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Prime Minister of Singapore Coded Sudoku Solver in C++ (pmo.gov.sg)
319 points by doppp on Apr 22, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 126 comments

The relevant excerpt from the speech:

    40 years ago, after doing a math degree, I went on to study computer
    science, on my father’s advice.  He said there is a future in that, and he
    was right.  So for the Smart Nation Programme Office, I have put Minister
    Vivian Balakrishnan in charge, reporting to me.  Vivian is both a hacker
    and a dabbler – He used to be an eye surgeon but since he does not get to
    operate on eyes nowadays, he dabbles in building simple robots, assembling
    watches, wireless devices and programming apps.  His day job is to be the
    Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, and so when he builds
    apps, he uses the real time APIs generated by the Ministry.  That’s called
    user-testing.  I used to enjoy this; it is a long time since I’ve done
    anything.  The last programme I wrote was a Sudoku solver in C++ several
    years ago, so I’m out of date.  My children are in IT, two of them – both
    graduated from MIT.  One of them browsed a book and said, “Here, read
    this”.  It said “Haskell – learn you a Haskell for great good”, and one day
    that will be my retirement reading. 
What's amazing is not just the bit about having written C++ code but the fact that he used the term hacker propely and knows what Haskell is. Interesting.

As a Singaporean, I'm pretty proud of the direction of my government, and I'm pretty surprised by the Haskell/LYAHFGG & C++ namedrops. How did Minister Balakrishnan even find the time to dabble with hardware and programming? These top civil servants are very, very busy!

Great quote about Singapore citizens trusting the government to do their taxes:

"...we introduced electronic tax-filing back in 1998, since ages ago, before anyone else did it, and today, 97% of tax payers file their taxes online. Because we have kept our tax code simple, you do not need to buy Quicken, Intuit or any of such things. Also, because we have automate the collection of information and populate the table for you, you do not need to work quite so hard – it is a little harder to cheat and so 3 in 5 taxpayers do not even bother about filing taxes. They just take in on trust that our Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore has done their sums right. So e-Government works in Singapore."

That said, the 3 verticals of the whole Smart Nation programme (the elderly, transport & data) seem somewhat orthogonal to much of the SV-style explosive-growth consumer apps. Yet those consumer-app areas are where many SV-style fortunes are made and where young tech entrepreneurs want to go - so there's a disconnect between the two directions.

For example, I don't see massive adoption of a new app/device by the elderly happening very easily - they largely (1) don't know English, (2) aren't used to relying on tech so heavily, and (3) won't be able or willing to pay much for it. It tends to be younger people who try new things - and in fact Singaporeans are relatively less adventurous than Americans or other Asian cultures in adopting new apps/services. Things might be different if Singapore were as big as the US, but it isn't. So I wonder how the Smart Nation thing will play out - maybe the biggest customer will be the Singapore government instead of end-users.

(Tangentially, it's personally been a bit frustrating that the VCs that draw on government money seem to prefer e-commerce/B2C apps instead of industry-specific B2B software. The government puts its money where its mouth is, but still relies on VCs to make the picks...and those guys go for hot, mainline trends. So fundraising has been difficult.)

> How did Minister Balakrishnan even find the time to dabble with hardware and programming? These top civil servants are very, very busy!

He blogs quite a bit about it here: http://vivian.balakrishnan.sg/

How did he even find the time to blog quite a bit about it? That's amazing!

(work) life is about priorities, and if he really wants to give back in this way, he can apparently delegate enough stuff to achieve it. Probably all politicians can, if they wanted...

I wish more (all!) countries would have similar people put into places of real popwer in governments.

Is the blog itself also delegated? I've seen CEOs send out "personal" notes that were drafted entirely by a PR team.

It's called not being over worked like a slave.

Wonder if you have FoxNews or a similar variant in Singapore? Do they characterize the Prime Minister as a professorial egg-head elitist out of touch with the common man?

If not you have something to look forward to, in the early days of our republic, we generally appreciated educated statesmen. Now we prefer our elected officials to be fun-loving guys next door who see the internet as a system of tubes.

Singapore is a one party state with a terrible human rights record. If anyone criticized the government, they would be thrown in prison and/or fined.

Singaporean here, have criticized the govt multiple times, protested govt policy, am doing perfectly fine, thanks!

Not really, not in the same way - most of our anti-government "media" is on the fringe. And even if we did, Fox News would glorify our PM, not criticise him - by American standards, he's a hardline Tea Party Republican, except without the same regard for civil liberties.

What is with your political rant? Singapore's prime minister is a free market conservative.

My rant was about a cultural trend in the US of demonizing politicians for being educated and/or intellectual. FoxNews has worked hard to become a mouth-piece for this viewpoint.

I wasn't commenting on his political views, party, or human rights background, which I know nothing about.

His son Li Hongyi was a product manager at Google:


Well, since you've opened the box...[edit: oops, I posted the younger son's profile instead of the elder's] his younger brother is quite prolific on Github (and seems to favour Scala):


[Thanks for the correction raingrove]

Wrong person. This is the correct profile: https://github.com/fynyky

Nevertheless, his project "reactor.js" is impressive.

I think Dad might be taking a bit of flack until he picks up a Haskell book with these two in the family :-)

It's funny you're all surprised. I know him as a fellow classmate at MIT, not as a political figure.

That said I'm glad he's free to pursue his passions as a free-thinking individual and not pressured to do what his ancestors do.

Difficult to take seriously with so many gratuitous hashtags that aren't actually links to anything.

It seems that whoever was in charge of updating his blog (which is hosted on GitHub Pages [1]) forgot to remove the hashtags from his Facebook Page post [2].

[1] https://github.com/VivianBalakrishnan/VivianBalakrishnan.git...

[2] https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152609593346207....

Starts at 8:40

Cambridge professor about Lee Hsien Loong:

"No, he was truly outstanding: he was head and shoulders above the rest of the students. He was not only the first, but the gap. I think that he did computer science (after mathematics) mostly because his father didn’t want him to stay in pure mathematics. Loong was not only hardworking, conscientious and professional, but he was also very inventive. All the signs indicated that he would have been a world-class research mathematician."

"I’m sure his father never realized how exceptional Loong was. He thought Loong was very good. No, Loong was much better than that. When I tried to tell Lee Kuan Yew, “Look, your son is phenomenally good: you should encourage him to do mathematics,” then he implied that that was impossible, since as a top-flight professional mathematician Loong would leave Singapore for Princeton, Harvard or Cambridge, and that would send the wrong signal to the people in Singapore. And I have to agree that this was a very good point indeed."


Not just any professor, but Béla Bollobás!

He was in the Princeton Companion, right? The advice section?

Just one nitpick: his family name is Lee. Loong is just a half of his given name. So calling him Loong is a bit weird.

Not weird but common. For Chinese family who uses 3 letter names, the boys will use the same second-letter in their name, the girls will use the same but different second-letter. Example Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Hsien Yang. So at home their parents probably call them Ah Loong or Ah Yang when they were kids. You can call him Loong if you're close to him or his senior relatives or his teachers. Chinese in south-east-asia still prevalently uses 3-letter name. But in China, more people have two-letter name.

Nowadays most of younger generations' Chinese use 3 letter names again.

His father also called him Loong (not Hsien Loong), at least sometimes:

"He was still young and it was better that someone else succeed me as prime minister. Then, were Loong to make the grade later, it would be clear that he made it on his own merit."


(They use English in the family, although Lee Hsien Loong can speak Chinese fairly well.)

His father called him by his first name, that sounds expected.

Hsien Loong is his first name. Chinese usually don't have middle names. Calling him "Loong" is the equivalent of calling Tommy Tom. But it's more intimate, usually only used by someone closer to the person.

His brother is Lee Hsien Yang, so his father probably calls him Loong to distinguish him from the brother.

They are from Singapore, not China. I have seen that such notions as last name, etc. are a bit distorted in immigrant communities, particularly for nth generation immigrants. A good example is first and last names of Indians in the Caribbean and South Africa, which are often distorted, weirdly spelled, etc.

Singapore is a great place. Very meritocratic, high-tech, modern and forward-looking but it is a sort of benevolent dictatorship.

This is Lee Hsien Loong, the son of Lee Kuan Yew who built up Singapore (obviously a brilliant leader but also, with little oversight, worryingly quick to jail his critics). The People's Action Party (PAP) has been in power since Singapore's formation and opposition party leaders have found themselves in jail or sued into bankruptcy. Benevolent dictators and dynasties work great until they don't.

It will be interesting to see how Singapore fares a few leaders down the line. Hopefully pretty well and more politically tolerant; as it's a nice place with great, talented people!

I was in Singapore this year and it's a fantastic place, but it is very artificial. Citizens have a hard time communicating with each other through the 4 very different official languages.

People are also on edge about immigration and the peaceful multicultural facade hides a darker side of racism in Singapore.

This is an interesting comment, thank you for the perspective.

I think you mean 'facade' where you wrote 'fasard'? I don't want to assume, though -- it might be a word I don't recognize, or transliteration -- honestly asking.

You're right. Written in haste and not proof read.

Could you give me examples of places where things are natural (as opposed to artificial), and where people have an easy time communicating? Just curious about the spectrum.

I don't know of any other country that has ethnic quotas and such tight control over the housing market as the HDB does in Singapore.

As for communication, most other countries have a single dominating language. In Singapore, Mandarin should be the dominate language, but the government has intervened to give each language an equal footing. It just doesn't work.

> As for communication, most other countries have a single dominating language. In Singapore, Mandarin should be the dominate language, but the government has intervened to give each language an equal footing. It just doesn't work.

Are you suggesting that the Indians and the Malays in Singapore should've had to learn Mandarin instead of English?

> It just doesn't work.

It does, actually.

Nice guys. Downvoting my opinion.

I'm not sure if you noticed my question so I'll ask it again:

> As for communication, most other countries have a single dominating language. In Singapore, Mandarin should be the dominate language, but the government has intervened to give each language an equal footing. It just doesn't work.

Are you suggesting that the Indians and the Malays in Singapore should've had to learn Mandarin instead of English?

I noticed your question. I chose not to answer it.

How then do you justify the idea that "Mandarin should be the dominant language"? Is it simply because Singapore has a Chinese majority in its population? Are you aware that the majority of Chinese in Singapore didn't actually speak Mandarin prior to the "Speak Mandarin" campaign?

And even if Mandarin "should" be the dominant language, at what point should this have happened? While SG was still a crown colony? After the Japanese Occupation, when SG was a part of Malaysia? After being unceremoniously booted out of Malaysia, when racial tensions were harsh and volatile within Singapore itself?

Genuinely curious to understand your perspective.

I don't think his perspective is shaped by much knowledge of the history of the country, or the history of the region.

Of course, I might be assuming.

But @hackerboos: just a friendly heads-up. We're not downvoting you because you 'gave an opinion'. We're downvoting you because you didn't justify your assertion.

My justification:

Tamil: 3%

Malay: 12%

English: 32%

Mandarin: 50%

Why bend over backwards for 15% of the population? You can justify Malay at a push.

"We decided to opt for English as a common language and it was the only decision which could have held Singapore together. If we had Chinese as a common language, national language, we would have split this country wide apart, and we would be foolish to have Malay or Tamil." Lee Kuan Yew

I actually agree with the above. But Lee should have sought to replace minority languages with English.

Heh, if you started out with this justification, we could've had a productive conversation =)

This is certainly a valid perspective, hackerboos. But did you know why it didn't happen?

1) External factors A: Singapore gained independence at a time when its neighbours were all hostile. Malaysia wasn't exactly friendly (though not overtly aggressive), but Indonesia was overtly aggressive. LKY described Singapore as a 'Chinese ship in Malay waters'.

2) Internal factors: It is important to remember that at the point of independence, after announcing the separation from Malaysia, LKY was brought by special branch under guard to the Istana. He was forbidden from returning to his residences for fear of Malay retaliation. It's easy to forget that, at the time, Malay Nationalism was strong amongst the Malays. The risk of race riots were real.

Combining 1) and 2) together, you can see that cancelling Malay would have jeopardised Singapore's security - both from within and with its surrounding neighbours. Also, the status of the Malay language is still a contentious issue in Malaysia today. (This is complex, and has something to do with the concept of 'Ketuanan Melayu' in the Malay archipelago)

3) External factors B: Singapore thought it would be an advantage to have its citizens be multi-lingual, in line with its status as an entrepot. Therefore it would be in the best possible position for trade: with China, with which it has maintained good ties, with India, with which it celebrates its 50th year of diplomatic relations this year, and with its neighbours (Malaysia is still the largest trading partner, as of 2014).

Personally, I am able to communicate in English, Chinese and Malay, which gives me an advantage when doing business in SEA. Most startups operating across multiple markets in SEA would agree.

You've provided some good points for keeping Malay as an official language but what about Tamil? If trade with India was so important then surely Hindi would have been a better choice?

I don't know much about that, I'm afraid.

My best guess (and this is but a guess, I don't have sources for this) is that when the government sold the idea of the 'Mother Tongue' policy, they decided to include Tamil (the native language of many of the immigrants) to make it fair.

yes about that 'mandarin' thing. most chinese singaporeans speak it, but many speak hokkien as well. some others speak cantonese, teochew , hakka, etc. if its about majorities maybe we'd all be speaking hokkien now...

Well, that's why English is the common language here.

Singapore used to be a major British colony, that's why English is big over there.

You are spot on about the xenophobia and racism, and way off about communication and artificiality.

-- A Singaporean.

"Citizens have a hard time communicating with each other through the 4 very different official languages." - Then you obviously haven't heard Singlish.

yes we're multi racist! but the influx of foreigners have provided common ground for native/original/ethnic(???) singaporeans to build our identity. 'us' is now singaporean chinese, malay, indian etc. even the malaysians are becoming part of 'us'... 'them' is now south asians from south asia, chinese from china, and other people from other parts of south east asia..

> but it is a sort of benevolent dictatorship.

Indeed, and the problem with dictatorships is that sooner or later your country will be run by a person you really don't want in charge, and it will be impossible to remove them.

So far, it looks like the first generational transfer of power is going according to plan.

I'm fascinated to see how this plays out; getting a single generational transfer of dictatorship to work is quite an achievement.

Like Americans can "remove" people making the laws in congress? Fact of the matter is, corporations are in control, whether people like it or not.

As much as I agree with the sentiment of your post, living in a broken democracy like the USA is a lot better than living under a dictatorship.

Hi, respectfully I would have to disagree with you. People who say Singapore is a benevolent dictatorship seem to discount the fact that free and fair elections have been held since independence, and that people are free to kick out the government of the day at any point.

The strongest criticism you can give is that some of the democratic institutions aren't as strong as they can be, but all nations have a journey of evolution.

No, Singapore election is not free and fair: http://thediplomat.com/2015/02/soft-repression-the-struggle-...

um. maybe they want to stop redrawing the constituency boundaries ever so often?

>benevolent dictatorship

Perhaps this is what's best in a high-tech society.

How do you keep it benevolent, over the longer term? If it depends on luck then sooner or later the luck will turn bad, so we need a real mechanism here.

Term limits and independent judiciary. Basically have a system where the legislative + executive are merged into 1 office so that it's extremely powerful. But safeguards are built into the judicial and constitutional system to prevent it from turning tyrannical.

Well, there's the rub. But if we take "benevolent" for granted, well....

This isn't that surprising. Lee Hsien Loong studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was Senior Wrangler, and graduated with a first class honours in mathematics and a Diploma in Computer Science (with distinction).

He's mentioned in the past that he briefly considered a career in academia (Mathematics). That didn't happen, of course. (source: http://www.moe.gov.sg/media/speeches/2003/sp20030603.htm)

> where he was Senior Wrangler

For those unfamiliar with the term, this is a huge achievement.


I edited the wikipedia entry to include that even a prime minister was Senior Wrangler not only leading mathematicians and physicists. Good career prospects. I can only think of recently killed Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov with similar mathematical achievements.

Angela Merkel (Kasner) also won a mathematics price during her physics doctorate studies, before she elected to work in agitprop and most likely as master stasi spy under the codenames ANITA and Black Widow. Which brings me to the theory that being a spy will help you more getting to a prime minister job (Putin, Merkel), than being an excellent mathematician.

That's 40 years ago. I think it is surprising that a man as busy as himself has had the time to pick up this hobby on the side.

He also puts a lot of effort into the photos he posts on Facebook, which are remarkably well-composed:


Well, I know that this may sound unpopular, but Singapore is one of key examples why technocracy may be better than democracy.

In democracy, it's popularity contest. It may be influenced by politicians' technical skills; though, much more often it's influenced by their ideologies. (If you think that popularity is the same as merit, then look at which current songs are the most popular.)

And a large group of people have tendency to be biased towards short-term goals rather than long-term progress.

I can't remember the exact quote or its authoer, but it's like that: "The best for of government is a good dictatorship, then it's a good oligarchy, then it's a good democracy, then it's a bad democracy, then a bad oligarchy, and finally a bad dictatorship". And the problem with dictatorship is that a bad dictator can succeed to a good one. So while Singapore is currently a well managed country, we don't know who will success to Mr Lee Hsien Hong, and if that person does not turn out to be good, he will probably not encourage technological progress.

On the other hand, democracy is some kind of middle ground. Yes, it's a popularity contest what you say, politician can lie or be short sighted (we have examples of this with France suing Google over its ranking algorithm, or with the US policies in term of imprisonment, just to name a few), but on the overall democracy guarantees more stability than a dictatorship does.

Being an Indian (ie: coming from the largest democracy in the world), I have formed the opinion that democracy is a form of government where in theory everybody is happy most of the time but unfortunately what it instead does is keeps everybody equally unhappy, all the time.

Now, whether this is necessarily a bad thing considering the alternatives is debatable but coming to your point, yeah, something like Singapore just cannot happen in a democracy although it is not due to the short-sightedness of the 'large group of people'.

In a proper democracy the minority opinion (note, I said minority opinion, not minorities' opinion) no matter how flawed and unreasonable would still have to be considered. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, it just slows things down (in either direction !)

I don't see any particular reason why a democracy cannot have tech-savvy leaders. As often pointed out Angela Merkel was a chemist before becoming the German Chancellor. Margaret Thatcher was also a chemist, I believe. Germany is by all accounts very well run and is indeed a very tech-savvy and productive economy.

I don't know anywhere else that has a computer scientist as a leader, but then again, I suspect that's because most people who have a passion for mathematics or computer science end up going into that field. Virtually nobody it seems decides to leave the CS world for politics. This guy did only because of the whole dynastic element - his father told him what he'd do in life, so he was never able to pursue his skills in this field.

Sometimes I wonder if some of the political problems we often debate here on HN and elsewhere are our own fault. So few people enter politics from the tech and science industries, it should perhaps not surprise us much when technically illiterate leaders pass nonsensical laws .

Not exactly a computer scientist, but I am hoping Sheryl Sandberg runs for the office of President in the next decade.

...technocracy may be better than democracy.

It's possible that autocratic governments can possibly have both much better and much worse results for the people. Singapore has long been an example of the former, while e.g. China under Mao would be the latter. ISTM, however, that nominal democracies like USA keep finding more ways to reduce the quality of government. We probably won't ever equal the worst dictators of the past, but we might invent different ways to be awful that they had never considered.

I think a more important factor is the size of a government. There is no bureaucrat in Singapore that PM Lee couldn't reach with two phone calls. I shudder to contemplate the task faced by a USA President who wanted to do the same thing. Sometimes I think it would be better for all concerned if the USA were broken into about 300 separate territories for all government tasks, while retaining the same nation-wide citizenship.

How do you argue "the earth isn't the center of the universe", when the current day technocracy, says that's not true?

Merit, is absolutely important. But freedom, is equally and more so.

Generally, people have a tendency to be biased towards themselves, and their kin.

Have you ever spent much time in Singapore? I ask because if you had, you would probably notice that Singaporeans do feel quite free to question things. The culture is not one of oppression. There is plenty of debate, typical amounts of criticism of government, etc. I wouldn't want to be a political opponent of the SG government (though those do seem to exist), but it really isn't a place where science or religion is going to get you into trouble.

Like many people in tech, I've come to the conclusion that managers need to have done at least one component of whatever they're managing. Hopefully the critical component, if there is one.

This is just as true for politicians, and I think this guy is a great example. All this talk about advancing STEM education in the West, but which country is leading? The one where the leader is a top STEM graduate.

Anecdata: I've been to Singapore several times, have loads of friends there. They really are better educated than your average western adult.

While I don't disagree with you, managing a 'country' like Singapore is a completely different ball game than managing a country like USA, China or India.

The following thought amused me:

The USSR had control over everything back in the day, though the hard sciences and their people had great latitude and somehow enjoyed more freedom compared to those in other domains. They were like little precious princesses.

That's because hard sciences are, well, too hard for your average Soviet dictator to understand, control, and screw up. Not hard enough, apparently, for the average Western politician in 2015.

> The USSR had control over everything back in the day, though the hard sciences and their people had great latitude and somehow enjoyed more freedom compared to those in other domains.

This was born out of necessity: the hard sciences were the weapons program, first and foremost. Then, there's usually not much to argue in material world from Communist POV. Unlike the soft/social sciences where there's much bigger potential for subversive.

That said, they never had more "latitude" than their Western colleagues. There were waves of crackdowns on supporters of relativist physics, on computer science, on genetics. Korolev, the champion behind the Soviet space programme, died from kidney condition resulting from his prison camp labor.

Hubris is a powerful drug....

He also published a paper on economics quite a while back (http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1882634) on externalities. Not surprising, given the proactive Singapore government.

Woohoo Singapore represent! Ok serious question though: is he the only world leader that can code?

Merkel was a physicist, so one would assume she has written at least some code.

Merkel wrote Fortran code for her PhD thesis. [1]

Afaik she approximated the Schrödinger equation to compute the rate of decay of molecules with up to 6 atoms.

This [2] is the last physics paper of her (from 1990). After the wall fell, her interests changed quite a bit... Only political papers from then on.

[1] http://www.file-upload.net/download-9106454/AM-Diss.pdf.html

[2] http://dx.doi.org/10.1002%2Fqua.560380214

Have you seen the code written by physicists? Go look up the source code to CERN's ROOT package and browse it's change-log. Some of it quirks can be forgiven for it being incredibly old, but still...

I had heard Obama referring Bubble Sort in some TV show. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4RRi_ntQc8

It may be rigged, not sure.

It's a line he was given, Google was asking that question to a bunch of people.

China's Politburo Standing Committee, past and present, have had many Engineering trained members.

He got Cambridge Diploma in Computer Science.


Jump to the sudoku solver section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49YeHvJ6yZg&t=9m33s

Charlemagne didn’t know how to read for most of his life, and was studying assiduously in order to become literate at the time of his death; nowadays that would be unthinkable. But today we’re in the same situation with most of our political leaders and programming: Obama was able to remember at least that bubble sort was the wrong way to sort a million integers, but didn’t even come close to the constant-time radix sort you’d want to use (if we’re talking about fixnums, not bignums). A lot of people will use this situation to argue that dictatorship is better than democracy, since Singapore has dictatorship and smart leaders, while the democratic world generally has programming-illiterate leaders (except Merkel, apparently), but that seems to be more a coincidence than anything else — Lee’s level of competence is as much an anomaly among dictators as it would be among democratic leaders.

Political leadership (whether in a democracy or in a dictatorship) is about persuading people to cooperate with each other, not about reading and writing, except perhaps as a means to that persuasion, and not about programming, either. But the extent to which you can rightly aim your cooperative efforts depends crucially on your understanding of the world in which they will play out, and when it comes to that, political leaders lacking basic informatics competence are as mentally crippled in the 21st century as an illiterate political leader like Charlemagne would have been in the 19th. Nobody really occupies the role of “history’s actors” that Karl Rove believed he was in. We are all constrained to be in the reality-based community, or fail as he did.

It's just culture. The U.S., maybe the Anglosphere in general, lacks the same esteem for engineers and technologists that much of the rest of the world has. So you're less likely to see such people rise in American politics. I don't think it's a matter about democracy vs. technocratic dictatorships. Ahmadinejad was a civil engineer, Angela Merkel was a research scientist, and who's the only presidential candidate with a CS degree in the 2012 elections? Herman Cain.

And please don't forget, at an annual salary of $1.7 million USD [1], Mr. Lee Hsien Loong is also the world's HIGHEST PAID prime minister.

So I am not surprised that he should have some additional chops to be amongst the highest paid world political leaders.

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Hsien_Loong#Salary

This guy is such an inspiration. Perhaps a different side of Politics. Well at least from where I come from originally.

He wants to build a data marketplace, invest in tech R&D )since 2010). OH and he also programs in Haskell.

I mean this is amazing how he have dedicated so much for this topic.

What about Stephen Harper. Haha. Computer science should be part of all prime minister's knowledge. It brings rationality and analytic thinking.

But he calls his sysadmins a "Cyber Security Agency". Looks like typical government overreach to me.

My father, a machine engineer, built a wooden chair out of oak last week

Meanwhile, Obama has a child teach him how to open the Processing.org IDE. Meh, maybe the future is brighter though considering Hiliary knows how to setup her own mail server.

Maybe we should require the same of each congressman and senator, then come back to this question.

Why is knowing how to open an IDE or set up a mail server a prerequisite for good governance?

LoL, amazing!

Singapore keeps impressing me.

How so?


Another related fact about Singapore: every tree in the country is tracked with its own row in a database


That link goes to:


"Today, about two million trees have sprouted, and each is recorded in the NParks database."

And for every one of these we have 100 Dianne Feinstein-s and Joe Bidens

Generalising a bit, it seems to me that in Asia a lot of political leaders come from engineering, whereas in the US and Europe many come from the humanities, especially law.

Angela Merkel has a Phd in chemistry. But many (most?) European leaders are actually technocrats.

Again a counterexample. The previous Indian Prime Minister was a Ph D in economics (and a very accomplished economist at that) [1]

The current prime minister was the son of a tea-seller, and not very highly educated.[2]

Who do most think is a better prime minister? The second. I believe faith in technocrats is misplaced, and wisdom does not equal technical competence.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manmohan_Singh

[2] http://time.com/3823155/narendra-modi-2015-time-100/

He was a bit late to the game, and not quite as educated as Singh, but he did eventually end up doing his Masters.

Anyway, you raise a fair point with a solid counterexample.

Margaret Thatcher (somewhat controversial, I know) had a 2nd-class BS Honours in Chemistry from Oxford, and apparently the first UK Prime Minister with a science degree. [source: Wikipedia]

Merkel is the exception to the rule, though. Here is an article on the composition of the German parliament:


More than half are administrators (probably civil servants i think), teachers, lawyers.

The previous prime minister of Belgium has a chemistry PhD too. He went straight into politics out of university, though.

Lady Thatcher also had a Chemistry degree and worked for a while in Industry.

I have indeed noticed a tendency in the West lawmakers to believe that when human and nature laws collide, human laws should win ...

Politically, humanity's physical environment is considered exterior and stable, but the social environment is almost infinitely plastic and easily influenced by persuasion and rhetoric.

So human politics is far more obviously powerful than science.

It's been a good-enough approximation for most of history, even though in practice it's completely wrong.

Politics is badly in need of a Copernican revolution which puts the physical world at the centre of politics, not the periphery.

I wish we were lucky enough to have a leader with a degree. The current Swedish prime minister worked as a welder and dropped out half way to his degree in social work.

That law is a humanity is an interesting lingual twist.


So he's as good a politician as advertised.

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