Thursday, December 9, 2010

Creativity: Individual vs Group

I have tried to show in the last post how the behaviour of a group of individuals can be very different from the behaviour of an individual.

The simple search for food becomes a problem when the group has grown so big that there is starvation at the margin, which then gives the core individuals greater fear of an impending resource scarcity that they begin to accumulate for future consumption which, in a monetised economy, becomes a folly as, instead of accumulation food sources, they accumulate tokens (otherwise called money). Of course, that folly is the result of the evolution of society - the matrix that smart people create for themselves by making use of the trusting ordinary public and in the end get caught in it themselves - where happiness has become from the consumption of food to the consumption of other unnecessaries. The growth of society then becomes dependent on the production of the unnecessaries whose depend is based not on real needs (if I don't it I will die, literally) but on bank credit and what the neighbours have. The layers of the delusion multiply. The limit to that expansion of unnecessaries is the limit of credit expansion, defined when loans default at a rate that the interest margin can cover which is very little especially in a period of near-zero interest rate. The matrix gets into a ponzi-type scheme when more new money is printed to fund old money at a rate which is in excess of the rate of expansion in activities related even to the production of the unnecessaries which may be at a rate of expansion which is unable to absorb new entrants into the labour force.

In a more equitable world, the objective is to create a society where every individual is remunerated at roughly the same rate of pay, and this is found to be a society made up of professionals - where everybody comes up with their own schedules of fees. That schedule is the rate of exchange of different services. For a more egalitarian society, there probably should be an abolition of the discrimination certain types of professions such as toilet cleaning or housekeeping or blog posting. In which case, if everybody is equally good and equally demanded, then with everybody getting the same income, it is unlikely that anybody will be able to afford to pay any other person to do a part of his or her chores without being severely handicapped financially - but then, in that world, there will be no need for that service provider to offer his or her services to his or her neigbour because he or she is not in financial want. In a truly egalitarian world where everybody gets the same income, earned or otherwise, there is no incentive to do anything for others, each will do his or her own chore, and each will eat his or her food in silence alone.

The great interaction in society, and why society evolves in the first place, is inequality - which in economics is called disequilibrium - which in physics is called the potential difference or polarity - where the attempt to achieve an impossible equilibrium (of silence and non-activity) results in incessant activity. In economics, that restless activity is called the Gross Domestic Product or GDP. In modern society, the objective of politicians is to try to increase the rate of incessant activity among the people in order to keep them occupied (for if they are idle, they will march down the streets for change which is always possible), and this is done by creating a greater disequilibrium. The tradition method of creating economic disturbances is to get the minds of individuals to come out of the tranquility of the meditation and god-aligned frame into one of great dissatisfaction so that the intensive activity of the mind leads one to come up with all sorts of weird ideas and this din is the mind is celebrated in modern society as the way to prosperity.

As in nature where the group exists to protect the individuals in the group, in human society the social fabrication through its customs and culture seek to protect the individuals by seeking their conformity. In successful societies, conformity to the social convention is paramount but that success may not be growth of happiness but the continued existence of the old group. In newer societies formed from the dishevel of modern times, usually because of war but sometimes because of famine, the coming together of peoples from different cultures sets a renaissance in the creativity of human existence where the multiple disequilibrium points allow for a great multitude of cross traffic of ideas of how to live and what to do in life, if that traffic is not stopped by bigots who police the thought process of the people. Inevitably, the first and second generations may be still want to cling to their old comfort but we can expect, if left to their own, the young will think anew their taught way of life, and forge new identities with their school friends and neighbours. With it, new levels of existence - which may be away from mechanisation and the modern sciences of despoiling the environment, but the sharing of new understanding of their heritages.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Humans, Environment & Investment

I have taken several minute steps in the last few posts to put humans in proper context, and to show how the many invisible layers have been built up over the millennia as the human specie struggle for survival in this world.

I must say what a woeful lot we humans are! It is the madness of crowds, the whole colossal folk dashing here and there migrating and spread like cancer in search of its own preservation but only find itself painted in the corner. That paint is the deforested environment which becomes uninhabitable to all but sand and a few lizards.

The race out of the garden of eden into the big wide and wild world has set the rate of growth of the human population against (a) the rate of growth of agricultural output and (b) the rate of decline of the forest and wild life. Thomas Malthus was right. The size of human population on earth will be limited by agricultural output ultimately. That limit may be a long stretch away. In the meantime, there is a dynamic interaction between the two: population surge following new discovery of food production which encourages the population to overshoot food supply, adjusted by hunger and disease and famine.

Probably with such a history embedded in our genes, we find ourselves unwittingly living in perpetual fear of inadequate food. This great search for certainty in an uncertain world creates the world and society as we know it to be today. The incessant urge to save and investment in the future that is already here.

In the world of goods, to save is to set aside some portion of the current output for future consumption such as by salting or sugaring or fermentation. That preserved food can actually be eaten tomorrow when it become rainy. There is no waste. When there is overproduction in the current period, and when the preserved food is in huge surplus, the most logical response is to take a break from work, do some maintenance work, and spend the leisure drinking and dancing and telling stories - activities which are collectively called "culture." There is a constant adjustment between output and consumption and saving and investment.

If food is taken out of the forest, the most logical step is to protect and preserve the forest so that it can continue to sustain the community. But we know that a finite forest can only support a finite community because hunger and war break out. At this limit, Malthus is spot on. This means that, at the limit, there is so much preservation of the forest can do for humans. In the meantime, any limit that is felt is determined by technology and human knowledge of how to extract more from less. This can be seen as a fact, and we simply just have to accept it. But even so, the community must protect the food source from selfish greedy individuals who may have no qualms about destroy the food source thinking that he or she can stored it off somewhere purely for his or her own consumption. In nature, any other method of storage apart from leaving nature alone is foolhardy.

This problem of the short-seeing long-sighted selfish person is compounded in a world of tokens (paper or commodity money) where its special quality of not decaying physically (because it's a computer number or a piece of metal) may create the illusion that accumulation of pile of metal or paper or a larger number on a computer is the way to go into the future for generations. All things lie in the present, this accumulation of uneatable assets is being balanced against the liability of persistent destruction of the environment (by chopping down trees or digging up stuff or polluting). This is being gleefully done today by warlords with the collusion of multinational firms and global finance.

At the same time, the overproduction of goods (unsold inventory) or services (unemployed workers) is being happily ignored and misinterpreted - with the later overproduction (unemployment) probably from good agriculture or bad education is being used as a basis for further overproduction (of goods) which floods the world both in terms of huge quantity, low price and bad quality. And central banks continue to churn out the tokens.

In this world of mindless pursuit of economic growth, we are drowned in a sea of useless constructs. The rich becomes very rich and the poor becomes very poor, all within the economic system that we have immersed ourselves. We have to get out.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Creating The Economy & Money

I think we have now come to a stage where things may be a bit more familiar to the reader - in that we shall be dealing with issues that are a bit more mundane.

We have now gotten out of ether and universal consciousness and into the world of form, of individual physical entities. As an individual born with a stomach and a sexual reproductive organ, our true calling is to each and to procreate. The sex part is quite intuitive and I shall not be dealing too with that because it has been very well treated by the arts. I shall instead delve into the eating part.

Stage 1. Humans and Environment

In my version of the art of war - of war between humans and non-humans - a person stands alone in this world and ask: What is my next step?

In my little garden of eden, the next human step is to stretch out the hand and it shall be provided by the fruit of the nearest tree for sustenance. But even in paradise, there is need for knowledge, for some have eaten the fruit and lived, and some have eaten the fruit and died. Distinction comes into being - between the fruit that gives life (edible fruit) and the fruit that takes away life (poison). Which this distinction, one can be creative in the identification of food. The community that succeeds in finding the best way to classify food and poison becomes the most thriving one.

At this stage, it is still possible for humans to stay put in the original state and stand naked with outstretched arms and be provided.

Stage 2. Population Growth and Food

Stage 2 is when the population grows and there is pressure on the supply of food. There will come a time when what nature provides in the vicinity is insufficient for the growing population, and the only concern of the human race is food. This is as if the human race has been cast out of the garden of eden. Food is no more a sure thing for the existing population. The option is to fight for the existing supply of food (those who fail die), or to migrate out of the community into the big wide world and hope for the best, or to be find ways of increasing the food supply from the same existing immediate environment. By the way, all these three options call for some degree of creativity - to think out of the box, meaning to think differently from the traditional way of looking at things, as well as doing things and handling things.

Creativity in fighting for food requires the acquisition of power, the art of war and the organisation of slave labour.

Creativity in out migration requires the construction of the means of transportation, communication, organisation of autonomous societies, the saving of scarce resources, the investment in useful knowledge and contraption, the art of living with different cultures.

Creativity in the production of food in existing environment involves conservation of the productivity of the environment, the consumption at necessary levels, the preservation of surplus food for the uncertain future supply or increase in members of the community.

Stage 3. Social Organisation

In moving out of the garden of eden, there is a need for organisation - which in the primary stage will involve sacrifice by members of the cooperative to do committee work and in the secondary stage a group of professional organisers who are paid out of the communual output for them to tell the community what is the best way to organise themselves.

This organisation leads into the problems of how to get that portion of the output to be paid to the non-production team. One method is to fixed the portion in quantity terms, another is to pay according to tokens the quantity of which may be fixed or not, and the number of tokens may or may not match the quantity of output available for exchange. All these issues lead to the problem of the economy concerning production, distribution, consumption and the supply of the money stock and the demand for money, as well as price of output and the interest on money should lending and borrowing be allowed. The very simple problem of organisation of human society in as non-violent way as possible leads to arms-length and informal dealing that are signaled by price (or the number of tokens).

It can be seen that the economic system can be corrupted by the pursuit of the acquisition of tokens as an end in itself (thinking that these are valuable) and if not realising that valuable necessarily means hard-to-get, some token control authority may try to ingratiate himself or herself to the political masters in the guise of trying to smooth the production of output without being blamed for any hardship that must arise with any attempt at adjustment (i.e., getting some people to work or work hard or work harder) and end up printing more tokens and distributing them to the political masters (quantitative easing) so that the political masters may suffer no inconveniences while the general public may have their consumption curtailed as a result of inflation.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Coming Into Being: Reinventing The Self & The World

Reality is immense. Reality exists with or without us.

This is the utter truth which wise men through the ages have been trying to say to human beings of all ages. This reality is the perennial background of the story of mankind.

Against this ultimate reality is the narrow perception of the world according to individual human beings.

We come into being the moment we gain consciousness.

This is regardless of the view of other people of us. They may have seen us toddling around at infancy but we may remember nothing. We remember from a certain age and it is that certain age that we have our consciousness - and memory.

As we grow older, wisdom comes as layers and layers of consciousness - our realisation of the different aspects and degree of the perennial reality.

But there is a difference between the moment of consciousness/memory and the moment of our realisation of the different aspects and layers of reality.

From birth, we are conditioned by our caretakers to survive as a member of a social unit and as a specie. It is only when we come into realisation that we are each an individual that we come into our own individual being. Instead of being a pre-programmed robot, we try to re-programme individual ourselves. It is that tweaking of our in-built programme that we come into our own being, in the way of imagine ourselves to be.

As a result, we also reinvent our own world. The larger reality exist by itself irrespective of us, but the way we see the world and the way we interact with the world is defined hopefully by ourselves, but most of time by the society in which we find ourselves in.

If we disagree with our pre-conditioning, then we have know how we want to re-condition ourselves by the principles by which we want to live and by the habits which we want to cultivate. This is where all the talk about the examined life and the cultivated or cultured man/woman comes in.

In redefining our individual selves, we are in fact putting our selves together to make ourselves an individual whole. This recreation of self is necessarily ego-centric. But the existence of self does imply that one will be selfish although one is likely to be. The existence of the ego does not mean that one has to be egotistical. The sharing of self with other selves is not selfish, although it may be seen as egotistical but it is really up to the individual to know and deal with it personally and privately.

Once the self is sorted out, the rest of the job of living is simply to survive bodily with the least psychological stress. This is contentment and happiness. The self is settled and one can sit quietly and permanently like a stone, without a care in the world and most likely without a thought of any kind.

But the moment a thought enters the mind, mental activity takes place - which is likely to be concerned with the external physical world, and with the inconveniences and aesthetics of the body and with the problems of the cohesion of societies. This is where the inventions of the mundane world come in.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Being Creative, Being There

It has taken me quite a bit of time to put my thoughts on this one together, because it is an extremely difficult area to treat. What do we mean to be creative?

I hold reality to be infinite, and hence incomprehensible to mankind - man or women of any kind - given the finiteness of our senses. We have difficulty already with what we can see - this is why the early Europeans made such a big deal about their "discovery" of the "new" world. The world is always there, but their discovery belated (and some would wish never). We have already made some discovery peering into the dark skies or deep into inner spaces. Some may even have claimed perception of another world, in another mind or mind-frame. So, in this sense, creating is nothing but the "discovery" of that which is already there in the first place but which our senses have not been able to reach before (to paraphrase an old beer advertisement). So, in this sense, being creative is to be there first, and return to tell the tale. (Unable to return and tell a good story sends one to the madhouse.)

Being creative, therefore, means to have seen another world or another aspect of the world and to be able to describe the "new" world in such a way that human beings can find applications to remove yet another level of uncertainty of life on earth.

For creativity, therefore, I give high marks for the "creation of the world" stories which are probably reflective of the height of human imagination, reflecting the most intense of human anguish. The myths, the religious as well as the so-called scientific, the latter being extremely hard to provide the evidence as well, or to prove or to show concrete results. All "creation" stories and theories are based on faith, religious or scientific.

The importance of stories or theories is that they provide a tentative basis for explaining why certain things happen in a certain way or not in a certain way. They help us to understand ourselves and the world around us, and life as we know it to be.

I am sure all of us are brought up on one set of stories, and by the time we die, we would probably have created our own little stories or amendments to the traditional stories for retelling to our grandchildren (by then, our children would have their own competing stories to tell). Traditions (folk, religious or historical) can have a significant influence on creativity by weighing it down, but for the imaginative, it may provide a fallback for some ways to take flights of fancy.

There are but three ways of trying to be creative. The first is to see a table with an optimal number of four legs, figure whether it can stand on three (which we know it can) or two (which we do not know). The second is to see a table and a chair and try to figure out whether there is a furniture that lies between a table and a chair (you figure it out). The third way is to "dream of things that are not and ask why not?" as per George Bernard Shaw. The third way of course is open-ended, as varied and as far as the mind can go.

If mind is the constraint, then how do we think when we want to get creative? (I believe we are back to square one as far as this post is concerned.)

There is an infinite number of layers of existence right before our eyes, our noses, our ears, our fingers, our being.

I am sure many of us have experienced all kinds of weird stuff in our dreams, and are unable to explain, recall or use, so we simply dismiss them.

It is unfortunate that the stuff which we all acknowledge to be creative are only those stuff which strikes a cord in the heart of every person (and hence comes down as stories or myths) or which could be made into useful products (and hence comes down as stories or urban legends). The genius is the person whom we salute as whom we are not.

If therefore we were to put aside the commercial aspect of life, then I would there to venture that most of us are creative in our way of living, venturing into all avenues which we are not able or unwilling to disclose to the rest of the world, our own secretive world of great intimate knowledge and great intimate feelings and emotions as we explore our own little world to our own little self. This must have been how all the great religious ones felt when they felt inspired by the divine and expressed those emotions in terms which the ordinary people even today tend to hold to ridicule.

The way to be creative therefore is to unrestrained which means also not to seek public approval which means also to be an introvert. So, by definition, the creative world is understated. The only lament that economic and industrial leaders have over creativity is over commercialisable creativity - this lament is more a reflection of greed rather than of conceit.

Be there, and there will be creativity.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nothing, Something: The Beginning of Creativity

We have now come to a stage - a state - which, to me, is probably the most exciting. This is the state of no-mind, no-nothing, the void. While it may be natural to think that after death - after the end of something - there is nothing - or could there is anything - what, to me is quite interesting and exciting is that it could be the beginning of something - which I am always inclined to think - that it could be something new.

When something disappears, it disappears from sight or any one of the senses that perceives the thing or phenomenon. It depends on our ability to see or to sense.

If we were to try to understand how things come into existence in this world, it is our own sense of perception, our own sense of detection, and, I would add, the strength of our memory to retain what we have perceived or how we perceive. I am always conscious that there are many things that are happening right in front of me but, if I do not see them, they do not exist for me. Even if I am absolutely mindful, there is still my sphere of perception at any moment and the level at which I am perceiving. There is also the rate or pace of perception - how fast I can perceive at any one time. And I have come to realise that what we perceive, in the end, depends on our mental preparedness to perceive or observe, the sharpness of our focus and the power of our concentration. Or, are we simply just "absorbing" everything into ourselves, as most of us are apt to say?

Against a blank canvass, what comes out or what comes into our minds?

I am keenly interested in this because I try to indulge in this phenomenon called creativity. People are now no more interested in "thinking" - they want thinking "outside the box." They are no more interested in creativity - they want a "new paradigm."

So, how do we go about it? It goes right back to the point I have touched on before in one of my earlier posts about how we think. If I may reposition the sequence of thinking here, we start with (1) Wonder at the world: how to understand the wonders of the world and how to explain them. Myths and stories are then created. This may be considered primitive because it is probably the oldest form of knowledge, but I won't sniff at it because, if we are to wonder at the universe and the immense greatness of the skies as the Hubble Telescope can should us and the immense intensity of the inner world that the electronic microscope can show us, we continue to be dabbling with myths and stories insofar as trying to articulate our understanding or realisation of nature to the person next to us. The String Theory or the Big Bang Theory, for example. Or, what Stephen Hawking is trying to articulate about his perception of nature. They may put old myths to the world, but they themselves may just be new myths. (2) The most arrogant are probably what I would call the "hard" scientists - the "natural" scientists - those who work with data about the natural world. Those data are "hard" only insofar as they are filtered by their measuring instruments. Sure, at that level of observation or abstraction, they can put together what they think is a coherent sequence of cause-and-effect which they called "theory." But, at a deeper or greater level (which nobody knows yet), they could be entirely mistaken - as history has shown. Of course, in the land of the blind, the one-eye jack is the king - which goes to show the importance of knowledge - to know what other people know; or the importance of wisdom - to know what you do not know, and to know what others do not know as well. (3) It is the dissatisfaction with the narrowness of logical thinking that Edward de Bono comes up with what he called Lateral Thinking as a juxtaposition to logic - to show that there is a way out of this quagmire and into the land of the free and easy by having the confidence to link what appears at first to be unconnected entities and with effort to throw away the prejudice and try to look at the essence of each individual entities and find a connection at the core or centre. (4) The No-Mind stuff then takes the mental exercise one step further into the void and see if anything would come of it, not without trying, but without the mistake of putting the hackneyed foremost in one's mind all the time and thereby blocking any new insights that may arise automatically in one's mind with the natural passage of time without any distraction from the mundane world where every little bits and pieces or elements of life may turn into a potentially disruptive spoiler of one's effort to see a new perspective or a new image of the ordinary. Remember, in absolute reality, nothing changes and everything is unchanging, by definition. It is only our mind that changes.

In my mind, it is not easy to be creative, if we want to be strict about creativity. It is easy to do the same old stuff a bit differently. It is easy to do a slight change by modification or repackaging or rebranding - it is still the same old stuff. It is very difficult and challenging to come up with something that is entirely different, for it must satisfy a new thereto untapped demand or desire or fancy of human beings. To be "out of the box", one probably has to be out of the normal ordinary mind which means that one can seek no approval from anyone, not even oneself, if you have not probably understood yourself. This is why many of us buy into new products because you say "This is exactly what I want or what I have always wanted but could not find until now."

It is my guiding principle, when I am trying to be creative, is to use myself as a benchmark as a test as to what is really needed, for if I can satisfy myself, I am sure there will be another who also needs it. I read that Stephen King wrote the horror thrillers because he likes horror thrillers and could find no good horror thrillers for his enjoyment. While market research may be great, but I think there is no greater source of truth or inspiration than the depth of one's own being.

Therefore, when I contemplate death in my earlier posts, I wasn't just thinking about the end of a life or the end of an object, but also the end of a time, the end of an era, the end of an idea, the end of a phenomenon, the end of an economy, the end of a business cycle.

In our current attempt to transform the economy, are we really in the state of a new beginning with new thinking and new ideas and new paradigms or are we still stuck in the same old rut in the same old tattered mat with the same voices crying for the same old milk while the poor maid is trying to pacify those voices by promising that many nice things are coming their way or are surely coming their way? As you can tell from my postings on those topics, I do not think that we have done more than just shuffling feet to make some noise.

I am more concerned with individuals - which means individual readers of this blog and this post - and to be helpful by providing some pointers as to how to get each one of ourselves going and moving ahead, despite the rough terrain that each and everyone of us have to traverse on our own.

I am convinced that the world does not need geniuses. The world has always been run by normal people with average skills and average exertion. But the world does need one and, if lucky, two geniuses to get it going. In the current era, we have seen the wonders done to the world by the many geniuses of Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Jobs, Gordon Moore, Andy Grove, etc., who I reckon are all babies of the Hippy era. So has the current crop of babies, big and small, lived beyond the comfort of their finger-activated otherwise stationary world in front of flickering lights training their little minds to a narrow group of mental signaling traffic. Would the best that they can think of be within that lighted box, or will it be something that is earth shattering?

So, at the point of the void after death is the point of the void of a new beginning. This is the point of the greatest source of creativity, and the degree of the greatness of the creativity will be defined by the degree of the blankness and the degree of the absence of memory of the past but with the greatest attention to what is right in front of our noses.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Existence After Death, and Before

I am trying to avoid the standard term - Life After Death, or Afterlife - principally because I belief that, after death, life as we know it does not or will not exist.

Life as we know it is life with the physical form for people - and even that I do not think human beings have not even accepted life in all human forms to the same.

So, I think the best that we can try to discuss is existence after death.

Wisdom dictates that we do not discuss what we do not know.

Siddhartha kept what his disciples have called the "Noble Silence" - he just won't not talk about it.

Confucius scolded his students: "You don't even what life is all about, you want to talk about life after death!"

From the scientific point of view, or rather to come to grips with possibilities in the scientific terms that we now understand: Life as we know it is life in dimensions we know - basically sensory dimensions. The blind has one dimension less. The blind and deaf has two dimensions less. The blind and deaf and dumb as three dimensions less. The blind and deaf and dumb and no-touch as four dimensions less. And so on. But there is life as we know it.

Once we die, logic tells us that there could be other dimensions - which are totally different from the dimensions that we do know. Now, this is purely speculative and we really do not know what that "existence" is even if we encounter it.

If that is the case, then we really do not care.

What do we really care in this existence?

I think there are two basic concerns in this existence - this bodily existence, and hence the concerns only deal with the survival of the physical form: nutrients to sustain the body and sex for the continued survival of the genetic proteins.

It is quite interesting to realise that life as we know it knows that each particular bodily or physical form will not survive forever (and this realisation should really knock out lot of nonsense from the activities of some human beings as they waste a huge chunk of their lives trying to prolong their lives).

At the end of the day, it is the prolonging of the survival of genetic proteins that is of interest to life-form in general. While human beings would worry about the future of the human race, in such concerns as over the environment as we know it, it probably should be realised by individual members of the human race that the human race may probably be just a blip in the long history of the existence and survival of life-form.

I have this little theory that as life-form is dwindling in the variety of its manifestations as well as its sizes. I can imagine a time when there is literally an infinite variety of life-forms, from the very big to the minuscule, and that somehow the environment has turned hostile for some or most of them, and the present environment is only good for human beings and some other life-forms. No doubt, the environment will continue to change (I won't say evolve because I do not think the changes are always marginal nor smooth) and human beings will surely disappear from this earth and this world, and all the worldly concerns we have now will also disappear and there will peace on this earth and in their world without the clamour and shenanigans of human critters. (I would like to read the stories told by germs, bacteria and parasites about how they through centuries or millennia have destroyed the evil giants called human beings - which just kept reappearing until some asteroids or other destroyed them for good.)

So, if we are just proteins and other fatty acids and molecules - just as the television or the radio or the handphone or the computer or the internet - then really the existence as we know it is nothing but an illusion caused by the accidental combination of sub-particles which happen to auto-animate and giving the impression to human beings that human beings are really alive - in the way human beings understand life to be. (I can imagine the mountains laughing at the silly human beings, and while having a smoke unwittingly created a volcanic eruption which killed some human beings nearby.)

Our problem is that we choose to see the things we want to see, within the small confines of our narrow perception, and think that the views and realisation - and illumination and enlightenment - that we have derived and obtained for ourselves are such big deals - when they really are not. They do not matter, to us nor to others.

When everything is deconstructed down to their basic components, we are nothing but little bits and pieces that come into shape - and dare I say being - as a result of movement, a shake, a vibration which gives rise to energy - which is a tautology as energy is anything that can cause a movement.

The biggest puzzle for the human mind is how that movement comes about. Who made that first move? Or should it be, how did (does?) that first movement come about?

Some sacred texts say it was a breath. Or it could easily be the release of gas.

Things come into being when conditions are right. But all kinds of things come into all kinds of being as all kinds of conditions exist.

Whether the conditions that come together are the conditions that we want is quite another matter. It is as if we have a say or control. We could be beyond our depth.

My final thought is this: As we do not know where we came from when we were born, we would not know where we would go when we die.

The truth may be that we neither came nor go.

We flicker - and we are lost to the flame.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How I Die

This sounds morbid, but it really takes me to the dead end.

I have been contemplating for a while whether to get here or not. Now, I think it is necessary.

The grammar looks a bit wrong, but it is not. I don't think that the process of dying is in the future, although death is, for now.

But to die is a process that starts, to my mind, at the age of 40 years - the first indication being the loss of the elasticity of the muscle in the eye and I cannot quite see the subtitles on TV as I suffer from long sightedness - which the experts say is a sign of old age.

It takes a while for me to accept that I have started to die, although conceptually and philosophically it does make one feel heroic thinking and talking about dying.

The Tibetian Book of Living and Dying starts by saying: "To know how to live, one must know how to die."

It is a profound statement and puts life and death as two sides of a coin.

In mathematical economics, one is the prime and the other is the dual - as in: if the prime is profit maximisation, the dual is cost minimisation.

In simple English, it is: To live is to die.

This is all theory. The reality and the practical aspects of life makes things a bit hard.

How does one choose to die? How do I choose to die?

All things considered, the best way is the natural way - which translates into biology means the failure of the most vital organ, the heart.

Heart failure is very different from heart attack. Heart attack is a sudden and unexpected (in terms of timing) contraction of the heart muscle (akin to cramps) which jeopardises the circulation of the blood.

Heart failure is the failure of the heart as a muscle as a result of wear and tear over the years, just like the muscles in the eyes which gives long-sightedness; in this case, the increasing failure of the heart to pump and hence the slowing down of the circulation of the blood. Eventually, the decline of the blood circulation affects the whole body system and it shuts down. This is the natural way to die - and, in ordinary language, it is called "to die of old age."

I know a healthy old man who exercised everyday to keep his heart strong. He had a stroke of the throat, and couldn't eat properly and couldn't exercise. He sat on the wheelchair, and died three years after. Now, I know, it takes three years for a good heart to die. That is the down-side of having a strong heart - it just takes too long for the system to shut down.

The heart attack is a much more self-inflicted way of dying. One can have a heart attack by maintaining a nasty temper at every moment every day, eat plenty of fatty meat, drinks well, don't exercise (such as by having a big nice comfortable car), and be involved with tons of projects all at the same time as a sign of great busy-ness in life and a sign of doing well. Well, to live well is to die well. At the appropriate moment that one chooses, one can just fly into a temper and that's it. End of the line.

Not a bad way to go considering the alternatives. Internal organ failure is quite a nasty way to go - the liver, the kidneys, the pancreas, the prostate, the breast, the cervix. These are problematic because of the heart. If the heart fails first, nothing else matters.

Physical handicaps are tough because one has to contend with the disdain of others in society which as a result can really make an otherwise ordinary life quite uncomfortable by disqualifying the handicaps from the mainstream of society. One just can't get into the game, and therefore cannot participate in whatever everybody considers to be the good life.

Unless one is born with the physical handicap, one can become one by doing gangs that think that the way to live is to dismember each other's limbs as a normal form of everyday activity. Sometimes, they over-estimate their ability to maim and as a result kill which then gets them into trouble with the law which gives them life imprisonment which is really a slow death sentence with a full stop.

The conventional wisdom is that we die by the heart as a result of sedentary way of life and eating "good" food, by having a good degree and getting a good job that puts us in a nice air-conditioned room to sit down for eight good hours a day, except the weekend when we sit in the un-air conditioned room in our own house watching TV. Education therefore gives us an early death of younger than 80 (if 40 is the peak of bodily deterioration).

So those who are considered "poor" and "toil the land in the hot sun" gets to exercise as part of living, eat minimal, and stay slim and tough and hopefully not unhappy - unless badly advised by ambitious politicians whose only strategy to get votes and stay in power and become rich and taking from others is to convince these poor people who are doing well one their own that the grass is greener on the other side when in fact the other side is dying from obesity and internal organ failure of all sorts.

Well, of course, everybody dies and it is just a question of the style of leaving. We think we have a choice, but in the end it is Hobson's choice.

In the end, the only way to die is to die happy - by embracing whatever comes, and smile when the time for us to exit is here.

For those who are into this philosophy and thinking and the only moment is now, it means that now is the moment of life and now is only the moment of death. It's a fifty-fifty chance or, I prefer, a zero or one probability.

There is really much that we can think or do about death. Having realised it, to live. That's all. Death is a default, a fallback.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How I Live

I live moment by moment.

We live as long as our next breath. This is the harsh reality. Hence:
Live like there is no tomorrow but plan like I will live forever.

Life is as meaningful as the things we are doing now. But, if this is not going to be our last moment, we have to make sure that:
(a) what we do now do not have an adverse repercussion on ourselves and those around us in the next moment; and
(b) if possible, to make sure that what we do now have a favourable impact on ourselves and those around us in the next moment.

Monks and nuns who strive towards the void would do nothing so that there is no repercussions whatsoever on themselves now or in the future. But somebody got to feed them, though.

For us lesser mortals, we have to feed ourselves and our parents and our children.

Livelihood and Living

This is why for families that are used to reliance purely upon themselves and their own efforts, they have to fully aware of the economics of life and living.

There is a cost to everything, and every thing earned must be saved. The art of life becomes one of how to get by with very little in the midst of plenty, even in the midst of our own plentifulness. This is where I think the culture of honesty, hard work, humbleness and generosity comes from - the realisation of an uncertain future.

It is therefore drummed into children like ourselves that we have to study hard (for those of us lucky enough to study) and get a job - and we right away suffer from mid-life crisis the moment we have managed to pay off our mortgage. For after spent nearly a whole life preparing and working, we find ourselves without a purpose in life.

My solution to this little problem is to integrate my working life into my life. I do not differentiate the two. After all, one of the great masters of zen said: "A day without work is a day without eating." My work is my life - the way I work is the way I live.

It is only when we differentiate life from work that there is this thing called "retirement from work" so that we can have "leisure to do our own things."

It is because of this idea of retirement that we all strive to earn and save enough for retirement and in the process go to great length (to try) to amass great wealth and in the process learn to be less honest and less hard working and more greedy and more ruthless in our dealings with our fellow human beings.


I try to exercise a certain degree of autonomy in my life.

Armed with an academic qualification, I am an ordinary member of the workforce who has to get a job and live a life.

There is a decision to be made about one's employer. The employer is probably one of the most important entity that is going to influence our lives, so we better get a good one.

I was oblivious to pay at first, being keen to get into the areas I was interested in. From one institution, I went to the next one - with the purpose of learning and finding out the things I was very interested when I was studying the subject. I was (and am) devoted to my subject or object of study, and I have no allegiance to persons or ideas or institutions.

In the institution, my allegiance is to the institution and not the person I was reporting to. This is important for avoiding fraud, and shows the importance of choice of organisation especially its vision and mission. If I don't agree, I leave. Even when I was working in the midst of the so-called greatest casino in the world, I was still able to hang on by a thread to the sense of integrity and autonomy that I had in myself - by being very very good in what I did so that I could be useful to our clients by giving good advice.

At the end of the day, the one thing I have left after years of working is a house, my EPF and my sense of my place in this big wide world. No big titles, no grand assets.


But autonomy requires courage. We have to get round and then stand up to the authorities that are set up to govern us. We shape our own destiny, not the authorities. If we end up being a member of one of the authorities set up to govern ourselves and others, we have to have courage to change things if things are not right.

We are all caught up in the Matrix. The Great One teaches us how to get out of The Matrix. In the meantime, the only thing we can do is to make sure that, while we are in the Matrix, we are not sleeping on the conveyor belt - we try to find our way around it and out of it.

Creativity and Resourcefulness

Necessity is the mother of invention.

At the end of the day, the whole objective of life is to solve the problems of living. (Some suggest we solve the problems of living by solving the problem of life by self-annihilation and becoming non-self.)

Life's many problems are mundane. This is where the provision of goods and services in the economy try to solve. A good product is one that solves one or several of the problems of living, at a cost to be paid with cash or debt or one's life. A good product therefore provides a service to the consumer. The consumer buys a product and pays the sky for it because he or she thinks that it is going to bring him or her heaven on earth, a dream come true, a desire satisfied. Clever but greedy producers create not a product but an addiction. This is the Matrix we are all trained to create for ourselves by the great institutions that we have erected to give structure to this society we are enclosed ourselves in.

But the truest innovation solves all problems of living at zero cost.

This is the innovation that is given free to the world, that rids the world of the addiction.


The simplest way to get out of the Matrix is to live simply. Depend, if possible, on nothing, not even oneself.

When we stripped ourselves of our bare necessities, we have only: (a) our work which is our life, (b) ourselves and family, and (c) our friends and community.

The only thing we worry about is our contribution to society - how we can contribute, how to make life easier, how to remove drudgery.

Process of Creativity

In trying to achieve simplicity, there is a process from learning to understanding to realisation and to actualisation.

The fastest way to do things is to imitate. This is what all creatures do. But human beings try to be creative, to do different things.

In a world where poverty is the daily grind, the quickest path out of poverty is the corruption of the integrity of an ideal system that we are trying to create. When this happens, our system collapses to the lowest form of a dog-eat-dog world.

To rise above the ground zero, we have to seek an upward process.
Knowledge: To know what we are looking at
Understanding: To understand the thing that we are looking at
Realisation: To realise what the thing we are looking at is all about
Actualisation: To assimilate that knowledge, understanding and realisation in such a way that we are able to act accordingly to that realisation, such as by doing something that is completely different from what is being done or to achieve a level of being that is beyond mere satisfaction of human desires

Sometimes, the solution to many of our problems in life is close at hand. It could be just be in our own mind.

Volition and Responsibility

I live with volition - I decide what I want to do.

This is my attempt to live my life according to my own thinking and understanding and realisation and trying to actualise that realisation in my life so that I live a life that is fully integrated with my own thinking.

Life is very complex because our thoughts are all over the place, I try to keep my life simple with minimal thoughts but deep thoughts on a few key areas. In this way, I can live a simple but meaningful life - to myself.

For the few things I do, I take direct responsibility. For the many things I do not do, I take indirect responsibility.

I have to subject my sense of being to my conscience.

The Few Things I Do And Think About

1. Reading
I read everyday to understand what life is all about. To me, the most important are the religious texts which contain the most profound wisdom and insights into the human perception of life. Second are myths which record our sub-conscious interpretation of what is going on around us. Third is history which is instructive. Fourth is literature where people from all walks of life write of their responses to their circumstances which are infinitely varied. Last are the scientific texts as many are wrong, and only a handful true. Economics is one of the most difficult subjects to understand properly.

2. Music
I listen to music to understand how people feel. We sing because we want to express our inner emotions. The most basic is the beat, the more irregular, the sadder. Harmony is a nicety enjoyed only by those with a narrow human experience.

It is too easy a trap to learn music learning to a hobby about hi-fi equipment which is more about having money to burn than about the integrity music. A large chunk of the integrity of music is in the mind.

I try to play music seriously(well, the electric guitar now) in order to find a way to express myself, and hence to understand my inner feelings. I find it all theory. Without a full understanding of the theory, I play the same old song. With some understanding, I plagiarize and play other people's song. I need to play my own music.

3. Photography
I try to take photography seriously in order to learn to look at the world as it is. An excuse to look up from my desk and my book or away from the wall. I have the picture in my mind first before I take the photography. I have to understand the mechanics first before I can configure to get what I want.

4. Beer
Beer is better than wine or hard liquor. I drink because I am happy. I drink to be out of control from reason. I drink to get away from logic. I drink to cool down. I drink because I do not take life seriously. I drink for the conversations.

5. Work
I do not work, I think. My job is to think and solve other people's problem. I do not think about my job.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why I Live

This sounds corny, but to go to my next post "How I Live" I have to do this one. And I have been postponing it.

I live because I am alive.
I live because I am not yet dead.

Truism. Tautology. Obvious fact.

All so true. So, there is nothing more to it. I shall just accept it as it is. No argument about it.

The above statements are very profound to me. They describe plain and simple truth which I have no choice but to accept.

To ask why should I be alive, why should I live - to ask this question is to invoke a sense of ego which is the source of all the troubles which we face in life.

By simply accept things as they (naturally) are, I am allowing myself to be part of the natural world of which I am but a little part.

I live incognito within this larger realm of reality.


I am or try to be a-religious, although I confess I am deeply devotional. I accept all.

When I was studying in the UK, I was approached by evangelists. I was missing home, and my instinctive reaction to their strong sell was this:

"How can I love God whom I do not know, before I love my parents who do love me."

With that, I have come to realise that I had discovered a meaningful raison detre for living.

This has become crucial to me as I struggle through the puddles of this world.

Now, with a spouse and children, the meaning in my life has spread out from the parents to the larger family, and as the old disappears, the love I have gets spread out even more and defines the way I live or rather the things I do in life and things I try to achieve or the troubles that I am now taking in the projects I am undertaking.

At the end of it, there is nothing much to shout about in life. The quieter I live, the better it is for myself and for others. I find it incredible how everyone always seems to have something to say about everything all the times (and I reckon I am also guilty of it). Something it is good to lower the noise. However, it does nobody any harm if we try to do something positive for ourselves or for others (provided we know exactly what we are doing, rather than causing more harm than good).

So long as I have something that I want to do, then I shall live. Once I have done what I have set out to do, and I have nothing more to do, then I suppose I shall quietly go away.

I therefore live because I have something to do. (I suppose this brings me to How I Live.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

How I No-Think

When I learn to think, I realise that a lot of time is spent not thinking.

It is very easy to think we think when I fact we are worrying. How do we tell the difference?

When you worry, the same thoughts go round and round in an endless circle of arguments and counter-arguments with no end in sight. (Can I say Malaysians are a worried lot?)

When you think, you identify the issue or problem and define it. You apply logic to it, and out comes the conclusion. You may or may not like the conclusion - but that is the conclusion or the solution to the problem. That's it. The next thing is to act.

There is no right or wrong. There are consequences which you may or may not like.

Now, I want to elaborate a bit on the no-think or no-mind thing that I wrote in my last post.

Thinking is simple - it is logic: deduction from general principles or maxims or premises, or inference from particular cases. The trick is not to cheat by jumping a step or being too nice to oneself and not being strict.

With no-think or no-mind, I have to understand that there is such a thing as thoughts and an entirely different thing called mind. Thoughts and mind are separate, and the idea is to try to tell the difference.

In everyday life, we are so caught up by activities that our minds are in a buzz, our thoughts are all over the place and the body and mind do not coordinate.

Sit Quiet

The first thing to do is to sit down and be quiet.

This is not an easy thing to do - to sit quiet. We are used to lots of activities and we will soon realise that those activities are an attempt by us to run away from ourselves.

The idea is to keep the body still, so that the only thing that is left active are the thoughts.

The next step is to remove the thoughts. This is by far the most difficult thing to do. Thoughts come, thoughts go. All kinds of thoughts arise. Before long, you will get to thoughts which make you angry - usually thoughts which give you the idea that other people have done things which are unkind or unfair to you. You can get very angry. I did. When that happens you must quickly realise that those are only thoughts and not you. You do not believe it, but slowly you will have to come to accept that for a fact.

There is this stream of thoughts that come rushing round and round your head happily on their own, like naughty little children having fun and causing a riot. There is nothing you can do much about them. Let them run, until they are tired. Sure, they the thoughts or stream of thoughts will get tired.

But only for a fleeting moment. Then off they go again. Round and round.

The key is to catch that momentary pause in the stream of thoughts. That momentary pause is gives one the window to "nothingness of no thoughts." That gives one a glimpse of the "cloudness mind." That clear and calm mind. Mind without thoughts is a clear and spotless as a mirror in the Hubble telescope.

The task from this point on is not to focus on the thoughts, but to look for that thoughtless gap with the stream of thoughts is tired and paused and keep prolonging that gap one time after another time.

When you have mastered widening the gap, you have found your real mind.

With body still, thoughts still, there is the mind - which is still. In that pristine stillness of mind, reality is reflected for you to observe.

This is all there is to meditation, in so far as I know it. Without any superfluous connotation whatsoever.

At that stage, one can live happily.

I invoked that state of mind when I wanted to quit smoking a long long time ago. I quit instantaneously, in a world of no smoke.

Technical Aspects of Meditation - By which simple things are made complicated


This is a Sanskrit term for focusing the mind.

As riotous thoughts rush about, one way to cut through those thoughts is to focus the mind. (My gap method is easy and faster.)

Some will tell you to focus on something - light, flame, symbol, image.

Once you are able to focus your mind and cut out thoughts, you have already found your basic mind.

There is all there is to it.

Some people wants to put in more layers of meaning, but I think that is not necessary.


This is a Sanskrit term for looking to wisdom.

The idea is that after you are able to clear your thoughts and focus your mind, what do you focus on?

The instruction here is to looking for wisdom. What is wisdom? Reality. Things as they are.

So, the exercise is to observe with one eyes and one's mind things as they are, and accept them as facts.

This sounds like simple, but it is not that simple.

Our minds are clouded by preconceptions and prejudices. Most of the time, we do not see with our minds, we filter things with our preconceived ideas. We often looks for proofs of our imaginings and gross generalisations and of course we find what we look for, usually, with things that are mental.

See with a clear mind, cloudless, colourless.

That's a lifetime of practice.

There is no need to sit and meditate in a darkened room with incense and low music.

Observe as we go about living our everyday lives, and become by the things we learn about ourselves, our friends, and our surroundings.

That's the truth.


Madness comes from greed. Do not practice samadhi or vipassana if you are greedy or vengeful. It can kill you. If you are obsessed, i.e., if you can't let go of things or let things be, then you obsession may kill you. For example, you hang on to a thought and won't let go. You follow that same thought every moment. That, to me, is the definition of madness.

Everything Will Pass

This is the ultimate wisdom - everything will pass. So, things do not really matter. Or rather, nothing really matters in the end.

This realisation comes heavily on us as we grow older and then old. When energy goes, and we accept things as they are, rather than try to change things to suit us.


I thought that I had better elaborate a bit on the no-mind stuff just in case there are a person or two who is curious about it.

As you can see, it is not complicated - maybe tedious and involved. The literature is all over the place, usually badly written by illiterates luminaries who speak in foreign languages through their toothless gaps in the middle of a jungle.

There are other books (Western) which makes things too simple - which learns one to pamper oneself unnecessarily.

I don't think these things as I have written above are a big deal. There are just a skill that can be learned, like typing on a computer or using the iphone. The trick is not a make a big deal out of things.

I shall next write on Why I Live, and How I Live. I am inexorably going into a situation which I am reluctant to enter.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How I Think

I think intuitively.

Let me explain.

Early in my life as a student, when I was learning to think, it dawned on me, in the late hours in the dead of the night, that intuition is nothing but logic operating very quickly as if instantaneously. I think it was after reading Bergson.

Deduction, Induction

Logic is nothing but a very mechanistic way of thinking. There are two major approaches. Deduction is from the general to the specific. Induction or inference is from the specific to the general.

While these two approaches to logic look fairly simple and straightforward, their proper application requires a lot of practice so that one does not fall into the trap of "gross" generalisations or pedantic "frog in the well" or "frog under the coconut shell" mentality.

The common illustration of the problem of logic is the story of the black swans. In England at a time when they were beginning to think, they saw and concluded that "All swans are white" until they discovered Australia and discovered they are wrong when they saw black swans there. The truth is seldom neat and tidy.

Logical, No Truth

But logic is never the path to truth. Logic is just a method to ensure that a view or an argument is properly constructed and laid out - so that it can be communicated clearly to other people (most often for the purpose of trying to convince others to share or take up one's view). This is a very tedious thing to do - to work out each and every little step very clearly and linearly along a line (not necessarily a straight line). In modern day example, this is nothing more than just a circuit board.

What is arrived at is not the truth, but a logical conclusion. "If you build it like this, it will end up like that." And the "that" is not the only "That" but one of many possibilities that can be done if the logical sequences are constructed differently. A different route, a different destination. (In modern day religious endeavours, different routes, same destination, hopefully.)

So, then, what is truth? How do we know truth?

My proposal to myself is to be learn to think logically first - to be stringent in my logic.

This requires absolute honesty. Polite society calls it bluntness. It is very hard to be bluntly honest in the complex world of networking today. Each person holds a conclusion that is personally meaningful to him or her. It is dangerous to shake their confidence in the truth they hold for themselves. That truth may be proven to them by the beneficial effect that position they hold has on them - even if the logic of that conclusion may be very difficult or impossible to prove - on the basis of existing tools and concepts and understanding.

Completeness of thought requires us to accept that there are conclusions that logic can prove and there are also conclusions that cannot be proved by logic. It is the logic of all possibilities: the propositions and the null propositions.

The totality of things or everything is the truth or the reality. It is the most general theory or view that is the truth of things.

It may be a fool who tries to assimilate this total view, but to me this is absolutely necessary in order to be able to understand where I am today and to accept things as they are and to be able to anticipate where things will go in future and how things will transform from moment to moment.

The nature of each and every thing determines how each will develop as time goes by, by itself. The person who has understood the nature of things knows how each thing will develop and how everything will interact with each other. Laozi calls this the Tao or the Way. Some other clever chap even says "I am the Way."


How I think therefore is very simple and basic. First, learn to think logically. Then after, let the thinking go by itself and think intuitively without boundaries.

The mind will expand and then assimilates all that it sees and perceives. The processing of everything simultaneously and completely requires the mind to be undirected so that it is unprejudiced - and this can be done by letting thoughts disappear. The subsequent realisation is the end-result of that alchemical processing called meditation - the highest of which is a condition called no-mind. (I am reluctant to say "zen" because it is a well-known term that is easily misunderstood.)

Discrete and Continuum

Simple thoughts are usually categorical and boxy. "He is good." "She is bad." But all generalisations are false, including this one (as someone once said).

The reality is that we have everything in each of us - it is just a matter of cultivation and emphasis. But all blankness and all possibilities will be narrowed as we exploit our opportunities and take on a specific direction or path. Statisticians call this reducing "the degree of freedom." I call it "using up one's bullets." E.g. "You have three bullets. You have fired two. What are you going to do with the last one." Or, "you have one bullet, but you have multiple objectives to achieve. How are you going to achieve them all?"

We see the wonderful variety of life on earth and we wonder who create them all. But they may just spring into existence when conditions are right for things to come into being. Furthermore, this is only what we can see. How about those we cannot see - even with a microscope - the wind we create with the move of a hand. The Great One asked, "Where is the light when the flame is gone."

There is further room for thought when we realise that even the things we can see today are only those we can see today. It does not mean that other things did not exist just because we do see them today (dinosaurs). Things we see may just be things that have come to prominence as a result of long process of historical selection or preferences.

There could be a continuum of infinite human types in the male-female combination, including unisex and non-sex and everything in between. It is just a matter of the degree of maleness or femaleness in each of us.

If we extend this perception and think of the human race, we therefore realise a commonality among ourselves the variation of which can only be due to conditioning to external factors. We are all subject to the same kinds of concerns and problems. In the end, everything boils down to the issue of survival.

It is only by being able to think in a more general form can a person reach out and touch the universe. Be at one with the universe. At this point, we follow our hearts. It is only when our hearts are pure that we know truth.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why I Think

Let me continue with my why-how series from personal experiences. (I must confess that I am extremely uncomfortable doing this series because I feel I am baring too much of my personal self in public - just like taking a shower in a communal room for the first time.)

I have done Why-How I Blog and Why-How I Work. The next logical one is Why-How I Think and Why-How I Live. (I am getting into deeper and deeper waters.)

I think because I want to be. (This is a poor parody of Descartes.)

I think because I want to be myself. Truly myself.

I think so that I know that what I think, say and do is based on my own reasoned conviction, and not as a result of some accidental historical background conditioning - and I have to add unconsciousness conditioning as opposed to some mindful self-inflicted self-inflicted conditioning when I want form good habits for myself - of which thinking and thinking right are crucial ones.

I think because I am extremely dismayed by the untoward consequences of unthinking whereby ostensibly sensible nice people can suddenly turn into scary monsters when some hidden spots are pressed and an entirely strange new being springs out - like the genii from Aladdin's lamp when rubbed the right (or wrong) way.

I think so that I can be a more stable person when dealing with myself and my loved ones and friends and strangers I meet and strangers I do not meet.

This is important so that I do not constantly surprise myself by the things I think, do and say, and I do not frightened others by them. The unpredictability can be predictable but it is better to be predictably predictable even if it removes some of the excitement out of life.

After all, I find human beings constantly searching for certainty in an uncertain world - the permanent shelter we want to to keep the elements away from us, the field and animals we keep for a constant supply of food, the priests we constantly keep by our sides in case we should quite suddenly have to depart, the cash we keep in our pockets (for transactions and speculation, according to guru Keynes), the many houses and cars and watches and cameras we have just in case we need to reach out and touch them in order to find ourselves, the friend we keep in our circles just in case we need them to do things for us, the insurance that we want when we know that there is no one human being who can vouchsafe for any one of us about what and when of the things that happen in life (most of the times to others but sometimes to us).

I think so that I can face my responsibilities squarely in the face. I can live a much more certain and boring life - by focusing on doing the same things over and over again in order to perfect my craft, the un-excitement of which requires internal resolve and determination and will and energy.

Alternatively, I can make my life as exciting as possible by running away from my parents, my spouse, my girl/boyfriends, the police, the taxman, the taximan, the bosses, the subordinates, the fellow workmates, the traffic jams, the work load, and myself.

I think so that I do not have to press down others so that I can look good.

I think so that I can realise that the world is big enough for every human being and every animal and every plant and every bacteria and every parasite.

Finally, I think so that I can face life squarely in the face. I think, therefore I welcome death as I welcome life.

I think so that I welcome whatever comes my way.

I think so that I can face facts.

I think so that I can submit to the inevitably of life and non-life.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fighting The Keynesian Multiplier

This may be a good time for me to elaborate on my little private fight against the Keynesian multiplier.

The Keynesian multiplier was a little trick which Keynes used to argue for fiscal stimulus for the purpose of generating jobs. His argument went something like this: "See, you can spend some public money and it will trigger private investments which will add up to a multiple of the original sum, if the trigger effects are allowed to work themselves out properly."

If the government spends RM100 on public works, and that amount is spent on fully on local materials and local workers, then the RM100 will go into the pockets of businessmen and workers. If they keep, out of that RM100, RM20 and spend RM80, that RM80 will generate additional income of RM80 in round two. The RM80 becomes the new income and if RM16 are saved and RM64 spent, then it creates an additional income of RM64 in round three. Etc, until infinity.

Mathematically, this is an infinite series. If the whole series is added up, it goes neatly into a formula 1/(1-c). In the economic system, that c is the propensity to consume C/Y and (1-c) is the rate of saving. If the rate of saving is 20% of income, as we assumed above, the multiplier is 5 (from 10/2).

Consultants working in Malaysia have been very happy to use a multiplier of 4 to expand the benefits of every little (or big) government spending programme.

I am only very concerned that the application of a multiplier of 3 or 4 or 5 may unduly exaggerate the benefits of budget spending.


If we extract 2009 figures from Bank Negara's Annual Report 2009, we get Y=661.8 and C=435.2 in current prices. This gives a consumption rate of 65.8% or a savings rate of 34.2% and a multiplier of 2.9 (1/0.342). We can say this is about the maximum average multiplier we can apply for Malaysia.

There are other complications.

1. The calculation assumes that all the increased incomes are spent on locally produced goods and services. But leakage in Malaysia is very high because of the inability to produce world-class products which are the targets of those spending. E.g. High-spend railway line. In the example above, of the RM100 spent, RM80 could go to imports (rail engine, steel, foreign consultants, foreign workers, corruption money) and only RM20 could be spent on local goods and services. So the multiplier will be only 20% of the 2.9 or 0.6 which is less than the original amount spent (i.e., RM60 out of RM100).

2. The trigger effects may not have the chance to go to infinity. The first round is RM100 spent, and RM80 goes to imports, and RM16 consumed on local stuff. We will be lucky if the RM16 gets recycled in the local economy. If it is spent on a foreign product, then the whole of the RM16 disappears. So, the multiplier in this instance is only RM16 out of RM100 or 0.16.

It is for problems like these that our stimulus packages do not get to stimulate the economy. The whole idea of simply throwing some cash into the system and hoping that things will reboot themselves is a fantasy of policy makers who do not have a clue as to what they are doing.

And I blame the Keynesian multiplier taught in Form 6 or First Year economics to be at fault.

It is because of the impotence of the multiplier that I have been trying to fight all this while for a clarity of the programme or the economic strategy that the government is pursuing. There is a need to get the whole economic system to move in tandem in order for the movement forward to be sustainable. The government (our money) simply does have the cash to keep propping up the economy. If the baton is now given to the government-linked companies, I have to be more fearful.

We now have a strategic economic misalignment - our system with the rest of the world - and our system needs to be re-aligned. (I am tempted to pursue the analogy of re-aligning the four wheels altogether.) We have to get the economy back to the path of indigenous excellence (and I use the word "indigenous" here broadly to include all citizens, all locals) so that we can generate a good multiplier internally - so that a little home-grown investment can go a long way (and bankers do not have to worry about borrowers absconding abroad). We just have to try to plug the holes in our system.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

5 Ways To Transform The Economy

I think I have been make amends to my previous post by writing what I expect the transformation of the Malaysian economy to be like.

1. External Environment

We have to take cognisance of the external environment - what we expect it to be like until 2020 and how are we going to react to it.

While the United States is still the largest economy in the world, there is a now a formidable global economic force in China and some say India. Europe will remain the centre of luxury products to feed the new rich of Asia. Indonesia may see a sharp transformation of its economy if it manages to lock into China through the new and quite impressive ministerial team.

The opportunities for Malaysia will still be in commodities, with focus now on palm oil and its downstream activities. It is not clever to just be selling the palm oil - we have to go into processing, i.e., palm oil-related industries with focus on research and manufacturing. If our plantation companies are stuck merely at planting and harvesting, then we are stuck in the middle income.

Electrical and electronics I am quite apprehensive. We cannot compete on assembly. We have to go into R&D. We have to beef up our universities - and they say they cannot be KPIed.

2. Domestic Environment

The domestic environment is probably going through its third-level expectational changes. At the first level, the New Economic Policy has created gains for a small section of the Bumiputra community (as a result of piecemeal proactive measures rather than across-the-board policy) which created discontent among the large majority of the Bumiputra community and the whole of the non-Bumiputra community.

At the second level, this discontent leads to lack of confidence in the universal goodness of government policies and consequently voting by feet. Redistribution without serious reinvestment creates a lethargic domestic private sector which therefore is substituted by foreign direct investment.

At the third level, there is now the struggle to keep the New Economic Policy (argued on rights). The challenge is to find new proactive measures which are not unilateral transfers but instead investments in human and social capital so that there will be less intrusive or discouragement to the confidence of the rest of society. In fact, there is a real need to find ways that encourages both the Bumiputra community (those who have benefited and those who had not) and the non-Bumiputra community.

There is a need to spell out a bit more clearly in practical terms the meaning of things for the nation to move forward as one.

3. Research and Innovation

The managing of expectations and the building of confidence in Malaysians in the future of this nation (and not just the confidence for foreign investors to make money off Malaysia and Malaysians) is crucial for Malaysians themselvesto start investing in the future of Malaysia. This involves pouring blood, sweat and tears to projects in Malaysia, using Malaysian resources and for the needs of Malaysians. In this context, indigenous investments must mean investment by Malaysians, Bumiputra or otherwise.

Again, our investments must be in human and social capital, as well as in scientific and commercial enterprises. Malaysians must wake up to the harsh reality that there is such as thing as technical know-how which should, ultimately, be superior to the social know-who to progress - although, admittedly, social networking is vital for individual progress in society.

4. Banking and Finance and the Capital Market

In the current global environment, there are more funds than there are good investment projects. It will be not be clever to pay a high interest rate of 5% say for financial funds. It does not bode well for the nation to guarantee foreign funds a high rate of return for the basis of undertaking some speculative real estate projects at home.

Malaysia's problem is that it has thrown the baby out with the bath water when it solved its banking problem during the financial crisis in the late 1980s. By amalgamating smaller banks into banking giants, ostensibly to ensure sufficient capital support to withstand the bad loans, the solution to the problem of the ratio of non-performing loans to total loans is to expand the loan books. Loans are thought to be more safely given out by lending to (politically-connected) single big borrowers, and the creating of collateral assets (namely, real estate). I agree that there should be a narrow cap on the loans book that goes to the real estate sector.

As a result, big banks are not structured to understand and manage and have a proper relationship with small-scale entrepreneurs. In other, big banks have killed off the small enterprises by their technical incompetence in nurturing small businesses. It is far easier for fresh undergraduates to analysis proforma balance sheets and profit and loan statement, rather than to go to the ground and understanding how the businesses are doing. Much of the paper work with banks are probably unrelated to the reality in the business world.

There is no problem with the capital market, insofar as I can see. The only problem is the lack of good businesses to invest. Businesses, especially small businesses, have discovered that it is far easier to make big bucks by conning the small investors in the stock market with their bogus prospectuses than to go out there to fight in the real business world. The excess liquidity situation does not help to identify good businesses for investment, and Malaysia's lack of competitiveness in the world does not make Malaysian firms to be good vehicles for long-term investment.

Bank officers just have to be properly trained to help grow new firms through strong relationship banking with customers.

5. Rapid Adjustments

The one consequence of a big government sector in the economy is that the economic adjustments tend to be excruciating slow or none at all. No government company has failed. No big companies associated with the government has failed. There are no distress assets to be bought on the cheap by those who have been prudent and are cash rich. The economic game continued to be in the hands of the incompetent few (or many?). Companies making losses have been given a new lease of life by restructuring and the sale of assets and as a result are now completing rundown and are in no position to compete either at home or abroad. Business decisions appear to be made without contingent liabilities to the individual directors whose are recruited from retired senior government servants.

Banks should be forced to pull the rug from under the feet of companies that are not doing well or are inefficient.


I can go on to detail out the need for a good judiciary system to settle industrial and commercial disputes and everything else to do with the business environment in Malaysia. I think I have written enough to give an idea of what I am getting it and that I probably have a legitimate basis for being not entirely happy with the Economic Transformation Programme.

The ETP should be strategic that triggers things off in the right direction. That right direction is the keenness of private domestic investors to invest in Malaysia.

How Not To Transform The Economy

I have been trying very hard not to write anything about the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), the bare bones of which were revealed on the 22 September by the press.

It is just too easy to be cynical.

Target: To triple the Gross National Income (GNI) from RM660 billion in 2009 to RM1,700 billion by 2020 at growth of 6 per cent per annum - and I really hope they get the definition right - and create 3.3 million jobs by 2020. High income of RM46,000 per capita by 2020 from RM23,700 in 2009.

Total 131 projects worth RM670 billion proposed to 2020. 60 business opportunities to be "made available." RM115 billion to start by end-2010.

Malaysia number 1 regional hub for oil fields services, global diversity hub, revitalising the capital market, 114 km of rail lines via Mass Rapid Transit high-speed rail system to connect KL and Singapore, revitalising Klang River, and towards a duty-free haven for Malaysia for tourists.

12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs): (1) agriculture/palm oil, (2) oil & gas & energy, (3) electrical & electronics, (4) education, (5) wholesale & retail, (6) healthcare, (7) financial services, (8) tourism, (9) business services, (10) communications, (11) content & infrastructure, (12) Greater KL.

92% from private sector (RM1,270 billion), 8% from government (RM105.5 billion) to produce an additional GNI of RM775 billion by 2020 (presumably after taking away organic growth).

1. For one thing, this country has undergone a few significant transformations. We are therefore used to economic transformation and the only real issue I have is to see that the transform is for "good." What do I mean by that? A good transformation makes the economy more flexible than before, more capable of adjusting to external and internal challenges and, as a result, makes the economy stronger and more resilient. More resilient means the ability to take drastic corrections with the fading of the inefficient and the rising of newer and hopefully better champions of innovation and investment.

2. The Malaysian economy has turned from an export-oriented primary-commodity producing economy (under colonial rule) to (Transformation One) an inward-looking import-substituting foreign-investment-unfriendly regime (1970s resulting in a recession) and then quickly reverting back to (Transformation Two) an FDI-welcoming economy (late 1980s) followed by (Transformation Three) an explosion of supply-side infrastructure mega projects (early 1990s) which resulted in a financial crisis (inflation and bailouts) as a result of policy ignorance about the dangers of short-term capital flows followed a series of counter-cylical fiscal stimuli.

With the severe delay to a high income economy by 2020, there is now revealed in the ETP a flurry of projects to bring the economy quickly up to mark. Are we still stuck in Transformation Three?

3. This may be the place for me to say this. A lot of nonsense has been said about the importance of the services sector - 60% or 70% in advanced nations and 40% or 50% in developing nations and now the services sector can be enlarged in order to become an advanced or high-income economy.

The services sector in advanced nations are higher in proportion to the whole economy because their agriculture sector has disappeared due to high cost of production, and increasingly with the rise of China and India, so is the manufacturing sector. To survive, they have to use their wit which requires them to go in financial services (capital flows and corruption money from developing countries) and education (students from developing countries with bad education systems) and tourism (corruption money and windfall gains from the stock markets). It is foolhardy to compete head-on on these fronts with the more advanced economies which requires a fairly high degree of integrity and honesty in dealing with information.

In most economies especially developing economies, the services sector can only develop in conjunction with the agriculture and manufacturing sectors. It is therefore the most important that investments in these two sectors must be strong in order to pull along the rest of the economy. Without the real "real" sectors being developed, I am afraid that the "services" sectors that we are trying to develop will be related with crime, prostitution, drugs, financial fraud, social disintegration, and the corruption of standards.

4. With the infrastructure projects that are being laid out in the ETP, without any innovation or the adding of value to the economy, the projects are once again going to be financed by the future generations in the form of inflation which will only make their real income lower so that they will have to tighten their belts so that scarce resources which are meant for their consumption can be diverted to these projects. I am not against projects but they must be economically feasible if they cannot be financially feasible. The rush to meet unrealistic deadlines in order to "show results quickly" is not the way to go. Sometimes, a little hard time can be good for the soul and spur one to hard work.


A masterplan or roadmap or a project-implementation programme always smells to me a command-type militaristic economic operation. I do not know whether management consultants make good economists. The key role of a good economist is always to promote confidence and some clarity of the rules of the operating environment so that timid risk-adverse investors can be drawn out from the murky corners of their hideaways in the hope of making supernormal profits from a situation which they think no other persons have seen before. The enticement of profit from an opportunities is the trick that economists use to stimulate investments. Alas, we have to be content with a directed chess game whether the end game has probably already been decided - if they know the nature of the game that everybody is supposed to play.

I keep my fingers crossed, and wish the ETP luck for all our sakes.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Theory of Special Interest Groups and Groupings

What is race but an accident of history frozen at a particular time.

That accident is the result of a community trying to find a sustainable livelihood, given a particular environment.

A community is a group of people who find kinship on the basis of a common factor or a set of common factors which they all share and which they can all identify with - either language, or way of life, or attire, or family members, or customs, or beliefs.

It is therefore likely that in a community with has within it many varied characteristics or features or factors, there will be as many factors.

Some factors are at individual levels - family. Some are at social levels - language, customs, beliefs, attire.

Some factors operate at national levels - language, way of life.

Some factors transcend national levels - language, beliefs.

There are therefore many permutations or groups that can be established within a community, and especially within a highly rich and diversified community.

Different groups are formed for different purposes or special interests.

Different interest groups can collude with each other in other to gain power over other groups or groupings.

When an objective is achieved, the different interest groups will split up and, if they cannot dominate the situation, will then try to work with other groups as a matter of expediency in order to gain an immediate strategic advantage, before preparing for the next move.

Different basis will be used to justify their existence and to garner support from the public at large - a certain sense of justice, history, morality, environment, economics, scientific objectivity, spiritual calling - although no one factor can be considered superior to the next.

The ultimate purpose of all groups is power - political power with a view to economic power or economic power with a view to political power.

The immediate purpose of every special interest group is to prevent the other group to gain dominant power.

There is advantage in gaining dominant power - you can abuse the others for your own advantage and gain, which is sometimes also called corruption - of justice, history, morality, environment, economics, scientific objectivity, spiritual calling, depending on where you do not stand.

The fight for a race is usually championed by a foreigner who is keen to be accepted by that race as one of its members - see Kublai Khan, Kangxi, Paul, Napoleon, Hitler.

Genuine members of a race typically are comfortable with who they are - and, like all decent people, wish to consider themselves as being kind and considerate and behave kind and considerate.

But in the sphere of physical construction, there is a specific level of excellence in technical knowledge without which the construction will not be stable. This technical knowledge is the basis for the modern world that we live in today and which there can be no compromise without subsequent cost. Technical superior is lost when the best in the relevant field is not properly employed.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Change & Progress in a Demoracy

I wish to write on the real essence of what we are trying to do in the modern and enlightened world when we deal with the idea of democracy.

In a nutshell, when we talk about democracy, we are really thinking about change. Why?

The truth is that we sentient human beings are often ignorant - about where we are, where others are, and where everything will be - so we must as well own up to our inherent lack of knowledge and wisdom - not matter how much we pretend to think.

The idea of democracy is a fine ideal - of freedom of speech and action when everybody is given the leeway to do or say whatever they like in order to be happy - which we should all strive to achieve but which we know we can never really get. It sounds a bit like heaven and hell - not getting quite the real stuff.

In practice, everything collapses to majority rule, which gives rise to the tyranny of the majority. On the other hand, a small elite must control the majority, which thus give rise to apartheid or totalitarianism. In either case, the outcome really depends on the wisdom and kindness of those in power who have the right to determine who should live and die, and who should be comfortable and who should not be.

In politics, the Greek democratic ideal is reduced to the Roman republicanism which as we know through history can descend further to the monarchy of Caesar. After Caesar, tyrants and chaos.

The real uniqueness of the American Constitution is the limitation of the term of the president. A fool or a wise man can do damage or good for a period of eight years to a nation, and no more. Let the next best person try his hand to do something for the nation. There is nothing like variety.

It is this struggle for change that the freedom of speech has a critical role to play in the nation - that every man and woman who thinks he or she is good enough can stand up and argue his or her case. He or her should have a different point of view of how things should be run, no matter how good or bad, so long as the majority agree to suffer by him or her.

Without the flexibility for the change of the government or the leadership of the nation, freedom of speech is nothing but a beautiful decorative flower that only looks nice and nothing more. There is nothing to talk about, in that case.

By the same token, it is only that the last or previous leaders of the nation, having had their turn to do good, should now keep quiet and let the new prevailing leader do his or her job.

I think its sheer hypocrisy and deep disrespect for old leaders to think that they know all the answers to the problems of the nation when they already have had their chance to ruin it roundly, by being misguided in their policies when they were in power.

It is a fact that this nation has already had tried its favourite policies which have had their fair share of successes and failures. We have been there, and done that. Let us move on and try something new, something different. It may not be the perfect solution, but at least there are other parts of the nation which deserves some encouragement as well, if not anything, but to see whether that sector is still there or alive.

Furthermore, the world has also changed, and if we keep getting pestered by the same old arguments by the same old people, then I don't thing that we are giving the younger generations a fair chance to engineer their own future. The demons of the older generations cannot be inherited by the younger generations.

If indeed this nation wants to transform itself, restructure its society and obliterate race from the economy, then I think the educated young of all races should be conscripted to labour for the nation through their own private and individual interests.

It is foolhardy for any leadership to think that public largesse can be bestowed on private individuals in the hope they will repay the public by huge acts of great success and great generosity. We all know that what goes from the public purse to private pockets will only stay in private pockets provided those pockets do not have holes in them.

I do not necessarily think that the proposals of the current government are perfect and faultless. We do not know. Some of us may not like some of them. The harsh reality is the nearly impossibility to obtain a consensus in public matters. There also must be efforts to scrutinise the policy proposals. But once the time for planning is over and the time for implementation comes, we should just implement them. We shall bear the consequences and move on.

There is nothing like a rigorous debate (for new ideas to do things better. The old leadership may wish to argue that he or she also has a view as a member of the public. Fair enough, then say something new.)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Danger of Putting Politics Before Economics

It is true that economics is not without its shortcomings, being the study of human behaviour in contact with each other to provide goods and services to each as each person searches for happiness in this troublesome and, sometimes, too long a life.

The difficulty of the study arises because the behaviour of human beings, individually but usually as a whole, changes as their operating environment changes which, in turn, brings on new sets of behaviour. From this perspective of dynamic change, we see a tendency for collective human behaviour, and hence the economics (and the politics), to ascend (becoming more optimistic) or descend (becoming depressive).

Malaysia is in a unique situation of having a potent mix of many colourful ethnic people in an economic cauldron with the fire underneath being gently stoked by the clever few. If the fire is gentle long enough, Malaysian will meant into a homogeneous entity, probably reluctantly. However, if someone decides to stir the pot with a stick as well, the different little bits and pieces will spin in their own little eddies round and round the pot, knocking against each other as if in violent agitation.

The New Economic Policy was a policy attempt at creating a new economy. While poverty is, rightly, a universal concern, the other concern was in regard to wealth distribution.

Poverty (or wealth creation) and wealth distribution are both social as well as economic problems. Poverty is a social problem when the family unit breaks down or when people are physically or mentally handicapped. It becomes the duty of a moral community to help the unfortunate. It can be an economic problem, through lack of (proper) education. It can be a systemic economic problem, when an economy goes into a recession or when it is not creating sufficient (good) jobs.

Wealth is distributed as a product of the peculiarities of an economic system. An economic system is created to produce wealth, either for the masses, for a select few, or for the top leader. The economic system is invented by human beings, which means of course it can be changed. Different economic systems (or models) will create different results, with regard to wealth creation and wealth distribution.

Several economic systems have been tried out in the economic history world, and they are still being tried out - including the one in Malaysia. The models go from the Garden of Eden, robbery, subjugation (enslavement and forced labour), conquest, and colonialisation. Apart from the Garden of Eden model (which is favoured by roaming natives in thick jungles), all the other traditional models are based on the labour of others for the benefit of a few.

The current more popular model that is being widely promoted by academicians and practitioners of all persuasions is the model of free enterprise based on free competition and free movement of capital and labour. This is argued on the basis that it benefits more people (than other more coercive models), as they compete with each other to provide goods and services for each other in order to survive, with the incentive to labour in the form of perceived wealth.

It is argued that people are more given to hard and harder work, which is not a chore to them, because they have a choice, a choice to do the things they want to do, or a choice to do the things they do because they have a noble goal to pursue (such as a better future for their children) - which could just be their meaning in life, their raison detre for existence. But, they may not be happy to work that hard if they feel that they are being forced (directly or indirectly) to work that hard because of an artificial quirk in the system which they have no choice to get out of.

In the design of any good economic system, the thing to watch out for is the incentive to hard work now in order to reap long-awaited much-desired fruit in the future. It may just not be wealth, but education for their children.

The hidden fire under the cauldron of life is the fear of uncertainty, the fear of failure, the fear of having to beg from others, the fear of desertion, the fear of being disrespected - that drives normal sane people to slogging their hearts out, as if to expiate some unaccounted-for sins of theirs (demons, I call them).

Remove that fear and uncertainty, you have removed the incentive to hard work.

The availability of opportunity for everyone of all abilities to climb the economic ladder is arguably the most value asset of an economic system. As more individuals climb, society improves.

When the people are demoralised and despondency sets in, society crumbles.

It may be necessary to discuss economic issues in racial terms, in order to have a clear picture of which particular groups are in trouble and why. When politics gets in to solve economic problems on racist terms, by blaming economic problems on particular groups, then the stage is set for policy to take on a more racist solution, if the rhetoric is left unchecked.

The world has seen before how nasty racism can become.

Malaysia's economic problems today may simply be that old policies did not allow it to adjust to the new world economic order, as in the case of many countries, that the old economic system is obsolete. The challenge therefore is to find new economic ideas. This is also a great time for political agitation, with no one having any answer and each blaming the other.

These are indeed dangerous times, as sentiments harden into logic in narrow minds. When logic fails to persuade, as people talk at cross-purposes, emotions may just rupture, if care is not taken.