inconsequential.

    We only deal with heavy weights like BG George Yeo. In other words we only deal with level headed people who understand the limits of power and are adept at managing it wisely. They are the ones who deserve commentary, because they are seriously serious about their jobs and can get things done, not the likes of Mr Lim, he is as we mentioned inconsequential to any process and therefore irrelevant to us.

    BTW, I am straight as an arrow, a non fundamentalist christian, single, have a good job, non-drinker and dont smoke and looking to for a nice girl for either friendship or marriage.

    My hobbies include cycling, reading and travelling.

    I am also the only son that means I have to take care of my ill granny and mum, so it is likely they will stay with us for a long time bc longevity runs in our genes.

    You dont have to be very pretty or smart, but you need to have alot of patience, bc I love my granny very much.

    (Reporters pls dont bother applying)

  15. inspir3d said

    “BTW, I am straight as an arrow, a non fundamentalist christian, single, have a good job, non-drinker and dont smoke and looking to for a nice girl for either friendship or marriage.

    My hobbies include cycling, reading and travelling.”

    oh look! now my blog is turning into a dating personals website 😉

  16. scholarboy said

    AB is hilarious! Inspir3d new SDU site? Any taker?

    Lelong!

  17. scholarboy said

    Anongal,

    There is no need for blitzkrieg, not here.

    It was necessary in the old forum days. I admit, but I really dont see how it applies these days.

    Ppl have free will. And if you notice ALL are articles are still running 3 to 3.5 to 4 pages long.

    We havent changed the format and there is no strategy to speak of.

    As u can see for yourself, we are still servicing the serious and mature readership market.

    If we wanted to attract more readers. I think we could have easily shortened it to attract significantly more readers, perhaps 3 to 4 times, but what is the point?

    Most of them will be the Stomp, YPAP or Xiahue crowd who are ALL conditioned to have the short attention span of a house fly where they are happy to lap up one page cut and paste sound bites. That says little amounting to nothing.

    There are too many bloggers doing that now and I assure you. We do not have any intentions of doing the same.

    We only go for quality not quantity as far as our readers are concerned. People who know that to understand where X marks the spot they simply need to go through the A,B,C’s etc.

  18. contentisking said

    Dear Sir / Madam,

    I really do not understand why the B’hood needs to con’t this infantile masquerade of being a “top secret” organization that incidentally is so secretive that everyone in Singapore seems to know abt it.

    I do not doubt most of you can write very well and this darkness character is undoubtedly a very interesting character.

    However, I must agree with Sumiko as I believe the long term goals and aspirations of the b’hood will be better served in the YPAP. At least there they will be able to benefit from the creative pool and more important channel their efforts into useful pursuits.

    Pls consider.

    Many thanks and a great read

  19. shoestring said

    AB is such a great catch in every sense of the word. He loves his grandma! That’s giving Darkness and Aaron a run for their money in the romance department. I’d like to join the lelong and apply but I can’t.

  20. chronicler said

    contentisking

    You presume too much. We do not take blogging seriously. And we have only at most 3 to 4 readers. 99.9% of the hits are directed to the aggregation content. No one ever reads what we write. Indeed they would be very silly if they did.Besides we all know most ppl use this site for only navigation purposes to go somewhere else. If you do not believe me, you can verify this with Mr Wang.

    As for what we write, it is too obscure and frankly too long winded, if you do not believe me try reading one of our articles. You will probably fall asleep. Again may pls direct yourself to Mr Wang’s site where you are most welcome to peruse all the truthful negative comments concerning us.

    We would never ever be in a position where we can add any value to YPAP. They are a very respectable premier site run by the brightest young minds in this country that enjoys the patronage of the PAP.

    We on the otherhand are only a bunch of misfits barely even holding up while their membership continues to grow exponentially. Surely we cannot be taken seriously, we are trully insignificant.

    Meanwhile please dont think so much and just enjoy the show.

    Your faithfully

    The Chronicler

  21. Nonsense said

    But, but… how about Lui Teck Yew?—Or however you spell his name…

  22. chronicler said

    contentisking,

    Mr Wang has a high standing in blogosphere. This is a fact, endorsed by 99.9% of the blogging community. Even Singapore Press Holdings that frequently uses him as a source for quotes concerning happenings in blogosphere.

    Surely such a pretigious figure cannot be wrong.

    You are thinking too much. Again do enjoy the show.

  23. inspir3d said

    “However, I must agree with Sumiko as I believe the long term goals and aspirations of the b’hood will be better served in the YPAP.”

    Alright enough of this YPAP nonsense. I will not tolerate recruitment campaigns on my blog. One more time and you will be banned permanently.

  24. astroboy said

    Inspir3d go ahead a ban all those pesky reporters, I will help you. You will be doing us all a favor. They r the ones that keep screwing up our SLF by tumpanging their friends line to post. U think we dunno?

    The only reason why we dont dare to move against them is bc of darkness.

    Btw any prospects for friendship or marriage?

  25. caleb said

    YPAP I dont know much about them. Is that like the youth wing of the PAP or something? What is their agenda when it comes to blogging?

    I personally think it is trivial to ban them, but then again I dont own this blog neither am I in the bro-hood.

    Another thing you B’hood ppl keep on issuing denials that all these recent post is not some kind of mechanized lightning style invasion. But I see it as otherwise. I know it is none of my business and I shouldnt be kay poh, but I find it hard to believe that this is not a blitz because firstly, it takes place when visitor hits are at its lowest, but for some reason this doesnt seem to affect the IS. For another is it so coincidental, you ppl mount a push when the rest of the blogger are either not posting or adding anything significant to their sites.

    I also find it quite disconcerting with chronicler speaks in the way he does, for example he says there are at most only 3 or 4 readers to each article, but I just visited the visitor counter and it runs into two figures per hour count, so what is happening?????????

    Very confused bystander who happens to a loyal reader of the b’hood.

  26. chronicler said

    Caleb,

    There is no blitzkrieg.

    As for the stat counter dont pay to much attention to it. We are currently conducting a diagnostic test. I am sure a more accurate display will be shown the day after tmr.

    All this is happening in your mind Caleb. Try not to think so much and happy reading.

    Chronicler

  27. Harphoon said

    Chronicler et al, it is best if we run deep and silent, till it is over.

    KOHO pls silence all the channels.

  28. wbg said

    “Mr Wang has a high standing in blogosphere. This is a fact, endorsed by 99.9% of the blogging community. Even Singapore Press Holdings that frequently uses him as a source for quotes concerning happenings in blogosphere.”

    I’m sure SPH don’t usually mind using volunteering scapegoats to write their articles with tight deadlines. I must be the missing 0.1% who don’t agree.

  29. primercoater said

    Slow down? That sounds like a very good idea, that could well be the solution for our age.

    I dont want to interfere with matters which dont concern me, but if this is a matter between you and someone who slandered you, why not just take it up with him or her directly. Why punish all your readers just on the account of one ignoramus? Seems like a very odd way of managing any relationship.

    Just my 2 cents.

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