Resend: The "500 Years Ago" question last night in Fast Forward

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Bala Pillai

Nov 4, 2007, 1:23:26 PM11/4/07
Dear Dato Dr Ahmad Sabirin Arshad,

I did not receive your reply to below. It might have gone astray in cyberspace. Do resend it. Many thanks.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Bala Pillai <>
Date: Oct 31, 2007 1:24 AM
Subject: The "500 Years Ago" question last night in Fast Forward

Dear Dato Dr Ahmad Sabirin Arshad,

My name is Bala Pillai and I called the Fast Forward program last night.

I have an idea that will fill up your and Tun Haniff Omar's wish to drive imagination in Malaysia.

Below is from a speech that was presented in Parliament in late 2006:-

-- begin quote --

I asked another Malaysian IT pioneer, Bala Pillai, who operates from Australia, for his thoughts and assessment of the MSC and Malaysia's IT plans and ambitions.

He gave a response which is so unconventional but original that I think it deserves the serious consideration of MPs and policy makers if we are serious in wanting to propel Malaysia into an information society, knowledge economy and IT superpower.

He encapsulated his thoughts with the title "Problems = Opportunities and No Problems = No Opportunities".

This is what he has to say:

"The harder a problem, the greater the reward, the lesser the competition, and the more uncertain resourcing is.

"The corollary, the easier a problem, the lesser the reward, the greater the competition, and the more certain resourcing is.

"Low Hanging fruits lie in the sweetspot between 'not too easy a problem such that competition makes the rewards so unworthwhile' and 'not too hard a problem such that resourcing is so uncertain'.

"Let us talk about the Low Hanging Fruits for Malaysia in ICT ."

"But first let's remind ourselves of the bigger picture. The Malay Archipelago was a producer of quantum inventions up to about a thousand years ago. In fact, up to then, Southeast Asia together with China and India produced nearly every quantum invention in the world.

"By quantum invention, I mean a significant leap in order of problem-solving from cave man days up to now. Examples being taming of fire, domestication of rice and pepper, invention of paper, wheel, gunpowder, Minangkabau architecture, urban social systems, ocean-going vessels to Madagascar, printing press, electricity, TV, credit cards, the Internet – you get the picture.

"What happened? Why did we stop producing these quantum inventions and their near cousins?

" The government should engage the deepest and broadest thinkers available to narrow down the likely causes for this turn of events. Like thousands of streams flow into tributaries which flow into a few rivers onto the ocean, let's converge into a few clear schools of thought on why we
stopped producing quantum inventions.

"It is because of a switch from objective perception to subjective perception. A switch from expecting our world to be roses, thorns and in-betweens and finding it to be such to expecting our world to be roses and thus trained to spot thorns. When we all become thorn spotters, in time it becomes uncomfortable to spot our own thorns. In time, this breeds greater amounts of disagreements. These disagreements drastically reduce the social and trust capital that is required for inventiveness.

"If we want a proper solution rather than a quick-fix, we should address this underlying mental soil issue. Average seeds sown on great soil will grow but great seeds sown on stone won't. We have to find the inner strength to ask the tough questions, knowing full well that as painful as this might be, NOT asking these questions will have even more painful consequences.

"In determining Low Hanging Fruits, we would look at our strengths. Let me point towards some less emphasized aspects

1) Around 1400 AD, Malaysia or Malacca was the happening place in the world. The most adventurous brains, Arabs, Indians, Chinese wanted to be here. In global adventurousness terms, the Spice Trade and Malacca then was what Silicon Valley and ICT today is. Even Christopher Columbus if he had not lost his way, in his pursuit of spices might have ended up here.

Question: We didn't give any tax credits and yet they came like bees to honey. How come? I will not answer this, I would like you to reflect on it. I would like you to reflect on the energy that made us such an exciting buzz. And which attracted the best self-starters here and self-starters overseas with fires in their belly to make the world happen.

--end quote ---

Dato, I know the answer to this question. I learnt it the hard way in my risk-taking entrepreneurial and "larger than life" thinking journey. I would like to share it with Malaysians with you. It will lead to the imagination and creativity goals we both seek.

By the way, if I may ask, would appreciate it if you could forward this to the other panelists and the moderator of yesterday's panel cc'ing me.

Bala Pillai, Klang
Phone: 016 291 1985

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