Walking the Talk (show)

Here’s an interesting example of how comedy and celebrity can provoke real positive change in society through hard-hitting investigative yet engaging discussions.

This article affectionately calls it the John Oliver Effect. I personally find his videos riveting and intriguing. Unsettling analogies aside, his creative and well-paced attempts to unpack and analyze issues for the viewer is laudable.

The Distorted Face of Terrorism

A colleague once told me that arguments were based on beliefs, and beliefs were based on facts. The problem is that what is ‘fact’ can so often be wholly inaccurate, especially in our media-saturated environment where facts could simply be what is more commonly reported.

So therein lies a likely root cause for flawed arguments: inaccurate facts. 

Case in point: the argument that stamping out terrorism lies in targeted measures concerning Muslims, which is based on a belief that Islam as a religion somehow promotes violence as a justifiable means to an end, which is based on the ‘fact’ that most terrorist attack are committed by Muslims.

Well, as this article points out, most terrorist attack aren’t actually committed by Muslims. A Europol report states that less than 2% of terror attacks in 2013 were committed by Muslims while an FBI study looking at terrorism committed in the U.S. between 1980 and 2005 found that only about 6% of attacks were committed by Muslims.

It just seems like most terrorist attacks are committed by Muslims because such attacks receive disproportionately more attention from the media, reigniting narratives on the clash between the West and Middle East again.

So, the next time we offer arguments, let’s critically consider whether the beliefs and facts they rest on are sound.

Journalist’s Resource

Researching for a topic / issue can be daunting matter, especially if you are trying to make sense of the myriad views and opinions surfaced.

Journalist’s Resource is a good place to start. It provides journalists relevant, scholarly research surrounding a topic. A good example would be the updated recent entry on Islam, terrorism and immigration in France following the Charlie Hebdo killings.

World Cup of Indicators

Wall Street Journal has an interesting interactive graphic showing various world cup tournament scenarios based on broad national indicators (mostly percentages).

Nigeria apparently the cup home for most agricultural land and fastest population growth, Japan claims the trophy for most seafood consumed and lowest murder rate, while Ghana comes out tops for highest education spending, percentage of protestants and hottest weather. Not suggesting any correlations here of course.

Global development: it’s a beautiful game.


Co-censorship: Old wine in new wine skin?

Corrie Tan from The Straits Times comments on the MDA’s co-regulatory classification guidelines which have been rejected by 45 arts groups who basically argue that this framework conflicts with artistic integrity and amounts to self-censorship:

Despite its good intentions, the scheme falls back into the same template of censorship, of allowing the authorities to be the arbiter of what is in the “public interest”, rather than trusting the artist to be responsible, and trusting the audience to be able to judge a work critically. As a result, on May 30, 45 arts groups registered strong objections to the scheme in a position paper addressed to the MDA.


Artists are often viewed here as a vocal minority of rabble-rousers separate from the man in the street. But these are not merely the grouses of a few. The 45 groups represent a large swathe of the arts community, including commercial heavyweights like the Singapore Repertory Theatre and Wild Rice, and traditional arts groups such as the Chinese Theatre Circle. It is also likely that their regular audiences will be supportive of their decision.


As the position paper puts it: “Artists and arts practitioners… are also citizens, parents, members of religious groups, live in the ‘heartlands’, and we pay our taxes – like everyone else. It is misguided to presume that artists’ interests are at odds with community’s interests.”


What is your take on this response? Is this new approach a collaborative step forward with MDA trying to partner with arts groups to ensure art is responsibly and sensibly produced and showcased, or is it a step back with MDA simply veiling its often criticized censorship approach under the guise of self-classification?





Scientific concepts can help us understanding the world

Predictive coding. Rational unconsciousness. Uncalculated risk. Constraint satisfaction

Scientific concepts: what good are they outside of science?

The endeavour of science is not an abstract exercise to increase absolute knowledge in a vacuum, but it seeks to understand the world. The complex thing is that in doing so, scientific concepts have to employed to help give observers a means to describe or explain phenomena, however imperfect they may be. These concepts however, are not constrained esoteric terms that only scientists or students of science can utilize, but they provide any interested observer with the tools to explain the world around them, to explain human behaviour and condition.

Here are 35 quick examples you can start to think about today. They might even give you a means to explain your observations or arguments in an essay. For example, determining whether the world is necessarily a  ‘better place’ because of technology would often lie with people’s perception of a supposedly better life entails, and predictive coding would help us be aware of how expectations often determine what we perceive as good or bad quality. Uncalculated risk may sensitize us to irrational moral panics and fears that arise from events like vandalism or air plane crashes when in fact larger issues are overlooked. Constraint satisfaction alerts us to the fact that more choice is not necessarily a good thing, and sometimes even an imperfect but deliberate narrowing down of options is more productive to solution finding. Policy makers for instance, cannot simply consider options and ideas from ALL sectors of society with equal weight, lest they become crippled and inefficient as a result.