I don’t feel the least humble before the vastness of the heavens. The stars may be large, but they cannot think or love; and these are qualities which impress me far more than size does. My picture of the world is drawn in perspective, and not like a model to scale. The foreground is occupied by human beings and the stars are all as small as threepenny bits.
– Frank Ramsey
About 6 months ago, I reflected on my vision and missions and listed down the things I wanted to occur in my lifetime. There were a few reasons behind this:
- I’ve always had mental notes in my head. My mind is so crammed with ideas these days that I want to have a systematic approach of working through them. The list serves as a great reminder to go back to the essence of my existence when times get tough and the challenges get harder. I’ve always been disciplined in sticking to my values and purpose and I do certainly hope to continue in the long run. Decisions are much easier to make when you have solid principles to help prioritise long term impacts over short term temptations.
- There are plenty of problems (if not all) in the world that require more than one person’s effort. I care about a lot of things but there is only one of me. By prioritising things I want to occur and challenges to solve in my lifetime, I can collaborate more effectively with others and be more helpful to them so we can have a good go at solving issues. There are also plenty of untapped talent out there, we need to find ways to involve these people and help them reach their potential if we want to accelerate global progress.
- The world is full of uncertainty and the global economic environment is rapidly changing again. We don’t know how things will turn out in the next 50 years so why not be a definite optimist and shape it rather than watch it unfolds organically and potentially dangerously.
- Realising how short life can be is a great motivator but the earth is also reaching its limits by 2100 at our current rate of consumption. Deadlines keep us all on our toes. If the deadline of your life turns out to be unexpectedly short, at least dreams are written down so that someone, somewhere in the world can help to continue your life’s work.
- I can visualise things and get started very quickly, if I can lay down the pebbles and create a path for others who are less risk-loving to build upon, we can get more things done faster.
I’ve always enjoyed collaborating with friends and having fun together along the way. Whether it’s brainstorming policy ideas, hosting gatherings, making films, organising trips or executing campaigns, when you are working with some of the smartest and most passionate people in the country (if not the planet), it’s an exhilarating journey and it’s one that I want to continue for the rest of my life.
I’ve categorised the things I want to see occurring in four broad themes and will elaborate my high-level thought process around each theme, which I think is more useful than explicitly mentioning what I want to see happen (this would just be a long list of obvious wishes, plus I want us to use our imagination more).
My attempt is to work through them sequentially and also to try to weave them in whatever I do in the future. Note that this is in the context of a 20-30 year horizon and it’s still very early days for me! I expect the first 5 years to be extremely slow as I learn and build out the infrastructure and platform in a sustainable way. I hope that you will find an area that personally matters to you, that you can contribute to, and discover what you personally want to see occur in your lifetime. If it aligns, let me know how I can help and perhaps, we could collaborate.
I’m on a mission to develop the next generation of thinkers, problem solvers, diplomats and mavericks. We need to invest in our future leaders if we want a better society.
It starts with people.
The world is becoming more educated yet increasingly, we are lacking leadership as thinkers, builders and financiers. In order to maintain our global economic progress in the 21st century, we need leaders who can take risks, think boldly, be fearless but also empathetic too. The truth is, everyone including our political leaders are trying to do their best but we also need to do our part and strengthen our local communities too.
We are dissatisfied with our society yet we continue to play the game that the system creates for us. We expect things to change yet we don’t change, we always do what is expected. Thus, I’ve allocated part of my time to explore the concept of citizen juries and help relevant organizations to see how we can incorporate it into the policymaking process of governments across the world. It’s also important to help government researchers and officials in emerging countries to improve their capabilities in decision making, public investment and understanding existential risks if we want the private sector and local communities to prosper.
Change starts within us. We need to be the better version of ourselves. We need to work smarter, learn faster, be more empathetic and give more if we want to reap the rewards of living fuller lives. Great leadership starts at a young age and nurturing the next generation of leaders by seeding the right dreams and providing support so that their skills, motivation and incentives aligned are steps towards a better future for all. Technology breakthroughs occur at a faster rate if we can unlock the potential of the best minds across arts, science, engineering, politics, philosophy etc.
Great leaders, like high performance athletes are nurtured and coached. There are plenty of amazing initiatives that identify talented individuals and develop them, however, we still need more to get the best out of everyone if we want to make the world a better place.
Asia is the home to majority of the population on the planet so it’s important that its future generations are well informed and educated. We need more inspiring resources to help and support the next generation to reach their dreams and contribute back to our one humanity. Otherwise, the consequences could be dire as we struggle to face global challenges such as climate change and epidemics.
We also need to make sure that those who are disadvantaged don’t get left behind because they bring a unique perspective and resilience to our communities. We need to lift the education of the world’s poor if we want to solve challenging issues, they are voters too. We can do this by making learning accessible to anyone from anywhere in the world.
Ultimately, I am excited about genetic engineering and the opportunity to hack our own genetic code to rid ourselves of diseases and vices so I’m an (tiny) investor in Editas Medicine. This will change humanity for the better and forever. Think about how many amazing lives will be saved in the future if cancer and other incurable diseases could be eliminated simply by changing your DNA code. There will be more Steve Jobs, Walt Disney and Carl Sagan on the planet to create magic!
I want to democratise stories and enable the best stories to be read by anyone, anywhere. Imagination leads to a higher order of empathy, creativity, science and technological progress.
Imagination is the highest form of creativity and its medium is the story. We’ve been telling stories for tens of thousands of years. Whichever format a story is on doesn’t really matter in the long term. A story is timeless and will evolve over time.
All stories matter but not all stories get told because they are either censored or the economics of telling them is yet to be justified. There’s still a vast library of Eastern literature that hasn’t reached a Western audience. Stories help us to learn and indirectly experience the pain and joy of others without directly feeling such emotions or being in a vulnerable state ourselves.
We become more compassionate and less quick to judge when we can visualise ourselves in other people’s shoes, especially when it comes to cultural differences. In this current polarising world, storytelling — through the arts — is especially important to maintain our social fabric.
Stories also inspire science and technology. Film is reality and reality is film, science fiction becomes increasingly real over the last decade. What we cannot imagine and visualise, we cannot produce, make or create. The importance of investing in our imagination by writing stories, making films and recreating experiences through gaming or virtual reality is not to be underestimated.
The long-form narrative is under threat in a world of bite size information and visuals. In order to reveal and develop a deeper understanding of ourselves, we need to draw lines and connect the dots. Stories allow us to convey effectively and draw out ideas and lessons learnt that come out of our imagination. It adds meanings and colours to our lives in a noisy world full of disappearing messages and 140 character tweets.
Artificial intelligence is going to change humanity like the internet and making sure we develop better A.I to accelerate civilisation is exciting.
The future will become increasingly automated and as a result, we will unlock tremendous opportunities and productivity. Artificial intelligence will be the technology powering incredible products and services that affect our day-to-day lives. By freeing us from physical and mental mundane tasks, we can dream bigger and use our limited time on this planet for other worthwhile pursuits in the science and arts, pushing the technology frontier to the next level. This is incredibly exciting.
What I’m particularly interested in is AI’s ability to help us make better decisions and consequently, improve our lives and wellbeing. We are naturally guided by data and intuition, however, we still have our cognitive biases and at times can behave and make irrational decisions. An artificial intelligence can process all the information available at a much faster speed than we can.
We are in an era where humans and machines will collaborate together a lot of more closely and more effectively. The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working in the area of human-machine systems, which combines human cognitive strengths and the unique capabilities of smart machines to reach to the best decisions.
Artificial intelligence can also help us with discovering emergence. Building simulations using multi-agent reinforcement learning models would help us to better understand the unintended consequences of black swan events and unpredictable behaviour as a result from our complex systems.
Artificial intelligence is also especially impactful in areas such as advance public health research and astronomy where data from our genetic code and the universe are almost beyond what the human mind can compute. Diseases such as cancer could be cured in our lifetime as a result of the use of AI in cancer diagnosis. We are also one step closer to understanding existence on other planets through the use of AI in interpreting and classifying space images via edge computing satellites that the naked eye might not able to do through photographs.
We are still a long while away from achieving artificial super-intelligence (ASI) and the implications of having an ASI that will be more intelligent than the smartest human is beyond my current imagination but more importantly, it will be dangerous to humanity. We need to make sure as a community, we keep the checks and balances on each other when creating potentially dangerous technologies.
Even with artificial narrow intelligence (ANI), which is the weakest form of AI, there are fine ethical lines that we should not cross. How homo sapiens will react to a sophisticated AI when significant mistakes have been made is also very interesting to me. I’ve stated before that creating ethical guidelines and regulations for artificial intelligence is also an important endeavour not to be overlooked. We need to start now.
The world will have over 10 billion people by 2100. The path to sustainable, efficient transportation and infrastructure is key to living peacefully and raising global productivity.
Earth will become much more crowded by 2100 and will reach its limits at the current rate of consumption in the West. If we want to live peacefully together in the next few decades, we will need to be more efficient, productive and less wasteful. Our use of energy over the past century is unsustainable. Climate change is real, we are experiencing adverse natural disasters every year — extreme bushfires and floods. We need to reflect on how we use energy and the underlying factory infrastructure that requires it. We must switch from using fossil fuels as a source of energy to renewable energy and other greener alternatives. We also need to reduce our wasteful consumption habits as the factory production process requires lot of natural resources, including water.
Today, infrastructure spending has been significantly behind due to the misalignment of politics, policies and budgeting. The subway system was introduced to the world 50-100 years ago and we haven’t seen any other major public infrastructure endeavour since apart from space travel. We can no longer rely on governments to wholely fund and finance large infrastructure projects as the economic incentives and alignment aren’t there. While infrastructure and transportation have always been thoughtfully planned from top-down due to economic of scale benefits, we’ve unlocked significant gains over the previous decades and need to rethink from a micro-perspective instead.
We also need to deregulate infrastructure and transportation policies for local communities to come up with creative solutions tailored towards their specific needs, with those who gain the most to fund them. Startups can add a lot of value and have a lot to benefit by disrupting the existing environment and processes.
In this century, people are more mobile and business are much more dynamic. We also happen to have a lot of data that we can use and coupled with great AI technologies, we can unlock plenty of bottlenecks in infrastructure and transportation. Self-driving cars is a great example where transportation could be cheap and efficient enough to be commoditised once human drivers are removed from the equation. This would make public buses redundant in the next decade. Housing affordability is also a huge issue globally. Can we create affordable, 3D printed mobile homes?
Taxpayers’ money should instead go to huge research and development projects that will lead to 10x benefits for the public at large. Space investment is an area where there could be knowledge and technology spillovers that will lead to novel concepts in transportation if not, air travel. Over the last 500 years, homo sapiens have conquered and extract from the planet like no other before us. Earth is a planet of finite resource and 10+ billion people means that we will reach capacity, exploration on other planets is inevitable. We need to leapfrog our constrained way of thinking and aim for the moonshot of all infrastructure projects.
These are some missions that I’m deeply passionate about. For some of them, I have some clear ideas and goals on how I’d address and attempt to solve — particularly the first three, where I’ve made an earnest start through various initiatives. Others, I would like you to think deeply about how you would solve them. I want us all to be problem solvers and to collaborate together. It will be a fun and long journey as we work together to figure out how to solve these missions impossible. Let’s make it possible. Let’s start.
P.S Regarding collaborators — I’m not the easiest person to work with and what I look for in somebody is:
(1) the ability to get things done or make things happen
(2) craziness or an all-in risk taking mentality
(3) creativity or the ability to learn really quickly and come up with new ideas and solutions.
Last updated: 13.09.2020