Experiencing Singapore (15): Automation in Action

I believe in automation. In fact, in my day job, I work on the increasing automation of society. If I have a son, I will do my best to prepare him for a similar career as I think this is one of the few fields with reasonable job security. On top, you’ll gain plenty of very solid transferable skills — I’m talking about mathematics, not “structured thinking” or whatever other bullshit your career counselor at university told you when you asked her what a degree in Sociology is good for. Thus, with a solid grounding in whatever field that is concerned with automation you want to get into — control theory, robotics, mechatronics, optimization, operations research, computer science, mechanical engineering etc. — you’ll come out with a solid skill set that opens up a fair number of career paths.

Of course, to use that kind of skill you need to live in a society that embraces automation. Singapore does. Nobody there is campaigning for raising the minimum wage of baristas to 25$/hour as those low-skilled jobs are seen for what they are: opportunities for high school kids to get a taste of working life and learning about discipline, but not full-time jobs for liberal arts graduates who can’t find proper work. Consequently, nobody sees an issue if a machine makes low-skilled service people superfluous.

Here is a very common sight in Singapore, a self-ordering kiosk:

This is straight out of Bernie Sanders’ nightmares

The picture is probably a bit misleading as this is a “fully automated pilot store”. Yet, you’ll see the same terminals in many fast food joints. The picture below shows another sign of a highly intelligent society, namely using clear labeling to create a smooth process. Instead of a time-consuming exchange whether some beverage is yours or not, possibly with a lovely representative of an ethnic minority or a member of the local underclass who is not fluent in any language, the display tells you from which field you have to pick your drink up from. This picture was taken at the same place.

Low-tech paired with intelligence can also replace unskilled labor

The experience is simple and straightforward. Instead of interacting with some stoner or retard, you use the touchscreen to order and pay. In turn, you receive a ticket, which you subsequently exchange for whatever you ordered. It runs really smoothly, and people behave well, which means that there is no risk of putting up expensive terminals. In the West, you would have “youth gangs” who are pampered by the welfare state just vandalizing them. I would refer to them as Luddites if they either knew of the concept, its history, or implications. Instead, we’re talking about shitheads that just want to destroy things. In Berlin, for instance, you’ll consider yourself lucky if you come across a ticket vending machine that is working. Even finding an ATM that hasn’t been blasted open can prove challenging.

In Singapore, automation is embraced. The government even has special support schemes to help local businesses redesign their processes to get rid of low-skilled labor, which is often imported on a contract basis. This means that by improving automation, the reliance on low-skilled foreign labor is diminished, which is seen as a societal positive. Meanwhile, in the West the Left must be dreaming of some kind of fifth industrial revolution that depends on armies of people with retardation-level IQs to pull off. It’s either that or the destruction of society, hoping that afterwards their utopian society finally emerges.

In general, people seem to embrace automation and efficiency. When I wanted to get a haircut, my girlfriend took me to a Korean barber that did not have some tattoed ditz with her tits falling out of her top who would handle change and who tried to “upsell” some bullcrap. Instead, you face a touch screen, make your choice, pay, and get a ticket with a payment ID in return. A display keeps track of payment IDs and assigns you to a free chair as soon as possible. This was the smoothest experience at a hairdresser I ever enjoyed.

Meanwhile, in the West the Left has been busy for decades clamoring against automation and, without being aware of the irony, frantically launching hate campaigns via their smartphones. For instance, the German Left campaigned against fast Internet in the 1990s, which was called ISDN, and to this day, people have a hard time getting fast Internet in Germany if they live outside some pockets in large cities. (Well done, shitheads!) You read that correctly: even in larger cities it can happen that your street isn’t connected to fast broadband. along very similar lines, the suggestion of replacing cheap labor as far as possible with technology is seen as incendiary. In general, the Left believes that technological progress is a threat, but now while they play with their “animojis” on their iPhone X.

The only problem I see in Singapore is that historically, a STEM degree hasn’t been seen as prestigious. Engineering in particular is not a desirable career choice for many smart young Singaporeans, who rather pick a less demanding degree that promises higher pay, like Accounting or Economics. I’m curious to see how this will play out in the mid- to long run. A benefit is arguably that Singapore has a smarter population compared to the West, with an average of 108 as opposed to around 100 in the West, which is a rather big difference as the entire bell curve is shifted to the right. This means that the number of people with retardation-level IQs of around 80 is a lot smaller, meaning that fewer people depend on unskilled labor.

A counter-argument to my observations above is that there are a lot of fig leaf jobs that exist in lieu of welfare payments. You see many elderly poor doing essentially pointless jobs as the government doesn’t want to give out money for nothing. Their numbers may be quite limited, though. Also, the government has special programs for the “pioneer generation”, which should apply to those senior citizens, so I’m not quite sure how to assess this. Maybe it is as simple as those people wanting to feel useful, like that one cab driver in his 70s we met who said that he’s driving a cab only to have something to do.

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