The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The most inconvenient taxi service in the world.

Is Singapore's now the most inconvenient taxi service in the world?

It seems to be getting that way. Last night, for instance, my wife and I took a cab into town on a night out. The strange thing about the journey is that the driver refused to alight where we wanted him to. He wanted to drive on, to another place, to "park at the taxi rank".

As he explained to us, taxi passengers, in Singapore, no longer have the freedom to alight where they please. Taxis may only stop at designated taxi stands - or at "buildings with driveways". The result of this bizarre new ruling applies to pick ups, as well. No longer do passengers in Singapore's central areas, have the right to flag a taxi. A taxi may only be taken from designated taxi stands - or the fabled buildings with driveways.

This creates a very inconvenient situation. A cab may no longer be caught from where one pleases, nor may it alight where one pleases: both aspects of the journey are now controlled and restricted.

Let us consider, for a moment what this means. The essential nature of a taxi service, in all other countries of the world, bar none, is that it will take you from wherever you like, to wherever you like. Not so, however, in Singapore. The possible points of departure and arrival are now strictly limited. In effect, the limitless convenience of taking a taxi has been reduced to a car service between "stations" - the taxi stands and driveways of public buildings. Thus the taxi service now operates just like a train service. With it goes all the convenience this mode of transport once had in Singapore.

The taxi stands are not innumerable. They are apparently, up to 300 metres away from any given point in town. Then there is another factor: you have to know where they are, to be able to take a cab from them - and many people, particularly visitors to Singapore, won't know. Thus, a typical journey to or from town, in Singapore may, given the 300 metre figure from the Straits Times, some months back, involve a walk of a third of a kilometre at both ends of the journey.

As someone who grew up in a different nation, with a different ethos, I find the gradual erosion of the effectiveness and convenience of taxi services in Singapore, a bit of a puzzle. I, personally, can see no good reason for destroying a mode of transport. For taxis have now been destroyed as a mode of transport to or from the central areas of Singapore.

Perhaps it is all just a health drive to get us to walk more. For now, you will have to walk quite a way to catch a cab - and then walk quite a way from your point of alighting, to get to your actual destination. Alternatively, you could now use the equivalent modes of transport that also use "stations": trains or buses - for they are now exactly the same as taxis in terms of style of operation - if not in price.

So, if you ever visit Singapore, remember this: you are not allowed to flag a taxi in a central area. You now know this. However, one has to wonder: how many tourists in Singapore would intuitively know that they have no right to flag a cab? There will be a lot of puzzled tourists, in time to come, wondering why taxi drivers refuse to pick them up, when they flag.

What a strange nation this is.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and seven months, and Tiarnan, two years exactly, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:05 PM 


Blogger Xtrocious said...

This is a typical case of civil servants making decisions or polices from the top of their ivory towers...

They have lost touch with the ground...

Either they have not given any thought to the implication of their actions or worse, they simply do not care...

For them, they have solved their problem, the side-effects are someone else's problem...

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Joe T said...

This is like what we called "decison by numbers".

Every problem, in the civil servant's mind, can be simulated by some number crunching algorithms. The solutions of our national problems are the outcomes of these complicated algorithms. It is just true or false, no in-between, no maybe.

And who will be suffering from this kind of decision making processes?


4:21 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Joe sounds really strange to me to let an algorithm and an algorithm alone to do the thinking for a SOCIAL problem. To me, that means that those who make such decisions have suspended their thinking powers and deferred to a formula. However, the answer is not in the is on the streets of Singapore where, daily, people face the problem of how to get around the city. That problem has recently become a whole lot more problematic. This is becoming a difficult city to travel in.

If it becomes too difficult and too inconvenient of course, it will discourage people from living and working here...

4:33 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, Xtrocious, I, too, have noticed the apparent disconnection between those who decide and those who suffer the decisions. There seems to be no appreciation or understanding of what life is really like for the people on the ground.

Perhaps, as you say, they know, but don't care. That would be worse of course.

I can't believe how difficult transport is becoming in Singapore.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Joe T said...


It is strange. Of course, it is not the algorithm alone that makes the final decision.

These are my personal opinions and observations.

As we know that in the government services, almost everything are attached with KPIs. Decision making civil servants need to ensure that their decisions are able to meet their KPIs.

If decisions are just a simple YES or NO to do something and screwed up, they will definitely get the shit.

If their decisions are supported by numerical calculations, then these civil servants will say that the calculations cannot be wrong. These civil servants will say that they are not entirely blamed for them. Of course, there may be faults in this methodology of decision making.

It is almost like the government is fire fighting problems at micro levels on a daily basis.

Well, let's see how long these chaos will last.

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, was that a random occurence or a recent trend? So far I've not encountered such a situation in Singapore, apart from the usual taxi problems.

My friends and I tried to flag down a taxi in Rome before, but none stopped. After learning that taxis had to be booked, we called the hotline. Getting through to the operator and telling her our location and destination took a full 10 minutes. And as if that were not enough, we had to wait further while she went to check for available taxis!

We gave up and dragged our luggage to the train station instead.

11:58 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear Anonymous,

Clearly you have neither been taking taxis to or from the central areas, recently - nor been reading the newspapers. It is not a random occurrence, but a new regulation that affects all taxi journeys to and from central areas.

I find it telling that to get comparably bad taxi service you have to compare Singapore to Rome. Italy is actually famed for being a society on the verge of a breakdown: nothing works. It is fit to collapse. Things are pretty bad in Singapore if you have to seek Rome for a comparison.

Singapore is actually the proud holder of the world title for inconvenient, expensive, ignorant, clueless taxi drivers and service. Quite simply, the recent changes to the Singaporean taxi service (price rises and rule changes) make it among the world's worst. Congratulations to the powers that be.

10:49 AM  

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