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 +

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Living in an overpopulated world.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in an overpopulated world? Well, wonder no longer: just come to Singapore.

Writers are fond of warning us of overpopulation and indicating some future time at which this would have occurred. They then paint the terrors of such a time and such a condition. I find this a little puzzling since it doesn't take much experience of life, in some parts of the world, to know that overcrowding is already here.

Today, I made the mistake of going to Singaporean shopping centres on a Sunday. This innocent enough sounding activity is actually most unpleasant. The crowds and the noise were both unbearable. I seemed to have entered a competition, in which a basic challenge had been made: how many people can you squeeze into a shop at one time, without killing any of them? I could swear that every shop I entered was well on the way to being the winner. It was awful. Everywhere, I felt the press of too many others. Every sight line was blocked by a myriad people, obscuring everything beyond them, ever moving, ever jostling. Then there was the noise: so many people chattering at once, seeking to speak above those who sought to speak above them. It was a cacophony of incomprehensible sounds, for so many of them did not speak English (or nothing that I would recognize as such).

I felt the strongest need to be at home, in peace and quiet.

As I looked around, a thought nudged me every now and again: the Singaporean government wants even more people in Singapore. Already there are 4.8 million, but I understand the target to be 6.5 million. Well, on the hugely unpleasant evidence of what I experienced today I would say that Singapore has long past the point of overpopulation already. Singapore is already, in some ways, a very unpleasant place to live: you just have to go to the wrong place at the wrong time (ie. where everyone else wants to go) and you will really have a terrible time fighting your way through the crowds of people. Were there to be another 1.7 million people, as planned, Singapore would be truly unbearable: everywhere would be unbearably overcrowded ALL the time.

I would say that Singapore should have no more than 1 million people. That is all. The population of Singapore should be drastically reduced if it is to be a livable environment in the decades ahead. If the population is increased, only those who are particularly immune to living in intensely overcrowded conditions will stay here. The rest will leave for anywhere else, that offers more breathing space.

I have learnt something though. I don't intend to go to a main shopping centre, in Singapore, on the weekend again. That is the time to stay away from such places. Life is too short to spend any of it in such unpleasant situations.

I rather hope that the global population does not continue to climb - otherwise more and more places will become as densely populated as Singapore and there will be fewer and fewer refuges for the sensitive among us, from the urgent press of innumerable humanity.

It was a relief to get home.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, 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, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:16 PM 


Blogger Indiana said...

The world is overpopulated. We consume at unsustainable levels, and we keep breeding without a thought to how the world will be for those children as they grow up.

But what is the solution? How can you reduce the World's population by 75% as you suggest for Singapore? Worse thought, if you could, how would you stop it from climbing again?

6:06 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Indiana,

If Singapore stopped its policy of deliberately importing large numbers of PRCs every year, Singapore's population would already be in decline. Just letting Singapore decline naturally would soon lower its population. However, the local policy is for the population to INCREASE, with no thought, at all, to how pleasant/unpleasant this is going to be.

Time alone would reduce Singapore's population if it were allowed to do so.

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could never understand why the government would want some many more migrants to live in singapore, other than for economic reasons. I don't fully understand the qualifications one needs in order to be able to live there as a PR but I think it needs to be revamped.

The government needs to identify areas of skill-shortages and only allow those with such skills to be PR - otherwise, the competition for jobs will be overwhelming for the local people.

In all, I'm fairly disappointed at the way the government has dealt with migration - they brought in large numbers without further thoughts about potential issues like overcrowding, added further stress to the already severely stressed public transport system, social issues, housing issues etc.

7:57 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I think the ONLY thinking the government appears to have done on migration is two fold: first, keep the proportion of one race high; second increase the population base to increase the revenue base. That is it.

No thought has been given, it appears, to quality of life. No one seems to have realized that, at some point of population density NO-ONE WILL WANT TO LIVE HERE ANYMORE!

9:21 AM  
Anonymous KS said...

I'm happy that you wrote about this topic. It is something that I thought about on Sunday when in Mustafa Centre, but perhaps with slightly morbid thoughts.

If there were an emergency in any of these hugely overcrowded shopping centres, how would one get their whole family out of the shop? On a normal day people here are discourteous with use to the lift, so I can't imagine how everyone would react in an actual emergency situation where they might all have to head to the stairs.

Hopefully, we won't have to find out the answer to the above question, though.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am afraid KS, that were there an emergency in a public place, such as a fire in a shopping centre or a bombing, that many, many Singaporeans would die. You see, psychologically they are unprepared for disaster since they have been brought up in cotton wool...and secondly the insane overcrowding found in Singaporean public places at the weekend would ensure that hundreds of people would die. It would be terrible.

One can hope that it will never happen, however, with all such things it is only a matter of time before it does.

Thanks for your like minded comment.

6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that the govt is bringing in too many PRCs.
It's not that i have anything against them coming here, but i think the sheer number of them entering is frankly quite frightening. Perhaps a slower pace would be more acceptable.

While we DO need more people- for the economy, i think we are going over aboard with the increase in mainly PRCs. If the population increase were to include other nationality in greater proportions, i would be more satisfied. I certainly do not want singapore turning into little china.

Already when i was in germany just last year, my chats with the locals revealed that many thought singapore was part of china like HK. Sad but true.
We need to stay true to our roots of a country of immigrates from all over.

6:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally understand what you meant. I quit hanging out in the city / town 2-3 years back cause I couldn't stand the crowds and noise anymore. What I need after work is some peace and quiet.

It's a pity really. The only time I would drag myself to city is to attend progs at the Esplanade. Argh, how I wish the Esplanade is located at a quiet place. >.<

Anyway have you tried taking the public transport during peak hours? It's terrible! But unfortunately I've no choice since that is the way I get myself to work.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi, I use buses to get to work. Luckily, at the point I board, there are usually seats, though that is not so later on in the route. I understand that trains can be much worse at such times.

I remember that Singapore used to be quite a pleasant place, ten years ago. The population was much lower, transport wasn't overcrowded, everything was MUCH cheaper, all in all it was a much better place. Then the government decided it wanted Singapore to become Little China and started importing PRCs in droves. Now, we have overpopulation, people who can't speak English, all around, high prices on all goods and services and too, too little space to breathe. They are, essentially, ruining the country in their quest for greater revenues.

Personally, I can't help but notice that other countries have a better standard of living at a cheaper price. Singapore is now the 10th most expensive place on Earth, according to the Economist Survey. London, that famously expensive place, is 27th!

Thanks for your comment.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

London is 27th because of the pound dropping. And it likely to be a short term instead of a long term trend. You only need to look at the export oriented economy to understand why. So London will climb again... rest assured.

Re transport... yes... it's crowded... but after living here for the past 21++ years of my life... i'm used to it... I used to stand for 2hours each day on the train during my NS life as i travel back and forth.
At least the trains do not break down as frequently as london.
And when i ask my overseas friends in UK, Australia...etc, they always tell us not to complain about our public transport system.

One thing i have learnt is that in life, you have to be grateful.
Complaining and whining does no good for your soul. It is good to look on the bright side of life even when things are bad, becoz there are countless who are less fortunate than u. reminding yourself of the little blessings in life like clean water always makes you feel how privilege we are.

8:02 PM  
Blogger Syahidah and Valentine said...

Anon of 8.02pm.

I don't think you have enough of a perspective on your own society to evaluate it. I don't "whine and complain", I evaluate, analyze and understand.

If you had lived in, and visited many other countries, as I have, you would have a better understanding of quite how overcrowded Singapore is. It is the most overcrowded place I have ever visited (out of 20 or so countries and probably three or four times that number of significant cities).

I appreciate clean water. However, many places have clean water without having insanely overcrowded public spaces at the weekends. I rather appreciate such places better. So would you, if you spent time in them.

I have posted positive things about other aspects of Singapore...but overcrowding is not a positive.

Thanks for your comment.

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mayb galton was rite.. eugenics mayb is needed 4 over-population.. otherwise no other country will want the excess singaporeans. singapore is too fond of "eugenics" in education anyway so y not make it to law?

10:56 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

If by eugenics you mean controlling births, Singapore has no such need. The population would be DECREASING were it not for forced immigration. By forced immigration I mean enticing PRCs to come to Singapore, often with payment of scholarships etc. They really want mainland Chinese people here.

Were that policy of forced immigration rescinded, I think Singapore's population would begin to decline naturally. There are no "excess" Singaporeans, for Singaporeans are actually in decline, genetically. The new Singaporeans are simply Chinese people to whom passports have been given.

Thanks for your comment.

8:47 PM  
Anonymous Etch said...


I agree that if left unchecked, Singapore's population will decline eventually.This is given that Singapore's birth rate is well below the replacement level. I would gather that 'importing' people is the natural idea to counter this. Especially since Singapore depends so much on 'human resources' to survive economically.

However, I feel that that is all that the people have be treated by the gov. As resources. Like wood or copper. Put as much as u can in your inventory to make as much profit as possible. Not much has been done in addressing the additional strain this influx has created. Nor the social issues.

And i do miss the good old days before this immigration policy started.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, Etch, the only consideration of the Government appears to be the size of the economy and not the quality of life of its citizens. There are more things than becoming a "bigger" nation, that about becoming one that has an enviable quality of life?

9:26 PM  

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