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The Social Laboratory 79

An anonymous reader writes: We often worry about technology and unscrupulous intelligence agencies driving us toward a surveillance state. But apparently Singapore already beat us to the punch. "Not only does the government keep a close eye on what its citizens write and say publicly, but it also has the legal authority to monitor all manner of electronic communications, including phone calls, under several domestic security laws aimed at preventing terrorism, prosecuting drug dealing, and blocking the printing of 'undesirable' material." They've used it to do good, like swiftly moving to contain the spread of infectious diseases and to figure out how the public wants policy problems solved. But they've also obliterated privacy and restricted what people can say and do. "Singaporeans speak, often reverently, of the "social contract" between the people and their government. They have consciously chosen to surrender certain civil liberties and individual freedoms in exchange for fundamental guarantees: security, education, affordable housing, health care." The article notes, "It's hard to know whether the low crime rates and adherence to the rule of law are more a result of pervasive surveillance or Singaporeans' unspoken agreement that they mustn't turn on one another, lest the tiny island come apart at the seams."
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The Social Laboratory

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  • by jeIIomizer ( 3670945 ) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @08:39AM (#47593019)

    I'm pretty sure it's not necessary to surrender fundamental liberties to get those.

    But all this proves is that people too easily ignore history. Hundreds of millions of people abused throughout history by corrupt governments, and yet you want to give them the power to monitor people's communications? I'm sure your government, unlike all the other ones that came before it, is full of perfectly innocent little angels that will never abuse their powers or make mistakes. Furthermore, I'm sure your government will *always* be like that. So you can not only trust the people currently in your government, but every single person who will ever work for it. Yeah...

    And it's not like privacy is a basic human need or anything.

  • Zombie zones (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @09:13AM (#47593113) Journal

    Disclaimer: I do have business in Singapore and I do spend some time in Singapore every year

    As my business is largely in the East Asian region, I do travel from country to country and have a lot of contacts with people of different countries in that region

    My exposure to the people from the different countries tells me one thing --- social construct is indeed a very VERY crucial factor in shaping the behavior of the people

    In Korea, for example, their rigid society have shaped the Koreans into teams of robots who are more than willing work to death for the Chaebol

    While in Japanese the society seems to be acting like a patient with bipolar disorder --- The same school student who does a 90-degree bow to the teachers in school during weekdays often become something totally different during weekends

    In China you can sense the rebellious spirit everywhere and in everyone. While the society is still rather conservative the same society accepts homosexuality, even same-sex marriage, with ease

    In Singapore, however, due to the "Father Knows Best" government which has taken care of almost everything for its citizens, many Singaporeans (I mean, the home bred Singaporeans, not those imported ones) have turned into something not very different from zombies --- they lack the zeal for doing anything, have no interest in learning nor put any effort in coming out with anything that is creative

    I am no social scientist, of course. The above are based on my own observation, and of course, I could be wrong

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2014 @10:58AM (#47593633)

    You don't understand Singapore either, or for that matter people in general, since you claim that 'they', all 3+ million of us (5+ if you include not just citizens, but also permanent residents and foreigners), *want* and value this, that such control is what we desire, facilitate and embrace.

    The article, which claims our 'paternalistic government ensures people's basic needs -- housing, education, security -- in return for almost reverential deference.', doesn't understand Singapore either. I would not call what I received from our schools 'basic education'. And if you're also a Singaporean, from the unfounded generalizations in your comment, and your assumption that grandparent has a 'preference of a more Western form of social balance' (whatever that means), I doubt you've received what could be regarded as a basic education either.

    *Some* people want this, to give up privacy and certain freedoms and accord authority and powers to a small group of people, in the belief that this will make their lives and the lives of those they care about better. They are not homogeneous, they have different opinions about which freedoms and information are sacrosanct and which can be given up, and what powers should be given to which group of people to do the monitoring and policing.

    Some people don't want this, they believe that no one else has any business poking noses into their lives. They are not homogeneous either.

    Some people also don't care about all this. They may not understand the implications, and/or want to be bothered by it.

    None of this is unique to Singapore. It describes any large group of people anywhere. But what is unique to Singapore is that a very small group of people have stayed in the very large majority of power for a very long time, larger than vote ratios: [] The ultimate aims of information gathering and our government may not be, as the article suggests, preventing terrorism and 'engineering' social harmony (though these may be secondary aims).

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?