The Fourth Industrial Revolution– What It Means and How to Respond


August 25, 2015

Image result for klaus schwab fourth industrial revolution

…we must develop a comprehensive and globally shared view of how technology is affecting our lives and reshaping our economic, social, cultural, and human environments. There has never been a time of greater promise, or one of greater potential peril. Today’s decision-makers, however, are too often trapped in traditional, linear thinking, or too absorbed by the multiple crises demanding their attention, to think strategically about the forces of disruption and innovation shaping our future. –Professor Klaus Schwab, Chairperson, World Economic Forum

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/

The Fourth Industrial Revolution– What It Means and How to Respond

By Klaus Schwab

We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.

Image result for klaus schwab fourth industrial revolution

The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

There are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact. The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.

The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited. And these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.

Already, artificial intelligence is all around us, from self-driving cars and drones to virtual assistants and software that translate or invest. Impressive progress has been made in AI in recent years, driven by exponential increases in computing power and by the availability of vast amounts of data, from software used to discover new drugs to algorithms used to predict our cultural interests. Digital fabrication technologies, meanwhile, are interacting with the biological world on a daily basis. Engineers, designers, and architects are combining computational design, additive manufacturing, materials engineering, and synthetic biology to pioneer a symbiosis between microorganisms, our bodies, the products we consume, and even the buildings we inhabit.

Challenges and Opportunities

Like the revolutions that preceded it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world. To date, those who have gained the most from it have been consumers able to afford and access the digital world; technology has made possible new products and services that increase the efficiency and pleasure of our personal lives. Ordering a cab, booking a flight, buying a product, making a payment, listening to music, watching a film, or playing a game—any of these can now be done remotely.

In the future, technological innovation will also lead to a supply side miracle, with long-term gains in efficiency and productivity. Transportation and communication costs will drop, logistics and global supply chains will become more effective, and the cost of trade will diminish, all of which will open new markets and drive economic growth.

HUBO, a multifunctional walking humanoid robot performs a demonstration of its capacities next to its developer Oh Jun-Ho, Professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (W

At the same time, as the economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee have pointed out, the revolution could yield greater inequality, particularly in its potential to disrupt labor markets. As automation substitutes for labor across the entire economy, the net displacement of workers by machines might exacerbate the gap between returns to capital and returns to labor. On the other hand, it is also possible that the displacement of workers by technology will, in aggregate, result in a net increase in safe and rewarding jobs.

We cannot foresee at this point which scenario is likely to emerge, and history suggests that the outcome is likely to be some combination of the two. However, I am convinced of one thing—that in the future, talent, more than capital, will represent the critical factor of production. This will give rise to a job market increasingly segregated into “low-skill/low-pay” and “high-skill/high-pay” segments, which in turn will lead to an increase in social tensions.

In addition to being a key economic concern, inequality represents the greatest societal concern associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The largest beneficiaries of innovation tend to be the providers of intellectual and physical capital—the innovators, shareholders, and investors—which explains the rising gap in wealth between those dependent on capital versus labor. Technology is therefore one of the main reasons why incomes have stagnated, or even decreased, for a majority of the population in high-income countries: the demand for highly skilled workers has increased while the demand for workers with less education and lower skills has decreased. The result is a job market with a strong demand at the high and low ends, but a hollowing out of the middle.

Given the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s rapid pace of change and broad impacts, legislators and regulators are being challenged to an unprecedented degree and for the most part are proving unable to cope. This helps explain why so many workers are disillusioned and fearful that their own real incomes and those of their children will continue to stagnate. It also helps explain why middle classes around the world are increasingly experiencing a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction and unfairness. A winner-takes-all economy that offers only limited access to the middle class is a recipe for democratic malaise and dereliction.

Discontent can also be fueled by the pervasiveness of digital technologies and the dynamics of information sharing typified by social media. More than 30 percent of the global population now uses social media platforms to connect, learn, and share information. In an ideal world, these interactions would provide an opportunity for cross-cultural understanding and cohesion. However, they can also create and propagate unrealistic expectations as to what constitutes success for an individual or a group, as well as offer opportunities for extreme ideas and ideologies to spread.

The Impact on Business

An underlying theme in my conversations with global CEOs and senior business executives is that the acceleration of innovation and the velocity of disruption are hard to comprehend or anticipate and that these drivers constitute a source of constant surprise, even for the best connected and most well informed. Indeed, across all industries, there is clear evidence that the technologies that underpin the Fourth Industrial Revolution are having a major impact on businesses.

On the supply side, many industries are seeing the introduction of new technologies that create entirely new ways of serving existing needs and significantly disrupt existing industry value chains. Disruption is also flowing from agile, innovative competitors who, thanks to access to global digital platforms for research, development, marketing, sales, and distribution, can oust well-established incumbents faster than ever by improving the quality, speed, or price at which value is delivered.

Major shifts on the demand side are also occurring, as growing transparency, consumer engagement, and new patterns of consumer behavior (increasingly built upon access to mobile networks and data) force companies to adapt the way they design, market, and deliver products and services.

A key trend is the development of technology-enabled platforms that combine both demand and supply to disrupt existing industry structures, such as those we see within the “sharing” or “on demand” economy. These technology platforms, rendered easy to use by the smart phone, convene people, assets, and data—thus creating entirely new ways of consuming goods and services in the process. In addition, they lower the barriers for businesses and individuals to create wealth, altering the personal and professional environments of workers. These new platform businesses are rapidly multiplying into many new services, ranging from laundry to shopping, from chores to parking, from messages to travel.

On the whole, there are four main effects that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has on business—on customer expectations, on product enhancement, on collaborative innovation, and on organizational forms. Whether consumers or businesses, customers are increasingly at the epicenter of the economy, which is all about improving how customers are served. Physical products and services, moreover, can now be enhanced with digital capabilities that increase their value. New technologies make assets more durable and resilient, while data and analytics are transforming how they are maintained. A world of customer experiences, data-based services, and asset performance through analytics, meanwhile, requires new forms of collaboration, particularly given the speed at which innovation and disruption are taking place. And the emergence of global platforms and other new business models, finally, means that talent, culture, and organizational forms will have to be rethought.

Overall, the inexorable shift from simple digitization (the Third Industrial Revolution) to innovation based on combinations of technologies (the Fourth Industrial Revolution) is forcing companies to reexamine the way they do business. The bottom line, however, is the same: business leaders and senior executives need to understand their changing environment, challenge the assumptions of their operating teams, and relentlessly and continuously innovate.

The Impact on Government

As the physical, digital, and biological worlds continue to converge, new technologies and platforms will increasingly enable citizens to engage with governments, voice their opinions, coordinate their efforts, and even circumvent the supervision of public authorities. Simultaneously, governments will gain new technological powers to increase their control over populations, based on pervasive surveillance systems and the ability to control digital infrastructure. On the whole, however, governments will increasingly face pressure to change their current approach to public engagement and policy making, as their central role of conducting policy diminishes owing to new sources of competition and the redistribution and decentralization of power that new technologies make possible.

Ultimately, the ability of government systems and public authorities to adapt will determine their survival. If they prove capable of embracing a world of disruptive change, subjecting their structures to the levels of transparency and efficiency that will enable them to maintain their competitive edge, they will endure. If they cannot evolve, they will face increasing trouble.

This will be particularly true in the realm of regulation. Current systems of public policy and decision-making evolved alongside the Second Industrial Revolution, when decision-makers had time to study a specific issue and develop the necessary response or appropriate regulatory framework. The whole process was designed to be linear and mechanistic, following a strict “top down” approach.

But such an approach is no longer feasible. Given the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s rapid pace of change and broad impacts, legislators and regulators are being challenged to an unprecedented degree and for the most part are proving unable to cope.

How, then, can they preserve the interest of the consumers and the public at large while continuing to support innovation and technological development? By embracing “agile” governance, just as the private sector has increasingly adopted agile responses to software development and business operations more generally. This means regulators must continuously adapt to a new, fast-changing environment, reinventing themselves so they can truly understand what it is they are regulating. To do so, governments and regulatory agencies will need to collaborate closely with business and civil society.

A robotic arm by Mitsubishi Electric assembles a toy car at the System Control Fair SCF 2015 in Tokyo, Japan December 2, 2015.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will also profoundly impact the nature of national and international security, affecting both the probability and the nature of conflict. The history of warfare and international security is the history of technological innovation, and today is no exception. Modern conflicts involving states are increasingly “hybrid” in nature, combining traditional battlefield techniques with elements previously associated with non-state actors. The distinction between war and peace, combatant and non combatant, and even violence and nonviolence (think cyber warfare) is becoming uncomfortably blurry.

As this process takes place and new technologies such as autonomous or biological weapons become easier to use, individuals and small groups will increasingly join states in being capable of causing mass harm. This new vulnerability will lead to new fears. But at the same time, advances in technology will create the potential to reduce the scale or impact of violence, through the development of new modes of protection, for example, or greater precision in targeting.

The Impact on People

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, finally, will change not only what we do but also who we are. It will affect our identity and all the issues associated with it: our sense of privacy, our notions of ownership, our consumption patterns, the time we devote to work and leisure, and how we develop our careers, cultivate our skills, meet people, and nurture relationships. It is already changing our health and leading to a “quantified” self, and sooner than we think it may lead to human augmentation. The list is endless because it is bound only by our imagination.

I am a great enthusiast and early adopter of technology, but sometimes I wonder whether the inexorable integration of technology in our lives could diminish some of our quintessential human capacities, such as compassion and cooperation. Our relationship with our smartphones is a case in point. Constant connection may deprive us of one of life’s most important assets: the time to pause, reflect, and engage in meaningful conversation.

One of the greatest individual challenges posed by new information technologies is privacy. We instinctively understand why it is so essential, yet the tracking and sharing of information about us is a crucial part of the new connectivity. Debates about fundamental issues such as the impact on our inner lives of the loss of control over our data will only intensify in the years ahead. Similarly, the revolutions occurring in biotechnology and AI, which are redefining what it means to be human by pushing back the current thresholds of life span, health, cognition, and capabilities, will compel us to redefine our moral and ethical boundaries.

Shaping the Future

Neither technology nor the disruption that comes with it is an exogenous force over which humans have no control. All of us are responsible for guiding its evolution, in the decisions we make on a daily basis as citizens, consumers, and investors.

We should thus grasp the opportunity and power we have to shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution and direct it toward a future that reflects our common objectives and values.

To do this, however, we must develop a comprehensive and globally shared view of how technology is affecting our lives and reshaping our economic, social, cultural, and human environments. There has never been a time of greater promise, or one of greater potential peril. Today’s decision-makers, however, are too often trapped in traditional, linear thinking, or too absorbed by the multiple crises demanding their attention, to think strategically about the forces of disruption and innovation shaping our future.

In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails.

In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails.

Malaysia: No end to discrimination of the Other


August 19, 2016

Malaysia: No end to discrimination of the Other

by Farouk A. Peru

http://www.themalaymailonline.com

One of the most despairing things I dread reading every year is news on how members of the rakyat are denied their rightful places at local universities.

They do everything right, tick all the boxes but when it comes to reaping the fruits of their labour, they are short changed. Instead, their rightful places are given to Bumiputera students. Those whose grades are good but not comparable to those who score stellar grades but are not of Bumiputera status. My question to my fellow Bumis is this: Can we live with ourselves while supporting this policy?

I was moved last Saturday when I read the plight of a young Indian woman. She scored straight As in her UPSR and PMR. In her SPM, she did equally well and she was also a high achiever in her extracurricular activities. Yet she was denied a place to do dentistry and was offered a place to do bio-medical engineering.

Some may say she has a lot to be grateful for and I would agree but that is hardly the point. The point is rather to ask the question: “Is she getting what she deserves?” Would she get the same offer if she was a Bumiputera?

If we are indeed practising pure meritocracy, then the only way this young woman would be denied her place is if there were other candidates with equally perfect scores and who did equally well in extracurricular activities. This is highly doubtful. What is probably the case here is that she is the victim of the racially segregating quota system. Her non-Bumi status had put her at a disadvantage.

As a Malay-Muslim, I am appalled by such policies. It is not because I do not want people of my own socio-culture to progress. Of course I do and we have over the decades. There is now a clear strata in Malay-Muslim society who are highly educated professionals and clearly above and beyond the abysmal politics of UMNO and PAS.

However, the majority of us are still clinging to the crutches to which we have acclimatised ourselves over this time. Remember the protest by UITM students when it was suggested non-Bumis be allowed entry? It is that kind of mentality that impedes Malay-Muslims from achieving further progress.

Then there is the matter of religion. As Malay-Muslims, our Islamic identity is becoming increasingly important to us.

In Malaysia, we are proud of our high place in the Islamic index. We have grand mosques and our lifestyles are becoming more and more Arabicised (or Islamised, as the priesthood would have us believe). But are segregating Bumiputera policies actually Islamic?

Let us consider the following: The Quran is replete with commands to believers to perform acts of goodness. In no less than four places (Chapter 2 Verse 83, 4/36, 6/151 and 17/23), this command is connected with the actual worship of Allah which is the main point of the Quran.

Yet, in not a single of these commands is there a pre-condition that good deeds be towards believers or even Muslims. Rather, good deeds are generally to parents (not one’s own necessarily but parents in general), near neighbours, orphans, the socially stagnant and travellers.

Not only that, there is an entire chapter of the Quran (Chapter 83, Al-Muthaffifeen) which is dedicated to the event in which all our deeds is accounted for. The eponymous “muthaffifeen” is a unique word used only once in the first verse of this chapter.

It refers to people who extract a particular measure of benefit but refuse to give the full measure of effort required. Needless to say, the Quran is against such an act. It tells us that we will made to pay for this sin on Judgement Day.

So while we expect non-Muslim Malaysians to contribute to the development of the nation, we refuse to give them equal rights. We will have to answer for this disparity on the day of reckoning, according to the Quran.

It is very clear from these and numerous other principles from the Quran that there is simply no justification for racialised policies. Yet, we have not even heard a peep from the Islamic priesthood about them.

While they are busy pronouncing Pokemon Go as forbidden and making sure wives submit to their husbands even while riding on camels, they are deafeningly silent on this very fundamental teaching of the Quran. I urge Malay Muslims to ask these priests at every opportunity.

Malay Muslims need to realise that these preferential policies not only hurt our relationship with the rakyat, they also compromise our religion as well as our capacity for competition. The sooner we let go of these policies, the sooner we can take our place as members of the rakyat alongside the others.

Malaysia’s Educational Mess Up


August 17, 2016

Malaysia’s Educational  Mess Up

by Dr Azly Rahman

http://www.asiasentinel.com

Where were these guys educated if not in a failed educational system?

On October 12, 2015, seven children – six girls and a boy between the ages of seven and 11 – were discovered to have died in Malaysia’s northeastern state of Kelantan after being lost for 48 days in the jungle, having run away from their residential school. Two girls survived by eating grass and wild fruits.

The children were Orang Asli, loosely translated as forest people, the indigenous peoples who were the original inhabitants of the Malay Peninsula before ethnic Malays arrived, mostly from Indonesia. They had run away to escape harsh punishment for bathing in a nearby river in Pos Tohoi in the Gua Musang District.  Despite supposedly honoring the Orang Asli as bumiputeras or sons of the soil, in fact the Malaysia government does not treat its indigenous peoples well, instead seeking to force-assimilate them into the Malay-Muslim culture.

 

The plight of the East Malaysian Penan tribe of Sarawak is another case study of marginalization and cultural genocide that is well-known internationally, with stories of the peoples of the forest defending their right to exist in face of the government’s building of mega-projects.

The horrific story of the death of the Gua Musang children is an example of how education in Malaysia has turned genocidal. It also points to the idea of what state schooling means to the indigenous people and how, in the case of the children of the ethnic Temiar tribe who perished, what form of mental torture is inflicted upon them in a state identified as “most Islamic” in the country. Kelantan is unofficially named “The Verandah of Mecca.” (Serambi Mekah) by the leaders of the ruling state government, Parti Islam se-Malaysia, or PAS.

How is this so, and what does it say about the state of educational evolution and crisis of cultural degeneration Malaysia is in? For the world to understand how this modern society has evolved and how its people are schooled for social reproduction, one must understand the types of schools that have come into being

Seven types of schools

Since independence in 1957 (and that’s long ago), and as a legacy of British colonialism of divide and conquer as well as following the mold of Americanism, Malaysia has developed seven types of schools namely,

1) POWER SCHOOLS, i.e. international schools meant for the rich and powerful who will compete and collaborate with children of expatriates and to save children from the children of the poor and of the natives;

2) PRIVATE SCHOOLS, i.e. most often very expensive ‘breakaway schools’ meant to save children from poor teaching, overcrowded classrooms, and to save children of the rich from those of the lower and middle class;

3) PRIVILEGED SCHOOLS, i.e. well-funded boarding schools built to safeguard racial privilege and to instill ketuanan Melayu (the self-proclaimed sense of superiority of the Malays) amongst children who did well in their kampong schools to be saved from the schools for the poor, to groom them so that they will become leaders that will protect the rights of this or that race;

4) PAROCHIAL SCHOOLS, i.e. schools that sustain the transmission of this or that culture based on the perceived superiority of this or that language, culture, and religion, so that the children will be saved from being washed away by the tide of cultural change brought by the children of the poor;

5) PUBLIC SCHOOLS, i.e. government schools that sustain the ideology of the ruling regime par excellence and en mass, deploy curriculum that passes down ‘Official Knowledge and Grand Narratives of One Particular Historical, Cultural, Scientific truths’, train the children of the poor to be nationalistic and patriotic unquestionably, and those used as a training ground for children to participate in nation-building as servants and appendages to the state capitalist system so that the children will grow up as defenders of the evolving totalitarian state;

6) ‘PROOF-OF-CONCEPT’ SCHOOLS, i.e. well-funded ‘pulled-out’ government schools to prove that public schools do work as a showcase of innovations and good management, authentic assessment and evaluation, as a way to show that selected schools can be saved from the failing public schools, and that a failing policy can be saved by a successful showcase of ‘smart ways to schooling’;

7) PARIAH SCHOOLS, i.e. schools that beg for money from the government even to fix the roof or a toilet … fit for a punishment haven for children simply because they are born out of the wrong race, class, or caste, and schools for those whose parents did not go to any of the schools above.

Which of the schools do the children of the Temiar tribe of Gua Musang belong to? Which of those above do Malaysians wish their child to be schooled in?

No Malaysia child left behind?

What then must Malaysians do in this apartheid scheme of schooling and mass-babysitting? How can they stop this educational conveyor belt from moving, to give each child the right to be intelligent in a level playing field?  Dare they vote in a government that would correct the imbalances of a class system of social reproduction?

This is one expensive Joke

Malaysians have successfully created classes of society through the classification system of schools and through the class ideology we directly or indirectly teach in our classrooms.  There are schools for the rich and schools for the poor. Like labeling cage-produced chicken eggs, they assign “grades” to their schools.

When schools are failing, they try to create independent schools and profit from more private schools, leaving behind the children of the poor of all races to be recycled in the system of structural mental-ideological violence.  They are wasting talent. Instead of making the government slogan “brain gain” a reality, we are making brains go down the drain.

They have also created a dispossessed youth with passion for death-defying drag-racing, the so-called Mat and Minah Rempits, or street racers as well as essentially loan-shark alongs preying on the financially desperate, and gangsters groomed in the rubber estates and depressed urban areas.

These are the products of unthinking schooling and reproductions of the post-industrial society. The society has neglected the development of their children’s minds and has created successful failures through the schools they build.  The government has appointed educational leaders who perhaps have never set foot in a classroom, let alone in those of the most impoverished areas of our country.

What is our problem with the enterprise called ‘Education’? What then must Malaysians do? It seems that they are only reading daily about the mega-fiasco of the 1MDB and the fruitless war between the camps of the former leader Mahathir Mohamad and the current one headed by Najib Razak about who is stealing how much of the people’s money, now and forever.

Essentially Malaysians continue to neglect the debate concerning their children’s future – their great school debate.

 Dr. Azly Rahman grew up in Johor Bahru, Malaysia and holds a doctorate in International Education Development from Columbia University and multiple Masters Degrees in the fields of Education, International Affairs, Peace Studies and Communication. He has written seven books and more than 350 analyses/essays on Malaysia and global issues.  He currently resides in the United States where he teaches courses in Education, Philosophy, Cultural Studies, Political Science, and American Studies. He blogs at http://azlyrahman-post.blogspot.com/

Hillary Clinton accepts the nomination of her Party


July 29, 2016

Hillary Clinton accepts the nomination of her Party

Hillary Clinton accepts the nomination of her party and achieves the distinction of being the first American woman to occupy the  White House in January, 2017 as the 45th President of the United States of America  and Commander in Chief. It is clear in my mind that Hillary Clinton is my man because she is going to work hard to unite her country and build a humane society.–Din Merican

 

 

 

Story highlights

  • Hillary Clinton to Sanders supporters: ‘I’ve heard you. Your cause is our cause’
  • Clinton on Trump: ‘A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons’

Philadelphia (CNN)Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination Thursday with “humility, determination and boundless confidence in America’s promise,” taking her place in history as the first woman to lead a presidential ticket.

On a night pulsating with emotion, Clinton declared, “When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.”
Still, she warned voters the nation is facing a serious “moment of reckoning” from economic pain, violence and terror. The former first lady, senator and secretary of state set her sights on the White House and blasted Republican nominee Donald Trump, portraying him as a small man, who got rich by stiffing workers, peddles fear and lacks the temperament to be commander in chief.
She quickly reached out to disappointed Bernie Sanders voters at the end of a convention dedicated to healing the deep rift from their contentious primary race. With the Vermont senator watching from the arena, Clinton told his supporters: “I’ve heard you. Your cause is our cause.”
Her speech lacked the poetic sweep of President Barack Obama’s address on Wednesday, but it was in keeping with someone who presents herself as a practical, dogged policy-oriented striver who got knocked down and got straight back up.
But as she playfully batted away an avalanche of balloons on stage with her running mate, Tim Kaine, Clinton appeared proud, happy and enjoying her historic moment.
President Barack Obama congratulated Clinton at the conclusion of her speech.
“Great speech,” he tweeted. “She’s tested. She’s ready. She never quits. That’s why Hillary should be our next @POTUS. (She’ll get the Twitter handle, too)”

Hell, Heaven, Potentates, Priests and Politicians and the Business of Religion–Coping with Uncertainty


July 28, 2016

Hell, Heaven, Potentates, Priests and Politicians and the Business of Religion–Coping with Uncertainty

by  Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

[R]eligion has an “autoimmune disease”, a critical flaw … that leads to its misuse…. The disease’s two main symptoms are “God intoxication”… and “God manipulation”.

From ‘Religion’ , Brook Wilensky-Lansford’s review of “Putting God Second: How to Save Religion from Itself”, The New York Times Book Review, July 17, 2016, p. 26.

The only constant is change. It’s the most basic fact of human existence. Nothing lasts, nothing stays the same. We feel it with each breath.

From birth to the unknown moment of our passing, we ride a river of change. And yet, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, we exhaust ourselves in an endless search for solidity. We hunger for something that lasts, some idea or principle that rises above time and change. We hunger for certainty. That is a big problem.–Adam Frank

http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2012/05/15/152745489/the-liberating-embrace-of-uncertainty

Malaysians watching with bewilderment and dismay as politicians, ulamas, and evangelists expound the superiority of their religion and promise milk, honey and paradise for their followers, and the fires of hell for those who do not belong, shouldn’t be surprised. The antics of these fire and brimstone practitioners follow a well trodden pattern going back hundreds if not thousands of years.

Any basic course on religion run not by graduates from religious institutions but by reputable scholars would teach about the history of the estimated 6,000 religions of the world, the differences, commonalities and patterns, and associations with cultural and ecological features, especially political.

Using scientific evidence, logic and rationality, such courses can help put into proper perspective the so-called universal truths and answers peddled by the religious books and scriptures of the literate Abrahamic religions, as well as the other absolutist claims made by them.

My design of a course on “Comparative Religion 101” will begin by pointing out that the idea of an ultimate creator responsible for all living things on earth, including man, is one common to many of the established religions found in the different parts of the world. It would also make the argument that the origin and spread of religion is inextricably connected with the quest for authority, power and followers.

The search for a supreme maker goes very far back in history. We do not have a precise dating for it. However, some idea of how far back it goes can be obtained if we look at the history of evolution.

Irrefutable scientific evidence has shown that the physical and behavioral features shared by all people originated from ape-like ancestors and that these evolved over a period of 6 million years. The ability to walk upright evolved over 4 million years ago.

Other important human characteristics such as a complex brain, ability to use tools and capacity for language have developed more recently. More advanced traits such as complex symbolic expression, art, cultural diversity, etc. emerged over 100,000 years ago. With this emergence came ideas and beliefs of hell, heaven and the worship of gods, goddesses, spirits, deities and other man-created objects or points of veneration to facilitate the ascent to a better existence after death.

What Happens After Life’s End?

Questions and answers about where we come from and where we go after the end of life on earth have been voiced in all kinds of ways without any resolution. Archaeological evidence suggests that early man such as the Neanderthals who can be dated to over 50,000 years ago had some sort of preoccupation with death. They were self-conscious beings and were likely to have an awareness of death and the meaning and implications of death. Such consciousness has continued unabated and unresolved with modern man; it will remain unresolved until all humans die off – whenever that may come about.

Most if not all religions have been especially concerned with man’s destiny after death. They probably began with some notion of an Underworld as an abode for the dead. Evidence from ancient burial sites and rituals also indicates concern with ensuring that the spirits of the dead were appropriately sent off or they would not rest peacefully which explains the presence of priests and other before and after-death guides and experts.

A parallel role in society was performed by soothsayers, seers, oracles and diviners who were seen as able to foresee the future by magical and other means. The roles of priests and diviners and oracles were often integrated in the ancient religions. Predicting the near and distant future as well as promising some form of paradise after death proved a lucrative and privileged undertaking for those who belonged to these occupations.

From its earliest too, priestly and equivalent personages have exploited man’s sense of insecurity and fear of the supernatural and made it their powerful ideological tool. This modus operandi served the needs of its founders and prophets who could then impose on their tribes their understanding of ‘truth’, ‘hell’, ‘heaven’, ‘light’, ‘darkness’, and ‘paradise’ and their solutions to human anxieties.

These ‘holy men’ can be considered to be among the world’s first politicians. They still are. Women priests have been relatively sparse in history except in matrilineal societies. Perhaps if they had become dominant, it could have made a difference to the history of the world.

Mountains rise, mountains fall: change is constant.

Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

Above the witch doctors, shaman, priests and similar personages holding positions in the little or great religions of the world have been the chiefs, lords, emperors, sultans, caliphs, sovereigns and other similar potentates standing at the highest rung of their society. Whether it is with pre-Homeric Greek religion, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, the religious systems of the world can be seen not only as providing explanations for our earthly existence. They also provided strategies for managing the distribution of political and socio-economic power.

Today, despite the advancement of science and knowledge, the gullibility of the believers of religion continues as also its exploitation by the leaders and charlatans of religion.

In the past primitive societies were petrified and mystified by natural phenomenon such as thunder, lightning, floods and earthquakes. Modern science has demystified these phenomena and enabled us to conquer our fears about this aspect of the unknown.

In contrast to the fear of unknown nature, some primitive societies were relatively stoic about death. Hunter gatherer societies such as the Hazda, for example, have no particular belief in an afterlife, and the death of an individual means a straightforward end to their existence.

It is paradoxical that such societies rather than our modern ones seem to come closest to the current scientific position regarding the mind–body dichotomy which sees consciousness as derived from and/or is reducible to physical phenomena such as neuronal activity occurring in the brain. The implication of this premise is that once the brain stops functioning at brain death, consciousness ceases to exist.

Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Acceptance of a straightforward end to life – that humans, on death, simply become part of the earth, sea or river that we evolved from without any further afterlife – would, however, run against the world wide industry that is organized religion, and the political and religious elites who exploit and benefit from it.

Fix The Education System and Stop Talking Politics


July 22, 2016

COMMENT: Mr. Ng, you are being very generous in praising Rural Development Minister Ismail Sabri for making a self serving remark on the quality of our graduates.

My friends and I have been discussing this matter over many years. What makes him special to deserve your praise? He just stated the obvious and what is worse he is part and parcel of the very corrupt UMNO system that sought to produce Malay graduates who are mediocre and weak so they can be cadres to serve  and perpetuate the UMNO patronage system.

There is no political will to deal with this serious national crisis. Employing foreign consultants to produce glossy reports with buzz words and worn out cliches will not help us. Ask former Minister of Education and sacked Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin what he did with the Educational Blueprint he commissioned when he was in power.

Let us not waste taxpayers money when there is no will to fix the system which has failed to produce employable graduates. So stop heaping praise on this minister who is part of this malaise. You are only compromising your integrity.–Din Merican

Fix The Education System  and Stop Talking Politics

by Scott Ng

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

There must be the political will to recognise the failures of the system and to address them.

It’s been a long time since a cabinet minister issued a statement that no reasonable person can find fault with. And of all people, it was Rural and Regional Development Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob who surprised us this week when he said something worthy of applause.

Ismail did right in ticking off university graduates for expecting the government to hire them. As it is, we already have a bloated civil service, and continuing to spoonfeed so many school leavers and university graduates is just not a viable option.

But then again, it is because our education system spoon-feeds our children that they cannot stand on their own when they go out into the working world. Ismail was probably being too idealistic when he said that “the government provides people with an education so that they can become those who provide others with jobs.”

Our education system doesn’t place enough emphasis on leadership, let alone creative and critical thinking and soft skills like public speaking and other forms of communication. As many graduates have found, the working world is quick to disabuse them of the notion that their grades mean anything more than ink scrawls on paper.

Employers look for more than just a 4.0 GPA. They want people who are problem solvers, who are capable of leading when necessary and who can communicate effectively.

The argument around education gets very politicised on the issue of employability, especially when it comes to English proficiency, but it cannot be argued that we severely lag behind in recognising the importance of soft skills in the professional world.

There is, indeed, a lack of urgency in addressing the problems in our education system.We certainly cannot continue to spoon-feed our students. They must be taught to fish, not just to eat. Not only must the education system teach them employable skills; it must also instill in them the belief that education must continue throughout one’s lifetime. Our education system must in fact teach them how to keep on educating themselves once they leave their institutions of learning.

If the government truly wants our graduates to begin fending for themselves and to be competitive, then it must recognise that the modern world demands more than just good grades. The government must have the political will to recognise the failures of our education system and to address them.