Solving The Port Elizabeth School Tragedy


The school tragedy in Port Elizabeth is the latest episode in the ongoing Eastern Cape education disaster. Recently public intellectual, Professor Jonathan Jansen, wrote about the school tragedy in Port Elizabeth’s northern areas. Read his original column here: The real education calamity. He asks “why is there no public outcry about the fact that since the school year started more than 50 schools had not started classes?

A friend sent me the article via Facebook. My first reaction was anger and blame and I want to share it with you below:

RT: Yes, this is a fact in the northern areas (Coloured townships) of Port Elizabeth. Now what is Dr Jonathan Jansen doing about it besides writing newspaper columns that he gets paid to write every week? [I am referring to all journalists who offer grand solutions from the comfort of their laptops].

AQ: I don’t know him or his responsibilities/capacity to do anything, but it’s not just about him tho. This eventually becomes everyone’s problem. Poorly educated children become ignorant and frustrated adults

RT: My point is this is common knowledge in Port Elizabeth area. And the parents are fighting SADTU union [and the MEC for Education, Mandla Makupula] which is virtually impossible to defeat.

Jonathan Jansen always writes these kinds of articles, and it’s easy to write about the problems and much more difficult to do something. HE, being a respected “Coloured” leader has been to Port Elizabeth (and Uitenhage) before, and can easily organise public meetings to mediate this conflict.

The MEC in Education in the Eastern Cape is useless as you know, so people like him with authority must can step off his high horse and engage more directly.

AQ: Why isn’t he being challenged on it then

RT: I am challenging you for believing everything he is writing.

AQ: Why haven’t you challenged him

RT: I have. He blocked me on Twitter when I asked him difficult questions. We have also spoken at the same conference at St Stitians College in Johannesburg in 2011.

AQ: My view is we are all responsible for the resolution of these problems part of that responsibility is consciousness and awareness. In this particular case I’m too far removed from the Port Elizabeth social discourse to engage meaningfully, however such situations grate me wherever they are. So my responsibility is to firstly be conscious of what is happening and in that regard I’m limited to what is available online and interacting with people like yourself, fortunately/unfortunately I cannot always judge character/political alignment and have to take the articles at face value, bottom line I feel it’s my responsibility to understand that there is a problem, extent of the problem and in my way and spaces contribute to its containment and hopefully resolution

AQ: I think we sometimes put people on pedals of responsibility when we know that they either lack the capacity or will (moral or otherwise) to be there

School tragedy in Port Elizabeth turned to violence
WHEELS COME OFF: Residents of Arcadia in Port Elizabeth have been blockading roads with burning tyres in ongoing protest action demanding more teachers for the 50 local schools. The stand-off with government has meant no schooling in the northern parts of the city so far this year Image by: EUGENE COETZEE

RT: Sure. I fact I am challenging you (to question the Prof. Jonathan Jansen’s responsibility) because you sent me the news story without any context or opinion.

— end of Facebook Inbox discussion —

Mandla Makupula MEC for Education in Eastern CapeThere was some flaws in my argument. Teachers are not fighting teachers union SADTU, they are both fighting the provincial Eastern Cape MEC of Education, Mandla Makupula. The school tragedy in Port Elizabeth is exacerbated by the gang and drug problem similar to that on the Cape Flats.

And after re-reading the original column, Professor Jansen does indeed offer some good practical advice:

  1. Activists must use social media to o signal for public attention flashpoints around the country where children are being denied education.
  2. Responsible media needs to draw attention to these hot spots with, say, a running front-page spot carrying a reverse count-down message like “#32 days still without education in Port Elizabeth’s northern suburbs”.
  3. Similar public notices can be carried for “Schools still without textbooks” or more pointedly “School X still without principal after three months.”

After all, I want to put his suggestions into practise. This is the type of challenge I thrive on.

Critisism of Professor Jonathan Jansen:

Government and The School Tragedy in Port Elizabeth

Eastern Cape’s MEC for Education Mandla Makupula unsuccessly tried to solve this teacher shortage problem in Port Elizabeth in 2015. This seems to have reached a stale mate.

Grow Your Business in Year of Fire Monkey


China’s economy is slowing down. Financial reports raise concerns that for 5 consecutive months the manufacturing sector shrunk in December 2015. On the other hand the Chinese government has just committed $60 billion to Africa after the FOCAC summit in 2015. State owned enterprises (SOE) companies continue to benefit from high level government introductions. President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang meet with their counterparts and usually sign billions of USD worth of trade agreements and more and more loans are signed.

How does this benefit the small to medium enterprises (SME) company in China? How does it help the family business in Asia to grow and prosper? What is the tangible benefit of the New Silk Road or “One Belt, One Road” initiative for entrepreneurs?

China One Belt, One Road infographic
INFOGRAPHIC One Belt, One Road. Sources: Mercator Institute for China Studies (Merics), IMF, World Bank, International Monetary Institute, Renmin University of China, Rhodium Group, HSBC, Daiwa Capital Markets, Geography Cement,

None. There is no direct, tangible benefit gained from these unless you are a State-owned in China because these companies are first to be included in the planning and execution of such major projects.

The Monkey year begins on February 8, 2016. Chinese New Year’s Eve is the second new Moon after Winter Solstice.

The Way of the Monkey

2016 Fire Monkey YearThe year of the Monkey is ideal for 10x growth in sales for small businesses in China and Africa. This is the time to shake things up, create change, and innovate a new path. The Monkey’s enthusiast energy allows him to take bold risks that are rewarded and anything can happen. Even the most ambitious plans can succeed this year. There will be more than enough action and opportunity to keep your team busy. In the Monkey year, it’s okay to just make it up as you go along. Just don’t be gullible and trust the wrong people, or wily Monkey will take all the peanuts and leave you only shells.

Since 2013 I interviewed about 50 Chinese business owners in Ningbo, Hangzhou and Shanghai about their customers, their growth and their goals. Most of them are focussed on this business model developed over the last 10-20 years:

  1. Manufacture products
  2. Export them to the US and Europe
  3. Rely on Alibaba and similar “Made in China” B2B websites for new sales

New emerging shifts are taking place

  1. OEM manufacturers are starting to create their own brands
  2. Some are looking towards BRICs countries like Brazil and all Russian-speaking countries, which include Central Asia, which is in the direct path of the new Silk Road.
  3. Some are looking to import products for the growing domestic consumption

Even with all the turmoil of the Shanghai stock market in 2015, the domestic consumer market is indeed growing if we are to believe Alibaba founder, Jack Ma. At the FutureChina Forum in Singapore, former Worldbank Chief economist, Justin Yify Lin, said it’s necessary for China to move from investment led growth to consumption led growth.

The African Opportunity

According to Bloomberg the free-trade agreement that was signed in June 2015 between the East African Communities (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the South African Development Community (SADC) offers market access to 600 million consumers.

Kenya’s impressive technological and scientific achievements recently attracted significant investments from venture capitalists and some of the world’s leading multinational corporations, including Google, IBM, Facebook, Chase Bank and General Electric. In the past three years, General Electric’s revenue from Africa doubled to more than $3 billion.

Among the fastest growing economies worldwide in 2015 were Kenya and Nigeria. Even though South Africa continues to be on the brink of recession, it remains the first choice for Chinese companies to set-up their African operations.

BRICS Sales Workshop for Chinese Company in Guangdong, China

Recently I conducted an impromptu workshop with DongGuan RiKang Industrial, a manufacturer of plastic packaging machinery between Shenzhen and Guangzhou. The sales team is almost entirely made up of graduates, and so I decided to introduce the BRICS countries as a sales pipeline outside North America/Europe. In the end I focussed on introducing the high growth countries in East and Southern Africa, as well as using LinkedIn as a tool to do sales prospecting.

Sales Workshop for Chinese Company to expand in South Africa

This seminar is available to any Chinese company in English and Mandarin.

In South Africa University #FeesMustFall


This is a letter written by my Computer Science lecturer, Craig Reynolds. He was an academic for most of the time that I knew him and at some point moved into the business world, first working for Sun Microsystems and later Oracle Corporation in Dubai. He also graciously wrote a recommendation, which helped me to receive a full scholarship from the Chinese government for my MBA degree.

You were surprised at my views on supporting the student protest, especially as I’m an ex-academic and solicited further explanation. Here goes:

I am of the option that education (at all levels) should be heavily subsidised by government. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that education, including tertiary, should be free.

Yes, free!

An educated society is a strong society and this is particularly true for societies with high levels of educated women (but that is a discussion for another day.)

For the good of society as a whole I don’t understand why capable people should be excluded simply because they are not able to pay. The whole point of education is to lift those people from poverty, not so? Likewise I don’t understand why you should spend years recovering from debt which has been forced upon you in order to educate yourself.

So, I agree with the students that there should be no fee increases, I’d say they need to take it further and demand no fees at all.

But they are protesting to the wrong people, it is not the universities that are at fault. In my view it is the South African government, and in particular the ANC, that is the guilty party. They have stolen, squandered and mismanaged the country’s resources for their own gain and so have not provided the universities with appropriate funding, hence the universities have not choice but to raise fees to keep the the lights on.

The protesters should be barricading Luthuli House and Parliament. They should be demanding explanations from Blade Nzimande, not vice-chancellors. They should be preventing ANC members-of-parliament from leaving/entering, not their fellow students and their lecturers.

The fact that SASCO leaders are wearing ANC colours when it’s the fault of the ANC that the fees are a) very high and b) increasing says one of the following: The students don’t understand that universities are reliant on government for funding, or they are being orchestrated to target university management, probably because they are white and so an easy target.

In addition, I am deeply suspicious that this is being orchestrated by the ANC itself to direct attention away from their own failings. I’m also wondering if this isn’t part of of the wider ANC/SACP strategy (going back to 1976) to keep supporters out of education to ensure that the population remains uneducated. An uneducated populace is easily controlled, educated people ask too many uncomfortable questions. This is a typical communist strategy and I would not be surprised to find Cronin & Nzimande, die hard communist dinosaurs, at the bottom of it all. If so, I hope it bites them in the ass.

So, in short: I support the protests. I don’t support the violence. The protesters are protesting to and about the wrong people.

Grow Your Confidence with Toastmasters in Ningbo


This is an my first column published in Ningbo Focus magazine.

Madam Toastmaster, Ladies and Gentlemen…”, is how many speeches start at a Toastmasters club meeting. Two years ago when I arrived in Ningbo there was only one club with 5 guests. In 2015 there are five Toastmasters clubs, who meet regularly, from Book City to Ningbo University to University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Members deliver speeches to enhance their Communication. They take roles in the club e.g. president, treasurer, or meeting roles like Timer or Ah-Counter, to enhance their Leadership skills. Worldwide there are over 14,000 clubs and in China the rate of growth has been tremendous since launching in 1999.

Chuck Tidiane Ndiaye Toastmaster in NingboNingbo is a prime example of this growth with over 100 people who regularly attend meetings. Some clubs focus on Chinese Mandarin, some are English only, and many are bilingual. So why do people join Toastmasters in Ningbo besides the obvious learning environment?

What we learn in Toastmasters is really useful in our life. With all the presentation and communication skills I’ve learned in Toastmasters, I managed to enter one of the largest private companies in Ningbo and then start my own business. Toastmasters has helped me find my passion.” says Weiwei Yang, former president of Ningbo #1 Toastmasters club.

Many of my Chinese friends are not from Ningbo or Zhejiang. Some like Nina are from Hunan, and others like Lillian are from Gansu province in the north West of China. Toastmasters allows them to make high quality friends, sometimes with foreigners like me. The members of the clubs are all interested in personal development, they are confident and lead by example.

In fact the most popular phrase we use is “learn by doing” and every activity in a Toastmasters meeting reminds you of this. It’s a safe place where you can make mistakes and correct them easily. There are no teachers and everyone may provide some form of feedback either verbal, on the stage, or in a written form. The agenda for the meetings are followed closely because “time” is one of the most important values in our meetings. By being on time, it shows respect to your audience.

Ningbo University Toastmasters club China District 85It turns out Toastmasters helped me to reduce my culture shock after moving to China. The people I’ve met have become my best friends. The activities are always fun and my confidence around Chinese people has improved tremendously. The value of this group increases over time.

To join one of the next meetings, simple email add me on Wechat: rjthomas

Cyber Infidelity – The New Seduction


Online dating is one of those things that the Internet was made for: People trying to meet people for love and sex in the supposed privacy of their homes. Cyber Infidelity is a book by Dr Eve, who’s real name is Dr Marlene Wasserman based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s South Africa’s answer to the American Dr Laura, and is known for her regular radio talk shows.

We first met when I conducted my second survey about online dating and online sexuality in 2006.

Recently she sent me a copy of her book, Cyber Infidelity ISBN 978-0798171182. It’s my pleasure to review this book.

Cyber Infidelity the New Seduction by Dr EveCyber Infidelity is very readable, perhaps because of the topic of infidelity which usually sparks curiosity across the gender lines. It’s also a good read because of the personal stories it contains, which provide deep insight into the motivations why people choose to find lovers and sexual partners online in this day and age.

The first three chapters lay a very good base for modern relationships. The Internet has transformed the way we conduct ourselves not only in business but also in the most intimate spaces of our bedrooms. As a couples therapist, Dr Eve shares insights into the rapid changes in behaviour.

Chapter 5 describes the triple A engine: affordable, anonymous, accessible. This is the pivotal factors differentiating online infidelity from offline infidelity. You can say it’s the difference between cheating before the Internet and after the Internet and mobile phones became so easily accessible.

Sometimes it feels like Dr Eve is encouraging the infidelity. On page 169 she reveals a shocking statistic: over 75% of relationships that begin through an affair end in divorce. The chapter on porn habits is eye-opening. A few surprises may be learned from the porn watching habits of women, which is not commonly discussed as the stigma sees porn as the problem of (lonely) men.

The stories in this book reminds me of those I first read in Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden. They are at once confessions, revelations and sometimes sad. They show what’s missing from the relationships and why the myth of “settling down” is so unsatisfactory.

The topic of infidelity raises curiosity our own personal natures. To what extent are we still living in a monogamous society with the rise of the Internet, social media and mobile phones?

Dr Eve aka Marlene Wasserman in her Cape Town office as a sex therapistOne of my favourite aphorisms in this book is that “shame and blame are the twin sisters of guilt.” The Ashley Madison website is where the author collected much of her first hand accounts of cyber infidelity. The customers of this website are not ashamed to share their innermost fantasies. So do you blame them for choosing to engage in cyber infidelity, which many times does not lead to an offline meeting? [After this book was published, was hacked and some shocking facts about the female users were released.]

One of the radical facts emerging from the book, is that women are much more sexually liberated than before the rise of the Internet.

There are few surprises in in the statistics because they are all from English speaking countries. Perhaps a sequel may include comparison with China and India, which together account for probably half the Internet users in the world, and vastly different cultural norms. It would be fascinating to evaluate how the Internet has changed the sexual behaviour of these nations.

Why do we need Politicians?


This morning I woke up from a dream that almost like a nightmare. I was crying and I could not help myself because I felt the pain of hopelessness people in Eastern Cape where I was born and raised. This province usually ranks as poorest in GDP, worst in public schooling and endless corruption in local governments. Why do we need politicians?

Recently I read a story on social media that got my blood boiling.

Politicians in local governments want an increase to R1.2 million per year for their salary currently over R400,000 per year. Those on the Mayoral Committee earn about R800,000 per year. So what’s wrong with this picture? Their bloated salaries are an insult to the poor.

Imagine my father, a pensioner earning about R1,300 per month. The Marikana miners now earn over R11,000 per month. So ward councillors earn about 3 times more than mine workers. Forget about the other benefits and freebies that come with their power positions.

The arrogance of these lines and cheats are unbelievable. They make the rules by voting for laws to benefit themselves. When you outsource the leadership of your community to politicians, you get what you deserve. Are you angry yet?

Why don’t you get angry when they abuse their power? Maybe it’s because you don’t event know what the hell they are doing.

Why don’t you vote them out office in next local elections? Maybe you believe better the devil that you know than the one you don’t know.

Why do you accept the status quo? Maybe it’s because of decades of group behavior. The individual in society is truly a lost cause as Jon Rappoport so eloquently writes.

You either don’t care or don’t want to rock the boat.

Only when you become angry, will you stop others from abusing you. While you remain passive aggressive, the status will remain. A wise man once said silence is akin to acceptance.

My 10 Reasons to Study Abroad in China


There are many good reasons to obtain a degree after high school. This article is for high school students and parents who want to give their children a unique advantage in the 21st century – to study abroad in China. It’s based on my own experience after completing two degrees in South Africa and now my MBA in China since 2013. Throughout this article I will use RMB = Chinese Yuan Renminbi, the official currency of the People’s Republic of China.

The exchange rate is 1 RMB = 2 ZAR = 0.17 USD.

1. It’s Cheap

Living China is cheap compared to most places on earth. While a can of Coke is more than double in South Africa, that’s the difference in economics of scale. My MBA tuition fee is 20,000 RMB per year and in South Africa it’s at least 50,000 RMB or about ZAR 100,000 per annum.

Indian students told me it’s much cheaper to study Medicine in China because they don’t have to bribe anyone as they do in their own country. It may also be easier to get your degree due to differences in the levels of education. This always depends on the quality of your university.

Ningbo University 2013 opening ceremony
Ningbo University students receiving award from Chinese government

2. Scholarships Are Plenty

As some who received the Chinese Government Scholarship, I live a comfortable student life. This scholarship covers my tuition, text books, accommodation, medical insurance and a monthly allowance that was doubled in 2015 to 3,000 RMB per month.

Besides this comprehensive scholarship there are many offered by colleges, universities, local and provincial governments to attract more and more foreign students. The Chinese government promised to increase scholarships to African countries in 20112.

3. Learning Chinese language

To make your life easier in China it’s important to first study Chinese language full time. Since my MBA is taught in English, I only received 1-2 classes per week during the first two semesters. This is hardly enough to get by in daily life. Students with no work experience receive jobs offers constantly when they have advanced Chinese language ability like my friend Mahadi from Bangladesh.

Most scholarships will include a one year full-time Chinese language course if you request it. This means your total study for Bachelors will be 5 years i.e. one year for Chinese language, and a 4 year degree. In China there is no “Honours” degrees like in the USA, so afterwards you go directly onto Masters.

4. Understanding Chinese Culture

You can watch all the Kungfu movies ever made by Bruce Lee and Jet Li, and it won’t give you a real sense of Chinese culture. You can read about China and it will only scratch the surface of this ancient civilization. I read several translations of Tao Te Ching and other ancient texts. It gave me some appreciation for the culture.

However, it’s only when I travelled by myself around China where I experience the humility of the people from the Middle Kingdom. Each one of my Chinese friends taught me something valuable about where they come from in China.

5. Travel Cheap

The transportation system in China is beyond my wildest expectations. The local buses operate from after 5am to after 11pm in some cases. It cost only 2 RMB and drops even further to 0.6 RMB for students with a bus card. China now has the largest high speed railway network in the world.

So instead of flying you take the train, which is a first class experience and half the cost of the flight. The convenience impressed me after two years living China. Even the local taxi is relatively cheap and you can easily call a can and pay for it with your mobile phone. Traveling to nearby countries like Malaysia, Thailand and so on is cheap and easy.

6. Make New Friends

My friend Tony from Ghana has been in China about much longer. He’s a confident and funny African guy and a real ladies man. Foreigners stand out in China, and we are in short supply when it comes to making friends with Chinese. I am guessing for 100 Chinese who want to make friends there is only one of us. Sometimes it’s out of curiosity, sometimes because they want to improve English.

My best friend Terry Jiang helped me buy books online, book train tickets in the early days, given me great travel advice, and also explained some Chinese culture nuances in plain English. There are many reasons to have friends, mostly I believe it’s the fastest way to overcome your culture shock when you first arrive in China.

7. Experience Economic Growth

“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” is probably a what Chinese kids tell each other when they see a new skyscraper being built. Everywhere I’ve been from Ningbo to Nanjing to Shanghai, there is constant construction taking place. New buildings cannot be built fast enough as more Chinese people migrate from the rural areas into the cities.

Roads are upgraded and new subways built at a rate I cannot begin to describe. Infrastructure spending is how the Central government stimulates the economy. Exports continue to grow although slower than the last 20 years. Consumer spending is on the rise as the Chinese middle class becomes the biggest in the world. It took me almost six months to spot the first beggar in China.

8. Minimal Crime Rates

Walking around late at night with my smartphone in my hands, I feel safe unlike Johannesburg. Even carrying a 1000 RMB in my pocket, I do not fear being robbed in China. Yes, I avoid places I don’t know. And once I missed my train back from Shanghai to Ningbo. So I decided to go to a bar and have fun. After walking around and being propositioned by a prostitute I met some German girls and partied with them until it was time to go to train station around 5am.

Drug mules are routinely executed in China. Terrorists receive a similarly harsh and quick sentences. Several times I left something valuable and upon returning to the restaurant it was given back to me by the manager. There is a co-operation between the people and the police I am not familiar with. In South Africa it always felt like the police wants bribes and will blackmail you into submission.

9. Family Values

In African philosophy we have concept called Ubuntu – “I am, because we are…” and Nelson Mandela was a major proponent of this. In China they don’t talk about it, they actually live it. The family unit is indispensable and so is the community. Grandparents help rear children. Parents spend extraordinary amount of money and time educating children on weekends, and even during the holidays there is no rest.

When you see a father, mother and baby on an e-bike, you see a little bit of the real China. Even though divorce is increasing in China, I do believe it’s negligible compared to the West where it’s over 60% in some countries.

10. Government Without Democracy

This is the opposite of what most people in the West believe true. In my opinion Chinese people get on with living their lives instead of worrying about who to vote for every 4-5 years. They focus on what’s important to themselves and let the government get on with it’s work.

Author Martin Jacques described the relationship between the Government (State) and Chinese families as thousands of years old. And so far the best reasons why the Chinese Communist party remains in power after the spectacular failure in Russia is by Eric X. Li’s TED Talk. A famous writer visiting American once said that in democracy the people get the government they deserve.

11. Sample Asian food

This is more an honourable mention. Trying new food may or may not be important to you. However, it’s important to every Chinese person I’ve met. There is a pride in Chinese people which comes through in eating together. In China, a popular greeting is “?????” Ni Chi Le Ma. It means “have you eaten already?”

Each one of my friends from different provinces has helped me to sample their local cuisine. Much of its shockingly tasty unless you have some hang-up with pork or sea foods. Luckily for me I do eat everything and the variety is almost overwhelming. The best way to impress your new Chinese friends is to use chopsticks to eat noodles 😉

Superheroes, Superman and Synths


Gemma Chan Humans Robot SynthRecently I’ve been watching a new TV series from the UK, Humans. It shows an all too familiar future where robots (or Synths as they’re called in this show) are meant to aid humans in their daily lives with mundane tasks. Far away is the future predicted by Blade Runner, et al where AI robots are doing the dangerous jobs humans cannot do in outer space.

Where does this leave us? Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep? I don’t know but it seems the the Overlords of our Entertainment industry certainly believe we are incapable of helping ourselves.

We live in a world that’s dominated by superhero stories. They are the modern incarnations of the ancient gods from myths and legends. They have powers beyond normal human being and sometimes they have some character flaws, usually those who are more human.

You cannot look at any cinema and not see a new action-packed story about some superhero you’ve never heard of before. For example, who’s ever heard of Ant-Man besides some geeks or nerds who actually read comic books? This year we will see the Batman vs Superman and other stories regurgitated from Hollywood.

Every year that goes by there seems to be less and less original stories. Every story is now being told in trilogies. So how can we relate to these superheroes? So much of these stories seem to be mindless action and special effects. There seems very little morality as compared to the legends of Zeus or Hercules. In the multi-verses created by the story tellers with time travel and other gimmicks the stories become so difficult to comprehend let alone relate to other people.

The shared experience is after all how you hypnotize a whole planet. What bothers me is the question of humanity. Superman is the all-powerful alien boy who landed on Earth, and supposedly due to his small-town upbringing in middle America, doesn’t become a tyrant who wants to subjugate all of humanity to his whim. Yes, for every Superman there must be a Lex Luthor.

A reflection on human nature and its maybe superhero stories are supposed to be the antidote to our biggest weakness as humans: fear, greed, etc. Superheroes are above such humanity, even Batman who is in fact just a very smart and rich man, dressed up in a costume.

So do we really seek saviours from other planets or our own? When do we learn to save ourselves from the learned helplessness? The story of Prometheus Revealed as told by Jon Rappoport had a profound impact on my thinking about gods, saviours and superheroes.

Inside of every human being is an unlimited imagination. Consciousness has no boundaries and is not centred inside our brains. The vast majority of history shows a clear determination of the elites who rule on our behalf working towards a control, a limitation on the unbounded imagination.


Linkedin LIONs no longer Roar


It’s about 10 years since I first joined LinkedIn, the social network for business professionals. Over the years it’s grown in leaps and bounds to over 350 million users. Not surprisingly LinkedIn it is not blocked in mainland China, and has a solid integration with the mobile messing app, Wechat.

LinkedIn LessonsAs one of the websites I use on a daily basis, I’ve finally had enough of increasing spam. I have only 24 hours per day to do what we need to do and reading yet another Inbox filled with clutter is not high on my values. So because of “Information Overload” it’s imperative that I cull my social media usage often.

You won’t be missing anything earth shattering if you do the same.

Back in 2006 I read an ebook on the benefits of open networking in LinkedIn. It is based on the work of Mark Granovetter, a social scientist, and his Theory of Weak Social Ties. This theory made a big impression on me, and I decided to put it onto practice in my every day life. This lead to a rapid expansion of my online connections.

My own approach led to competition with my good friend Brian Carl Brown. For several years we competed to see who had the most LinkedIn connections in South Africa. In 2015 it turns out this has become a meaningless measure.

LinkedIn, the company, is listed on the stock market. Therefore its doing everything possible to increase users and usage as one important metric for a public tech company. It automatically pulls in Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and other online contact lists. It’s constantly suggesting “people you may know” and in most cases, you can connect without their email address.

This brings me to LinkedIn LIONS. A life time ago this was the best way to quickly expand your network reach. One of the attributes of LinkedIn is that you can only see people who are 3rd level connections. So you can never search the entire database of users and you can never by found by everyone on the website, not within 3 levels. Your reach grows exponentially as you grow your first level, direct connections.

Today I removed myself from the TopLinkedIn group. LinkedIn LIONS promise to accept all invitation – this is open networking. However, this is one of the biggest sources of unsolicited requests that just fill up my Inbox. For the last 3 years I have been unable to keep up with the number of connection requests from LinkedIn.

So as it continued to grow, the value of my LinkedIn network has negatively impacted my experience. The more people I am connected with, the more spam I received.

Recently I deleted several hundred people without photos, without profile headlines. Most of us have too many online connections and profiles. A clean slate is not always possible, so the next best thing is prune your profiles regularly.

If you’re no longer connected to me, it’s probably because we’ve never met, or never had a telephone conversation. In case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night.

Chappie is not Deus Ex Machina


Chappie movie 2015Since I can remember I loved science fiction aka sci-fi stories. Maybe growing up on comic book superheroes helped. Usually Sci-Fi are stories without limits or boundaries. And yet the “science” part implies some possibility that it may happen, could happen, in some near or distance future. In recent years we’ve seen the excessive use of CGI – Computer Generated Imagery taken to a whole new level of realism.

Chappie (2015) is a new film by South African director Neill Blomkamp. Once again like District 9 it’s set in Johannesburg. Once you’re able to recruit A-list Hollywood actors like Matt Damon and Hugh Jackman to your films, you must be on your way up in Tinseltown.

Recently I watched Ex Machina, another film about Artificial Intelligence (AI). It was a very intellectual film, dark, slow, character driven. It explores the question of how we know whether a machine is intelligent or not, whether it’s conscious or not. The entire movie’s premise is based on what Computer scientists call the Turning Test.

Chappie on the other hand seems to be an action-oriented film with little character development. It relies on the genre the director is known for featuring guns and explosions. The programmer, the maker of Chappie is Deon (Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire). He is a frustrated engineer working for a military corporation, which has successful sold the South African government on using robots to police the streets of Johannesburg.

As someone who lived in Joburg for more than 10 years the setting was very familiar. However, the easy with which Chappie seems to solve the problem of consciousness leaves little to the imagination or the deep thinkers among us. The IMDB thread comparing these two AI movies released in 2015 is funny reading. All of them seem to miss the obvious elephant in the room: AI is the technocrat’s wet dream.

Technocracy can loosely be defined as ruling society by technology. Brave New World author, Aldous Huxley, a convincing argument in favour of scientific dictatorship vs military dictatorship.  Simply put

Good arguments are made for the depth and superficial nature of both movies when looking beyond the immediate settings. I do agree that punk rock band, Die Antwoord – Ninja and Yo-landi, are very irritating during key parts of the film. I don’t enjoy their music nor the genre, so they don’t impress me much as Shania Twain once said.

Chappie may have it’s flaws and yet it tries hard to generate empathy for the robot who suddenly discovers it’s consciousness, let alone it’s mother, father and creator. The plot is not conducive to exploring metaphysical questions like Ex Machina does gracefully. Different strokes for different folks.