We are prone to simplifying a complicated world

As human-beings, we are all entitled to freedom of speech. Everybody should be able to voice his or her opinion, but the right isn’t absolute. When one person dishes out lies about others, the lies strip the victim of the right to be perceived truthfully. The problem is that who will decide whether the culprit should be punished, what punishment there should be and who will be the judge. Nobody can have an answer that satisfies everybody, whether the answer is governments or corporations such as Facebook, Twitter or Google. Defining the limits of free speech while preserving such a right is a highly complex question.

A big topic that receives a lot of attention and debates is socialism and capitalism. Each social system has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each only works with a certain set of conditions. It’s similar to our personal life. What we think at 16 doesn’t work when we reach 25 or 40. Conditions evolve and systems need to evolve to adapt too. Yet, what happens is that folks tend to swing to an extreme end to advocate for his or her belief, neglecting the complexity of a social system and what is required to make it work.

I believe that it is possible to evaluate the performance of a government. It’s fair to say that the Singaporean government did an exceptional job in bringing a country with few natural resources to where it is today. Or it is fair to say that the Japanese government did a great job in elevating the country after World War II. What I don’t believe is that one metric in a snapshot can be telling of a government’s performance. We often see in the media politicians take credit for unemployment rate or a number of jobs created. Well, we have to ask questions, including but not limited to 1) what kind of jobs were created 2) do we have a growth in wages? 3) how is it compared YoY and 4) at what cost? Let’s say that the government increased spending in order to generate jobs but received little in revenue in return. It means that it’s true that there are jobs created, but at the same time the federal deficit increased. The government or the nation sank deeper in debt. Therefore, it’s not easy at all to say with certainty how well a government performs, especially only over a short period of time. But do we see that sentiment on the news?

Another polarizing debate is climate change. Both the doubters and proponents of climate change present their respective scientic studies and data to back up their case. The problem is which side is correct. We generate a lot of data that can be sliced and interpreted in different ways in order to create various narratives. Some politicians or celebrities call “climate change” the defining problem of our time or something along that line. They may be right, but it’s not easy to know the answer to that.

The older I get, the more I realize how complicated and complex the world is. Yet, folks tend to make definitive statements on highly complex issues for various reasons, myself included to be frank. We are all prone to simplifying a complex world more than we should. Perhaps, a little reservation, a little prudence, a little thinking it through, a little humility, a little self-honesty will make the world a better place.

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