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Should I wake my sleeping driving instructor?

Ultimately it all depends on what you want to achieve

Yesterday, my business partner shared with me a somewhat hilarious incident. Well, it would have been hilarious if it were not so dangerous. Her daughter was attending her second driving lesson, and while she was at the wheel, the instructor fell asleep in the car. Not a mere closing of the eyes mind you, but a full-on orchestration of snores! You don't need to glance at him to know he was knocked out! Interestingly enough, my partner's daughter kept on driving straight, deciding not to wake the poor man up. After all, she surmised, "I must be driving well if he were to be able to sleep so soundly!" It was only after he jolted back to consciousness that he chastised her for not waking him up! She was wrong to have not woken him, but what was it that caused her to think that, and, more importantly, is there a bigger problem in our thinking in Singapore than merely in the L-plated car? We dive a little deeper into this in today's article...

Assumptions will get the better of us

So what caused her to think that it was alright to allow him to sleep? For one, we are used to not interfering with others, so when the instructor fell asleep, it was quite natural for her to respect his decision, and not interfere. Unfortunately, this was probably not a decision that the instructor made, and a more safety-conscious learner would either have woken him up or stopped the car. If I were her, I would not only have stopped the car, but also chastised the instructor for falling asleep! He is, after all, responsible for the safety of the lesson, even if the learner was behind the wheel. But we have been brought up to respect our elders, and be respectful. So perhaps not waking him up was respectful? She may also have assumed that the instructor was comfortable with her driving ability, which perhaps gave her the confidence to continue driving without instruction. It was fortunate that nothing untoward happened in that lesson, but we must never compromise safety on an assumption. Even if it was "polite" not to wake him up, it was not "polite" to have fallen asleep in the first place. Assumptions can get the better of us, and it might lead us to doing things, or making decisions, that fly in the face of logic.

It is more endemic than just in a driving lesson

One would think that making decisions and acting on assumptions is the domain of teenagers. If only that were true. Just this morning, we woke up to the news that come May next year, civil servants will not have access to the Internet in doing their work. They can surf the Web through their mobile device, but they will not be able to access it directly from their work computer.

The reason given in the article was to plug leaks from work email and shared documents. This seems like a massive assumption at work, one which puts paid on the reputation of our civil service to make good decisions. At one glance, one can see that this is either a knee jerk reaction to the hacking of Singpass passwords, or to reactions to Wikileaks or Panama Paper leaks. Can you see the assumptions driving this decision? Let's name a few...(I am sure there are more!)

(1) We can prevent leaks if we cut off Internet connection

(2) People will not leak information if they had no Internet connection

(3) We can be equally effective/productive without Internet connection

(4) This will not affect our push to become the first SmartNation in the world

We can already see how wrong the first assumption is! If a leak was going to happen, it will happen, regardless of whether there was Internet connection or not! There will be ways to leak information, or to gain backdoor entry, if there was a conscious effort to do so. So, unplugging the Internet from government officials' computers will not prevent that from happening. The thinking behind this therefore seems rather shallow. One cannot imagine that Singapore, which has spent so much money on innovation, and which wants to develop its cyber intelligence capabilities, can only come up with this "wonderful" solution of unplugging the Internet from their officers as their best option for preventing leaks. It also makes one wonder how decisions are being made in the ministries. How is it that no one can see that this is such a ridiculous and archaic solution? If this was the best option for the solution, I wonder what the other discarded options were.

Ultimately, we need to know the intent

Just like the teen who assumed it was alright to allow the driving instructor to continue to snooze as she drove the car in what was just her second lesson, we are seeing the same behaviours exhibited here in cutting access to the Internet. The difference is that the latter decision was made by what one can imagine as numerous matured and well-educated government officials, who should have learnt from their teenage follies. But is this really what's going on here? Is this really an example of a really bad decision by really smart people? The answer is not so simple...

And that is because we don't know what exactly are the decision-makers' intent. It is quite unlikely that the real intent was as reported by the press; and unless we can understand what exactly the policy-makers were trying to achieve with this, we cannot pass judgement. Maybe it is just an elaborate PR hoax to dissuade people from trying to hack the systems, when all the while the tap is still on? Or maybe it is a belated April Fool's joke, to test how Singaporeans will react to really stupid ideas? Or maybe is it a contingency plan to put in place great resilience against a cyber attack on Singapore? With so many possible scenarios of why one might do this, we cannot know for sure why the authorities are doing this. So while we can criticise, we can only go so far with it because we don't know what is truly driving this decision. Yes, it may be archaic, it may throw Singapore's government officials back to the Stone Age, but that is only on the surface. Just as we can blame their decision on assumptions, we are also doing likewise. So while it seems like a truly poor decision, based on assumptions that are really wrong, ultimately, we need to know the intent before we can poke holes.

So should we wake the sleeping instructor? Well, it all depends on our intent, isn't it?


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