A road less travelled: My greatest childhood pleasure was exploring the longkangs of Singapore for fish and frogs. I was also captivated by Rediffusion master story-teller Lei Dai Sor’s tales of the Monkey King’s exploits in Journey to the West. They fired up my imagination and ignited my hope that I might one day live such an adventure.
Little did I know that this love of adventure would take me on a journey of discovery and learning, one which is still continuing five decades later. My journey began in North America where I spent 30 years, then back to Singapore, to the Middle East and now in China. I have seen how technology shapes and is shaped by culture and society, how jobs are created, how people live, how cities grow while some decline, and how the life cycle of products and companies is shortening.
Universities are seats of inquiry and learning where critical thinking and creative activity are prized. My initiation into this world came about during my first meeting with my PhD advisor at Harvard. He challenged me: “If you wish to be my student, I expect to learn new things from you too.”
Americans celebrate individual initiative and hard-won success. This distinctive culture, indomitable optimism and confidence underpin the start-up culture, result-oriented meritocracy and the vitality and drive that permeate Silicon Valley.
Pacific Century: Fueling the dynamism of the Pacific Century is talent circulation, entrepreneurial capitalism and the enormity of the Pacific market, particularly American and Chinese markets. China’s investment in science and technology – building blocks of an innovation economy – will reach US levels in the coming years. It is the global economy’s mainstay and its modernization is a major engine of growth worldwide.
The next decades will open fresh vistas and opportunities for investment and access to talents, technologies and markets through new models of transnational ventures, such as One Belt One Road initiative, collaborative R&D and technology commercialization. These promise to accelerate economic growth in Asia-Pacific and beyond.
How can we ride this sea change? What traits and experiences will help our younger generation venture beyond safe harbors to ride the changing tide? What mental maps and mindsets can help us transcend boundaries of place, identity and norms as well as bridge diverse cultures and perspectives? Will global minds and Singapore hearts be critical factors for Singapore to flourish in the coming decades?