Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Machines With No Souls

Russian world chess champion Kasparov disparaged Watson (see yesterday's post) as a passing entertainment akin to the wind-up automata of the 18th century. A strong human Jeopardy! player, or a human doctor, may get the answer wrong, but he is unlikely to make a huge blunder or category error, answering "Toronto" in the "US Cities" category, as Watson did. In a closed-system of raw data computation, cold logic misses the significance of the emotive element.

As of  0953 hrs 23 Feb 2011
There's gotta be good reason why 88% of Singaporeans polled are not "definitely" satisfied with this year's election budget goodies. Goh Chok Tong admitted just as much when he went on the defensive to tell his Marine Parade constituents that "each Budget will not be able to please everyone." Personally, he identified two areas missed out in the budget, that of special needs children, and of caregivers. We all have our own wish lists.

But surely, the $110 savings from abolishing of radio and TV licence - just enough for transport and entrance fee for a trip to the casino - should put a smile on the glummest of faces. Except that it is also a rude reminder that every law abiding citizen who faithfully paid his dues has been ripped off for decades. Just like the Water Conservation Tax of 30% in our monthly utility bill - subject to GST - isn't that a tax upon tax?

The 1.5% to 2.5% reduction in progressive income tax rates that frees up cash in hand, instead of being buried in untouchable CPF accounts like the Medisave, should also be cause for celebration. Except that the beneficiaries of this group are also those worst hit by the regressive Goods and Services Tax. Those with chargeable incomes of $40,000 will see the maximum 35% tax saving of $350. Assuming a modest weekly grocery bill of $100, the GST paid out over a year will be $364. See - easy come, easy go. It's too depressing to compute the cost benefit analysis for those struggling on monthly paychecks of $2,000 or less (Hint:chargeable income of $20,000 attract no tax, and no budget savings). Worthy of note is that income tax estimated to be collected in 2011 is $19.6 billion, vis-à-vis GST to be harvested of $$8.4 billions. All we need is a little nudge to the GST rate, and you can wipe that smile off your face.

Watson has no soul, its banks of Power7 processors have special air-conditioning systems to keep it cold. Maybe the Ministry of Finance types are not much different. Which makes one wonder if Lee Kuan Yew actually shed tears at the 1965 press conference about the separation from Malaysia. Or was it because, to paraphrase Mark Zuckerberg's assessment of the Winkervoss' motives, "for the first time in their lives, things didn't work out the way they were supposed to for them"?


  1. HK does a better job in caring for its less needy.

  2. The sociologist Robert Merton coined it the "Matthew Effect" based on the biblical gospel of matthew - For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away" in which success breeds success, thus pushing the inequality gap higher.

  3. SM GCT called it a Budget with a heart". 88% of the people however viewed it as a "Heartless" budget. Even Teo Chee Hean tries to use 39 artistes in a "Home Truly" commercial to bond our hearts seems futile.

    We need our Leaders to lead with a Heart. Even if it means a by-passed heart.

    Question remains - will Singaporeans have the courage (that comes from their heart) to vote against PAP for all its ill policies and measures.
    Or they have become too broken hearted to care.

    Who are you? Why are you here? What do you want? And Singaporeans had better learn to answer those questions on a deep inner level, otherwise the reflection we get is more likely to involve identity theft (from foreign talents), and other forms of struggles that we are subjected to, example trying to constantly prove ourselves like an automaton.

    The truth is SM Goh, to claim that this is a budget filled with hearts, the people are just NOT quite feeling it.

  4. Can Singaporeans believe the WORDS of leaders who just want their citizens to work till they drop, all in the name of economic progress? Our homes get smaller, costlier, everywhere jam and cramp, on the road, at the market/hawker centre, at school registration, in all the public transportation. Hospital with bed but no ward with medicare staff not understanding the patient because of cultural differences.

    Our leaders are all very bold and loud despite their lack of conscience, they had shown repeatedly that they are complacent despite paying themselves World Record High Remunerations and with pensions when they retired.

    The loudest amongst them happen to be the Two Ex Prime Ministers, they simply love the limelight be on them. They told and tell Singaporeans that they can do much for Singaporeans and yet after so many years Singaporeans got squeezed and live harder as years passed by.

    The Coming Election is one golden opportunity for Singaporeans to have a democratic and peacefull replacement of the Incumbents. There is no need for protest, demonstration or uprising. Will Singaporeans seize this opportunity?

  5. Our MM shed tears not because of separation or things went bizzare the first time. Rather, it was a game played to signify (on the surface) that Singapore is sincerely sorrowful about losing the opportunity to work with Malaysia. It all went along with 'his plan' till today, which is why the cabinet that belonged to him appointed his son as "belated successor".

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