Monday, January 7, 2013

Supersized ECs and "Safe to Fail" policy

My friend just emailed me attaching the article and his comment:

So, there was a loop hole.. Are the developers ingenious or is URA simply naive?

No, URA probably isn't naive. It is a problem in all advanced societies that the regulator is always behind the curve.

Let's analyze this in the PM's policy of "safe to fail" articulated early in his premiership against Singaporeans mindset that the government must get right almost all the time.

URA and MND didn't anticipate developers will find and exploit a loophole. In "Safe to fail" fashion Khaw is moving to plug the loophole. This is well and good but to citizens it is a failure and how are things better? Just like how were floods along Orchard Road; the vandalizing of trains and their frequent break downs....better. All acceptable under "Safe to fail".

It is important that "safe to fail" should by the eating of the pudding be superior to the former fail safe policy.  Sadly it isn't. Tech companies get ahead by failing fast and furious so that their learning is accelerated - They are truly "safe to fail" or they would be lunch. The government mistake is that a country is not a tech firm and it is far more complex. Even oil companies, far more homogeneous and less complex than a living and breathing society aren't foolish enough to run their enterprises on "safe to fail". Actually one of them did: BP. You know what happened to them.

It is quite simple. At the end of the day you must know your stuff. Obviously this bunch didn't know it well enough to go from fail safe to "safe to fail". They can fixed the mistakes but there is no dividends that tech companies like Google get from rapid failure and learning. For us things are not better, in fact worse. Surely we are paying more to fix our MRT system than if we had paid more attention to maintenance when Saw was at the helm.

As a rule of thumb, "light" systems e.g, software can afford rapid failure and retries but not "heavy" systems like our train system or the oil industry etc., This government and BP never understood this important fact of life.

Alas, "safe to fail" has turned out to be government legitimizing taking risks which they do not understand. Even as they appear as very hard working, I must submit that they are in essence lazy and complacent. It was just busyness. I suspect the government is suffering from an unhelpful internal culture. After 50 years in power their feet has become clay even if their hands are vigorously moving all the time. We mustn't confuse the two. The clayed feet are the sacred cows and the waving and often tai-chi hands are furiously working within the box. How to go places quickly and confidently this way? Just ask ourselves if these sacred cows are are servants and liberators or our masters and keeping us as prisoners? They were once liberators but as the process of history tell us, they were bound to eventually become taskmasters if kept beyond their use by date.

1 comment:

  1. To me, PM's policy of "safe to fail" articulated early in his premiership against Singaporeans mindset that the government must get right almost all the time is a joke.NO,we do not exect PAP to get it right from the start,that is an impossible task and I do not think Singapore's people,with the highest IQ in the world,are stupid to that extent!