Monday, May 09, 2022

On Benz Hui, greater intelligence, and small intelligence.


Most folks in my generation grew up watching HK drama, so many Singaporeans are familiar with Benz Hui who is an accomplished HK actor who has settle down permanently in Singapore. Of late, Benz Hui has said some candid things about Singaporeans which I think deserve a good solid rebuttal. 

That being said, I'm a fan of this great guy, and I think we should be grateful that Benz feels comfortable criticizing us - if anything it means that he has found a new home. 

One of the things I was grateful for growing up was my exposure to HK D&D players which shaped the way I play RPGs today. HK players took me under their wing and presented a new play of playing Dungeons and Dragons. The style was pure mayhem, and channel HK comics like Dragon Tiger Gate rather than Western fantasy canon. 

Singaporeans were stickler for rules, so our gameplay was not inspiring. My paladin would just attack with his Holy Avenger round after round, not really inspiring.  My HK gamer senpais told me never to question what the rules allowed me to do, but to find actions that the rules never explicitly said no to. 

The result was hilarious. 

In one game, a cleric was told that to create an artifact he needed to place on an alter a vessel that can contain his deity's power. He declared that there was no better vessel than himself and turned himself into a living cleric-artifact. The DM allowed this to go on for the lolz. The cleric was able to develop artifact powers after the ritual. He infused his left had with the Heal spell and his right hand with the Harm spell and became almost invincible in combat.

My HK mentors also taught me a bit about life which I internalized to this very day. One lesson when I was in JC  was  to stop daydreaming and never waste time queuing for fast food, if a queue shortens, I should be ready switch queues. I extended it to includes tasks like preparing change before it was my turn to order.

But eventually, we all have to grow up as adults. I have to complete JC, get into the Army and eventually study for my degree. 

In that process, I stopped looking up to the HK mentors I had.

For one thing, D&D as a game improved it's writing and the rules became a lot clearer and the chaos mayhem style of HK players lost its favor. Instead, a close reading of the rules that allowed different rulesets to synergize with each other made our characters more powerful. Reading became more competitive and intense and you can be rewarded by a strong fundamental grounding of the ruleset.

In real life, HK gamers lost their cushy operator roles to IT engineers from India and had to return to HK. Their careers never recovered and some refused to meet my pals when they visited. I know that even those days, their chaotic attitudes to life also prevented them from making investments and I suspect may struggle financially to survive today.

In the grander scheme of things, how can a bunch of stoners Singaporeans, derogatively called "Po Zhai" and "Mm Seng Muk", become an economic powerhouse that can even eat the lunch of possibly the finest entrepreneurs and businessmen of the world ?

Hong Kongers focused on small intelligence, tiny improvements that are wise for that context, just for that moment. The dumber Singaporeans were more obedient and malleable, but we focused on greater intelligence, employing mental models to understand rent-seeking, investing and developing skills in artificial intelligence and blockchain programming. We were slow because we were united and saw multiple steps ahead. 

Plugging the trust ABSD loophole is a deliberate move NOT to become Hong Kong.

I doubt my HK mentors will like me a lot today as I pull rental payments out of thin air, engage in liquidity mining, juggle my three degrees, and only leave for work only when I feel like it. Few of my friends who knew me as a joker and a troll would like my current setup. 

It's not too different from Benz Hui. His best anecdote is that HK doctors fear Singaporean patients because we challenge their decisions all the time and we're too smart for our own good. 

For one thing, Singaporeans doctors are quite used to this. For another, there is actually an economic idea called adverse selection that explains why it's perfectly rational for Singaporeans to be that way.

At the end of the day, doctors may have some kind of oath, but they are also in the business of selling medication. As it turns out, doctors know a lot more about medication than their patients, so an information asymmetry arises. Maybe the doctor is selling a drug that is high margin or an operation was suggested to earn more profits. To understand whether a cheaper alternative exists, it makes sense to study every alternative and challenge the decision of medical practitioner. Bridge the information gap. 

Even our common law supports the idea that doctors should render advice like provide alternatives to each treatment ( Montgomery test ) - we're actually helping our doctors too!  

Even if we do give doctors a break, I strongly urge readers to spend time studying the products sold by insurance agents. If a commissioned salesman makes an aggressive recommendation, you will definitely profit by seeking alternatives. 

Finally, I don't think Singaporeans will stop studying and questioning just because Benz Hui says so, if anything, his grandchildren will be Singaporeans and will as kiasu and kiasi as we are. Similarly Singaporean D&D players will not go back to an older edition of a the game to play something that results in pure chaos like improv theatre.
That being said, we should open our doors wider for HKers to come down to teach us a bit about the small intelligence of starting businesses, developing grit and self-sufficiency, it will compliment our existing strengths very well.  

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