Experiencing Singapore (13): A Highly Intelligent Society

Let’s for one brief second, assume that the concept of IQ is valid, and that, consequently, the concept of an IQ of a nation makes sense as well. I fully subscribe to that notion, but if you’re not, then get off my blog and educate yourself first before you come back. In every international comparison of standardized tests, there are a few countries that score extremely well. Singapore is either at the top or in the top few, along with Hong Kong and, when singled out, various highly developed cities in China like Shanghai. According to a recent paper (“National IQs calculated and validated for 108 nations” by Lynn and Meisenberg), the average IQ of Singapore and Hong Kong is 108, while in the West it’s around 100 but with a downward trajectory due to importing boatloads of “doctors and engineers” from Africa and the Middle East.

I could be wrong, but I don’t have the impression that anything of value has come out of Africa and certainly the low IQ of the population leads to squalor and chaos. The West has been importing that approach successfully, which has been leading to a decline there as well. On the other hand, places like Singapore run like a well-oiled machine, which seemingly does an excellent job at giving people a place in society at which they can either do their best or at least do no harm.

The general economic success of Singapore is a clear sign that the country is run well. In general, any country that lacks natural resources, yet prospers, succeeds due to the intelligence and hard work of its people. Figures like GDP per capita are one thing. Another are signs in daily life that you are dealing with a population that is smart. The clearest example are various small tweaks that limit friction. Here is one:


You may wonder what this is. It is a pole on an MRT train with three branches. Consequently. Around three times as many people can hold on to it than to a single pole in the West or, as it is the case in Berlin, no poles at all on the underground.

Another example is that people queue. They self-organize in a way that minimizes friction. Queuing used to be the norm in many Western countries, too, but that old habit has been falling out of fashion with the influx of, er, different cultures. Occasionally, I have even witnessed dark-skinned people walking to the front of the line at the cashier in the supermarket and, when asked to queue like all the others, threatened violence. But, hey, we’re so progressive by not enforcing laws and social customs when they are breached by noble savages.

In a later post I will discuss my experience with automation in Singapore. A precursor of that is a higher degree of separating work, which makes it easier to install a machine that replaces a few unskilled laborers. What I have often experienced, in particular in takeaway joints, is that the person handling cash is not the person handling the goods. Instead, you first pay, then you receive a ticket and, once your order is ready, you pick up your order. This is a much smoother process than having a bunch of liberal arts graduates take care of both handling money and goods, which is the standard in the West, and which leads to a much lower turnaround as you’re introducing multiple bottlenecks. After all, no real work gets done during the time Jaqueesha is typing “5 – 4.98” on her calculator to compute the amount of change she has to give you.

Lastly, maintaining high trust in society can also be seen as a much smarter way to arrange public life. If people started poisoning the well, then quality of life for all would be reduced, and in the end you would have to have your guard up all the time like in the West. It’s not clear to me how much of the maintenance of high trust in society is due to culture, including self-policing, and how much is a result of the legal system. In any case, the result is a clear positive for society.

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