This Independence Day, Let’s Celebrate Independent Thought

Today, as Malaysia celebrates its 54th year of independence, I have a secret wish for all Malaysians. Or rather, a not-so-secret wish, considering the friggin’ blog post title. Well, you guessed it.

My wish, this independence day… is for Malaysia to celebrate (and encourage) independent thought.

And I even have 3 ideas to encourage more independent thought.

But first, why independent thought?

  1. We can no longer rely on a ‘follow-me’ strategy in our careers or as a country. The world is changing too fast. Merely adapting will only leave us a step behind. It’s about time deviate from mediocrity. And it takes independent thought.
  2. Besides, the more Malaysians exercise independent thought in our lives, the more likely we can differentiate and innovate on our contribution in the job market, and potentially create more value and make more money.
  3. Collectively, a country who thinks independently as a whole can better answer the challenges of global competition with a differentiated value proposition. Basically, “How am I different”?

So, how do we inject more independent thought into our country and its people?

Gawd, I don’t know. Sounds like a big task. But I have 3 ideas to share.

#1. Turn the ‘kemahiran hidup’ class into ‘kelas hidup’.

Basically the existing curriculum of soldering and sewing? Um, let’s CHUCK IT for a moment. Instead, imagine every weekly session as SHOW AND TELL.

  • Each student must choose what they personally want to TEACH the rest of the class.
  • Teachers act as coaches to encourage students to explore and acquire new knowledge beyond the classroom.
  • The catch: No two students are allowed to ‘teach’ the same thing…

Now imagine students easing into it… watch them develop pride in their special knowledge, build confidence and identity, and gain experience in public speaking. And best of all, watch them struggle to and think differently from other students. Is that a happy meal or what.

Multiply that by a weekly class for the entire year, a few million students a year,  5 years of secondary education per generation, and we will have ourselves a few new thinkers 😉

What the rakyat can do:

Okay while we wait for the above dream to come true, parents can immediately start their kids on some weird shit. And no, I’m not talking about ballet, or that memory bead whacking thing. Although that’s all good. I’m talking about encouraging kids to go for one less tuition class, and one more exploration of their own unique interests…

The independent pursuit of a kid’s passion = Crazy growth hormones for independent thinking.

#2 – Develop ‘hacking’ as part of Malaysian identity

Disclaimer: I’m not referring to evil credit card scamming type of hacking, it’s like so already part of Malaysian life. I’m talking about summoning an army of very productive Malaysian geeks onto the world to solve the challenges ahead of us.

Hacking, by nature, is an exercise in thinking of a different way to approach a problem.

Imagine if IT’S IN OUR BLOOD.

If only, 80% of iPad apps were created by Malaysians developers. Or Malaysia having the highest concentration of web application developers in the world. I’m not saying it because this kinda thing is my life, but because software is a very immediate and reliable way to product growth and innovation. Look at the US, while their economy tanks, 90% of their job growth comes from tech.

Some might say ‘oh, biotech / clean energy is the future’ I am not an expert in that stuff, but I can tell you now that software will continue to EAT THE WORLD in the next 10 years and there will continue to be a GLOBAL SHORTAGE of software developers who can build USABLE APPS. Read “Why Software is EATING THE WORLD” on WSJ to understand why this is such a good opportunity. So much of modern innovation is brought about by better software. SO if Malaysians become #1 at this shit… we will code faster, better, and cheaper than the rest of the world, the world will pay for our super brain juice n then our geeks can reuse what they learn to in turn EAT THE WORLD.

What the rakyat can do:

It’s now easier than ever in history to teach yourself programming. Try Codecademy, for example. And for the rest of you who don’t want to code, think of something to hack, or an app to build, and find a geek to realize your ideas. Go to work tomorrow and think of HOW TO HACK YOUR WORKPLACE. Hack your job. Hack your finances. Hack your industry. Hack your life. EVERYTHING CAN BE HACKED. And when hack something your shake something up and create space for THE FUTURE.

And perhaps one day, the world will refer to Malaysia as the country where everyone hacks everything – a country who cannot be taken down.

#3 – Get more Malaysians plugged into the internet

Access to information can set our minds free. Free to question, ask, consider different perspectives, and SEE WHAT IS OUT THERE. While people in high places do what they can to get more broadband to more people…

What the rakyat can do:

Give your kids devices and access. Will they spend it all playing games? Sure. Porn? You bet. But ask em a question, they’ll Google it. Don’t know how to fix something, give them a second while the page loads. Whatever the challenges which come with freedom to access information, we’ll deal with it by being smarter than people who don’t have access to information 😉

[ Baby picture source ]

Final Plea

Once upon a time, a few Malayan crazies, fueled by independent thought, wondered what life would be, if broken free from the British rule…

And now, we’ve been ‘independent’ for 54 good years.

Yet, the country is filled with parents who want their children to fit in the mold. Filled with teachers who want students to fit in. And some who do not want citizens to think for themselves. They discourage independent thought, and wonder why the country is not ‘innovative’. NOT COOL.

Give them the 1malaysia finger. We don’t need them to hold us back.

The country can do much better without their stifling, fear-driven recommendations.

New solutions don’t come from conformity. They come from independent thought.

And this is what our country can celebrate more of, this independence day.

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