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 +

Monday, March 03, 2008

Why not do something new?

There is a giant new outline on Singapore's horizons: the "Singapore Flyer".

For those who do not know, this is Singapore's version of the "London Eye" - the famous adaptation of a ferris wheel, that peers above the London skyline.

As is the way of such things, the Singapore Flyer is bigger and better than what has gone before. It cost more, for a start - at a not inconsiderable $240 million. So, in the realm of cost alone, we have innovation. Then there is the size of the carriages: about as large as a bus, carrying 28 passengers each. A vibration free trip is promised to all, allowing passengers to view Singapore from a vantage of 165m high.

Now, all of that seems wonderful enough yet, when I look at the Singapore Flyer, I find myself able to see one thing very clearly: derivativeness. The Singapore Flyer may be a new construction, but it is not a new idea. It is an imitation of the London Eye - taller, yes, by 30 m, but still very much an imitation of the London Eye.

I understand that it was constructed as a tourist attraction, that it promises to give visitors a "unique experience". The only trouble is, the experience is not unique. London Eye look-a-likes are popping up everywhere these days, promoted not by the original firm that made the London Eye - but by a Japanese company that made the Singapore Flyer.

I see nothing worthy in imitation, however impressive the imitation might be. I see the Singapore Flyer as an example of a culture that has an inability to contribute its own iconic structures. Would it not have been better to have done something new with that $240 million? Would it not have been better for Singapore to have built something that no other nation has - instead of building a "me-too" structure?

It tires me to watch the endless derivations I see around me. What really lightens the heart is to see something new, something original, something that has a voice of its own. Sadly, in Singapore, today, what we see, more commonly, is grand derivation. By this I mean that the derivations are on a grand scale. This is, I suppose, an effort to give the derivations worth and meaning - but it doesn't change the essential fact that what we are seeing is something from elsewhere, an imported, repeated, derived idea.

Singapore aspires to be a great city, a great nation, a "first class city". It certainly has the resources to be so. It has the means to achieve this goal. Yet, it has overlooked something. The true first class cities of the world are like only themselves. They are first class partly because they have their own style, their own voice, their own character. A city cannot, I feel, become first class through imitation. First class status comes from leading in one's own way. First class cities are cities that others aspire to be like: they are not cities that are themselves aspiring to be like others.

If Singapore is truly ever going to be the first class city it aspires to be - a Paris, a London, a New York, it must first find its own voice. Singapore must be first class in its own way - and not just an echo of somewhere else.

To be an echo, is to be second - and first class places are never second.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:08 PM 


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