As Wishlists Evolve and Dissolve…

Singapore Must Act Swift to Trim Population

Wishlists evolve at the start of each year and dissolve at the end of it, hardly seeing any fruition! The annual wishlist is just a pastime, allowing us room for some reflection, introspection and hope even as we step into it fully aware that despair may be the inevitable outcome.

Often, therefore, they will be not very different from our previous-year yearnings.

For instance, in my wishlists for the last three years (2017,2016 and 2015), I had hoped to see a less-congested Singapore with a roadmap for trimming down the country’s population with jobs for all through a citizen-first strategy. They remain mere musings, a pipedream!

With 2017 slipping into the annals of history, I will still keep them in my list of wishes for 2018 –  a significantly lower population for a higher quality of life in Singapore which will address other accompanying challenges centred around discrimination of various hues. From education to employment, Singaporeans continue to be shortchanged.

Interestingly, 2017 saw the most open economies begin to look inward, with the emergence of Mr Donald Trump as President with an “America First” slogan.

In India, the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi’s BJP has seen its “Hindu First” mission and politics of hate yield electoral successes countrywide. So much so that even the opposition Congress leader, Mr Rahul Gandhi, began to wear the Hindu cap to counter the BJP.

Strong Singapore-India Ties Amid Politics of Hate

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had to contend with sibling opposition during the year and any discontent among them may continue to simmer. Strangely, Singapore enjoys a close rapport with the Indian leaders, thanks to business interests in the world’s second most populous country. Singapore is helping build an entire capital city for the State of Andhra. Singapore’s India-origin population, MPs and ministers are also contributing to the ties with the divisive BJP.

This even as the BJP came up with the outrageous statement, through its spokesman on Indian television, that Singapore will become bankrupt if the IT sector sees a meltdown.

What 2018 holds for the world is impossible to fathom, we can only hope for the best while staying ready to overcome challenges with grit, determination and fair play. May the New Year bring cheer, peace and prosperity to the world!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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2017 in Retrospect – Cloud Turf Grows as Rich Digital CX Gains More Traction

Another year of mergers, acquisitions, business bankruptcies and industry consolidation rolls into the annals of history.

In 2017, the cloud turf got bigger and more intense with Microsoft, Google and Alibaba becoming major challengers to Amazon. This amid outages involving the likes of Amazon and Microsoft, bringing focus on the reliability of public clouds and drawing businesses to hybrid clouds.

Amazon made big strides with its Echo smart speakers, vying with Google Home. This was driven by household users even as robots are expected to make deep inroads into the home.

The merger of CSC and HP Enterprise to become DXC Technology brought about a significant change to the service industry. Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, my employer, completed the acquisition of Interactive Intelligence to extend its sway over the Customer Experience (CX) space.

Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots for Self-Service + Assisted Service

Interestingly, the year saw Amazon enter the CX domain with a basic Voice-only cloud contact centre offering, hardly a challenge to those with a 100% sector focus, delivering natively omnichannel solutions.

The innocuous entry, though, demonstrates the growing importance of the contact centre infrastructure in enabling positive customer experiences even as Artificial Intelligence-centric Virtual Assistants / Chatbots are placing focus on a combination of self-service and assisted service.

What and Who Will Rule 2018!

Bitcoin Scales Phenomenal Heights

The world also saw the Bitcoin mania scale phenomenal heights, with a mind-blowing 1000% surge in 2017. Some clairvoyant investors thus had a rich harvest, becoming easy millionaires, a small list that includes teens with a vision. One of them saw a $5000 investment in 2013 reach a value of more than a million dollars in 2017.

It has produced billionaires too – like the Winklevoss Twins who used their payout from Facebook four years ago on the Bitcoin. Their investment was $11 million and in 2017 its value had shot up to more than a billion dollars.

New cryptocurrencies such as the Ripple are also making waves in the market.

Running Down the Bitcoin

Financial institutions and market analysts that missed the race are going all out to run down bitcoins, betraying an inability to digest their lack of vision. Morgan Stanley, for instance, even had no qualms saying that the bitcoin’s value is zero.

A flashback to 2014 brings up Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates being upbeat about bitcoins. “Bitcoin is better than currency in that you don’t have to be physically in the same place and, of course, for large transactions, currency can get pretty inconvenient,” he was quoted as saying in an interview to Bloomberg.

Deep into philanthropy, Mr Gates also tempered his enthusiasm with some cautions that has stopped his foundation from using bitcoins. The main reason, according to him, is that “the poor shouldn’t have a currency whose value goes up and down a lot compared to their local currency.” He remains excited about the blockchain technology that powers the Bitcoin.

But then number crunching, Excel wizardry, generation of reports tuned to catch their fancy and tactical analysis leading to outcomes that toss out expectations are some of the attributes that sit with the likes of Morgan Stanley!

To them, the future is imaginary, dotted by what they like to see and hear, not what market trends lead to. Thought leadership? What is that??

Analysts and the Sales Community

That’s typical of the analyst community – missing the big picture, failing to see what will go on a mind-blowing surge, as it happened with the bitcoin, and then scrambling to recover lost ground with fake projections. No real vision, no real strategy!

Sales personnel also take a walk along the same oft-beaten, pitfall-ridden path – all the while imagining mere numbers-based analysis, some cliched marketing and relationships with decision-makers will help clinch deals.

Some will work and most will fail. What is lost is the opportunity for a multi-pronged attack with well-defined win themes.

In market analysts, they have good company!

Personal Ramblings

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Highs and Lows of 2017

Harvey Saga to Bitcoin Mania

As we stand ready to bid adieu to 2017, it is time for some retrospection on the highs and lows of the year.

What instantly springs to my mind is the global outrage against sexual predator and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, with Silence Breakers even winning the Time Person of the Year recognition.

As I had argued in a post here,“this is one hurricane where a Harvey is at the receiving end” with Harvey Weinstein having been “swept off the sway he had over Hollywood, with his sleazy past tumbling out of the closet and drowning him in ignominy.”

2017 was also the year when Mr Donald Trump, who had himself faced allegations from many women of sexual misdemeanour, became the U.S. President, trumping challenger Mrs Hillary Clinton.

Notoriety and Hypocrisy

Bitcoin Craze – Proponents and Naysayers

The Bitcoin mania scaled phenomenal heights this year, producing millionaires through easy money for some clairvoyant investors, a small list that includes some teens.

One of them saw a $5000 investment in 2013 reach a value of more than a million dollars in 2017.

It has produced billionaires too – like the Winklevoss Twins who used their payout from Facebook four years ago on the Bitcoin. Their investment was $11 million and in 2017 its value had shot up to more than a billion dollars.

New cryptocurrencies such as the Ripple are also making waves in the market.

Morgan Stanley Runs Down Bitcoin

Financial institutions and market analysts that missed the race are going all out to run down Bitcoins, betraying an inability to digest their lack of vision. Morgan Stanley, for instance, even had no qualms saying that the Bitcoin’s value is zero.

A flashback to 2014 brings up Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates being upbeat about Bitcoins. “Bitcoin is better than currency in that you don’t have to be physically in the same place and, of course, for large transactions, currency can get pretty inconvenient,” he was quoted as saying in an interview to Bloomberg.

Deep into philanthropy, Mr Gates also tempered his enthusiasm with some cautions that has stopped his foundation from using bitcoins. The main reason, according to him, is that “the poor shouldn’t have a currency whose value goes up and down a lot compared to their local currency.” He remains excited about the blockchain technology that powers the Bitcoin.

Anand Rapid Chess King Again

India’s chess superstar Viswanathan Anand reclaimed some lost glory earlier this week. He won the World Rapid Chess championship after a gap of 15 years at age 48, silencing both his detractors and fans alike who had been saying it was time for him to retire.

He also came third in the world blitz championship with Carlsen winning the title.

Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis

The Rohingya humanitarian crisis exposed the lack of compassion of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, bowing to pressures within Buddhist Myanmar.

While persecution, rapes and killings led to more than a million of the Rohingya population flee Myanmar and take shelter in neighbouring countries. Bangladesh was the most generous of the host nations, accommodating more than half a million of the refugees.

It was a year that saw many terror strikes as well, including one at Manchester at the Ariane Grande concert. But that was minor when weighed against the more than 7000 attacks worldwide, many of them carried out by ISIS, resulting in loss of around 8000 lives.

North Korea Nuclear Threat

North Korea continued to give the thumbs down to the democratic world, conducting nuclear tests at will and its leader, Kim Jung-un, audaciously refusing to listen to reason and counsel, holding out war threats. A weak Trump-led U.S. and a China that stands by North Korea continues to pose the risk of a nuclear war posed by North Korea.

On the technology and business front, Avaya became bankrupt and came out of it in 2017 while continuing to struggle to win business and retain existing customers.

Modi’s New Lows

The elections in the Indian State of Gujarat brought out the worst of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who shamelessly played caste politics by twisting a statement made by Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar.

Mr Modi hit out at the Congress, using vile language, with the allegation that party was trying to erase the contributions of Dr Ambedkar to the country. In response, Mr Aiyar said, in Hindi, it was low-level behaviour at an event that saw the opening of a centre dedicated to Dr Ambedkar. If that was unbecoming of a Prime Minister, Mr Modi sank to even worse depths by claiming that Mr Aiyar derided low-caste people. He also let loose a string of lies and nasty comments against former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Cloud Wars

The cloud turf got bigger and more intense with Microsoft, Google and Alibaba becoming major challengers to Amazon. This amid outages involving the likes of Amazon and Microsoft bringing focus on the reliability of public clouds and drawing businesses to hybrid clouds.

Businesses also had their usual share of mergers and acquisitions. One of them was the merger of CSC and HPE Enterprise Services to become DXC.

Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, my employer, completed the acquisition of Interactive Intelligence to extend its sway over the Customer Experience space.

Sibling Squabbles Hit Singapore PM

In Singapore, the Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, was caught in public embarrassment with some sibling squabbles spilling out of the closet. While it got international tongues wagging, Singapore is in safe hands and what is essentially a family spat has not been allowed to impact governance.

No change is anticipated in 2018 – and this may well be so globally, grappling with the same old issues from terrorism to the economy!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Carlsen Wins World Blitz, Anand Finishes Third

V Anand followed up his world rapid Championship title with a fine run even at the blitz event that drew to a close today in Riyadh.

Magnus Carlsen (16 points) took the blitz title, with Anand and Karjakin finishing the tournament with 14-1/2 points each. Karjakin took the second place and Anand third.

Though Anand missed a double, it was a brilliant performance overall, demonstrating that he is still a mighty force in world chess.

G Joslin Vethakumar

https://www.chess.com/amp/news/carlsen-magnificent-on-final-day-wins-world-blitz

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Experts in Science, Engineering and Economics will be Agents of Change: Gates

Philanthropy, innovation, ideation and thought leadership – all sit well on the shoulders of the world’s richest man, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

Flush with well-earned cash and rich with ideas to inspire the youth, Mr Gates had recently even argued for taxing robots.

That was his way of underscoring the dangers inherent in automation even as he saw the inevitability of it going mainstream.

By the same breath, he also said if he had the opportunity to pursue learning he would pick Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Mr Gates is always clear that those with background in Science, Engineering, Economics and Mathematics will be the most in demand, as agents of change, from now on.

He amplifies it with the comment that “a lot of careers in the future will be very demanding on knowledge in these areas.”

This was a 2016 interview Mr Gates gave to the CNBC which recycled it with some updates two days ago.

His views remain relevant. His clinching advice: “You don’t have to be an expert in coding, but having the ability to think like these experts will help you tremendously.”

In a fluid, constantly evolving world, subjects in demand will keep changing with the times but sciences, engineering, maths and Economics will remain core areas of expertise that will serve you well.

– G Joslin Vethakumar

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Bill Gates says people with these 3 skills will succeed in the future

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/28/bill-gates-says-people-with-these-3-skills-will-succeed-in-the-future.html

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Anand Finds Winning Touch, is World Rapid Champion!

The Anand I had watched during my chess-playing years was consistently aggressive with rapid, attacking moves. Those memories were rekindled during the last three days of the World Rapid Chess Championship in Saudi Arabia, with Anand taking home the title, with a 1.5-0.5 win over Vladimir Fedoseev last night.

Hearty congratulations to Anand, for proving to all naysayers, those who wanted him to retire, that, at 48, he still has it in him to be a world beater. After Magnus Carlsen of Finland burst onto the world stage, Anand appeared to have lost the winning edge. He even failed to qualify for next year’s Candidates 2018 cycle to pick a challenger to Carlsen.

anandSo, with the world open rapid title now, he appears to have regained that touch with a flourish, remaining the only undefeated player through the 15 main rounds and the playoffs. Carlsen and Russia’s Alexander Grischuk were among his impressive wins at the event.

Tame Draw, a Disappointment

After Anand’s 11-move tame draw in the final round of the Championship late last night my time left me in disappointment, I lost the drive to stay on to watch the playoffs for the title.

Photo taken off the Web

Magnus Carlsen, with a reputation for always playing for wins, had no such strategies and lost to Grischuk, simplifying the title chase for the former World Champion from India.

When I was asleep, Anand had made sure the title was in his grasp by convincingly defeating Fedoseev in the blitz playoff.

ju-wenjun01

Ju Wenjun is Women’s Champion

Ju Wenjun of China, clinched the women’s world rapid chess title without a playoff, also remaining undefeated throughout. The world rapid titles, for men and women, interestingly, have been won by players from Asia, representing the two giants from the continent – China and India.

With this, the focus now shifts to the World Blitz Championship that opens today in Riyadh.

My Earlier Posts

Anand, Carlsen Top Table

Anand Beats Carlsen

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Anand Settles for 11-Move Draw, Representing the Curse of Chess!

After a remarkable, unbeaten run at the World Rapid Chess Championship in Riyadh, V Anand settled for an easy, 11-move draw with Bu Xiangzhi in the final round. That’s a shame! The draw was agreed upon soon after the game started.

Anand simply appeared to be in haste to reach truce and avoid any risk of a defeat. But that is not in the true spirit of the game – least expected from a player of Anand’s stature.

Having scaled every peak there is in the game, he has nothing else to prove. He is at a stage when he must be looking at ways to inspire young players and be a role model for them.

Instead, he has only demonstrated his self-centricity with no thought for what has come to be a curse for chess – agreed draws without going all out for a win.

In fact, the younger players are a more motivated lot – going the full stretch and playing for wins. And I am not talking about just Carlsen. Even the likes of Adhiban and Vidit Gujarati go for wins in every game. They may lose a game or two, but display a positive attitude with a fighting spirit.

What a disappointment, Anand! You spoilt a good run at the Championship with an agreed draw.

It is time the world chess body acts to ban such draws!

G Joslin Vethakumar

http://web.chessdailynews.com/world-rapid-championship-live-with-carlsen-aronian-mvl-grischuk-mamedyarov-etc/

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