Moving to

I'm moving to Mostly.

I plan to use that site as a "self-marketing website" of sorts and to manage content in a way that I would otherwise not be able to do on blogger alone.

This blog will stay, ostensibly for more provisional ideas prior to refinement. I'll be gradually moving content (I still like) over to the other website. =)

Monday, April 23, 2012

On "Weak" Singaporeans and NS

On the matter of the "weakness" of Singaporean males, I came across this which led me to this. There we have a professional soldier C attacking reasonable advice from a non-professional soldier K. C gives a rousing account of honour and glory while K gives pragmatic sounding advice about doing what it takes to be safe.

I think it is good for men to be manly. There is something about being able to walk around with a 20-30kg combat load with the optional (annoying) Hand Held Thermal Imager dangling around your neck and enjoying jalaning in the semi-open terrain in Thailand or Australia under the hot sun. There is something quite manly about doing all that and in the course of doing so, falling into a somewhat deep hole, quickly emerging cursing and swearing and then carrying on like nothing happened. (The falling into a whole bit happened to someone else.) There is something satisfying about getting nods of approval as some people stop to count the 20 chin-ups you do before lunch.

Yet, I take K's point that it is important to be careful while being manly. Brief recognition for an episode of manliness is not worth permanent injury. I think K was horribly misunderstood by many who took him to be advocating unbridled malingering. My take away from what he wrote was: do the risk-reward calculus and make your choice.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Measuring the Efficacy of Education: A Possible Methodology

Given the mission of education to enable upward mobility, an obvious methodology for measuring the efficacy of education suggests itself: measure the decrease in the level of correlation of student performance on family background from primary 6 to secondary 4/5.

It goes without saying that student performance at Primary 6 is strongly related on family background. Given that secondary school is a substantial part of the Singapore education experience, where academic preferences are formed, the Secondary 4/5 level is a good time to make the comparison. In fact, a first reading may be obtained at the end of Primary 1/2, which will be very strongly related to family background.

Any competent econometrician would be ale to do the analysis given the data. We should be measuring this and using it as a KPI.

On the Transfer of Risk from Corporations to the Publlic

The 3rd April 2012 running over (and dragging) of a 66 year old woman, crossing the road with traffic signals in her favor, by a SBS bus calls into question the training given to bus drivers. The bus driver was reportedly a national of China, where SBS actively recruits and where buses are culturally regarded to have right of way over pedestrians.

From this perspective, the accident is simultaneously unsurprising and shocking, the former because it would have been a matter of time and the latter because this obvious risk has not been comprehensively mitigated by training. This accident would not have happened if appropriate training was provided. This failure constitutes an unconscionable transfer of risk from SBS to the public. An investigation should be conducted and a stern regulatory response should follow if SBS is shown to be negligent.

Risk costs money to mitigate. It is not surprising that corporations are keen to find ways to transfer the burden of risk from each other. I myself have been taught to be careful with what risks I accept. It is up to the party bearing the risk to take mitigating measures. But what is the risk has been transferred without being accepted? Can the party now bearing the risk be blamed for not mitigating the risk?

This matter can easily be reframed into the standard picture of negative externalities imposed on the public. So I am not saying anything new. However, the risk and risk mitigation perspective I'd far more relevant to this setting and generally more concrete. Pollution leads to a risk of disease that can be mitigated with the discomfort of masks and/or the expense of good air purification systems. Yet the risk remains, albeit slightly diminished. What is the appropriate transfer back to society then? I think the answer lies in the cost of mitigation measures scaled up by an appropriate factor for time expended.

Where there is no transfer back to society, law and regulation should incentivize the corporation to do risk mitigation on its own. Financial penalties for negative outcomes should be capable of wiping out all or most cost savings for not handing risk, otherwise simple arithmetic tells us that nothing will be done.

Without commenting on the state of regulation in Singapore, let me say that this is important. The next grandma run over and dragged to death could be yours.