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 +

Thursday, September 17, 2009

AIA, A*star, Nestle: cheapskates united.

What do AIA, A*star and Nestle have in common? Think hard. I would be surprised if anyone had noticed it...but you never know, perhaps someone has spotted the same thing that we have.

Think about it a moment. What have each of these organizations done? More precisely, what kind of imagery have each of these organizations used?

No wiser? Well, I will tell you: each of them has run adverts containing apparently prodigious young chemists. Now, for any of you who have been paying attention these past couple of years, that will have a familiar ring to it. Those who are regular readers of this blog will know that, in actuality, there is only one prodigious young chemist in Singapore (in fact, there is only one presently known in the world) son, Ainan. It is strange, therefore, that these three organizations should choose to "create" fictional advertisements containing the imagery of prodigious young chemists. You see, in the real world, they just aren't that fact, there is only one around at this time. What they are doing, therefore, is stealing an image from the real world: Ainan in a Chemistry lab - and cloning it for an advertisement using "a generic child in a Chemistry lab". It is not clever. It is another instance of Singaporean copying, in fact. It is also dishonest on several levels. Firstly, in the real world, these prodigious young Chemists don't exist (they are extremely uncommon...); secondly, the one that does exist could have been asked to do the ads (this would have have shown integrity - but they don't have any); thirdly, they have exaggerated the situation to an absurd degree, distorting everyone's understanding of the truth of Singaporean education.

Let us look at the ads more closely. Nestle used a mixed race boy (he looked a cross between Malay and Chinese, to my eyes), in a Milo ad, placed in a Chemistry lab. He looked to be about eight years old. This came out last year and is an OBVIOUS theft of imagery from another mixed race boy - Ainan Celeste Cawley - who, in real life, was eight years old, and spending his time in a Chemistry lab. We were disgusted to see this ad for two reasons: firstly, it had stolen Ainan's life story and used it to sell Milo (something he would never drink, for reasons which should be obvious to anyone who knows anything about what is good to drink); secondly, other companies such as Brand's Essences actually SPONSOR the people whose images they use (they have a long running campaign using PSLE success stories). By comparison to Brand's, therefore, Nestle look like dishonest, unscrupulous CHEAPSKATES...who utterly lack integrity.

Funny enough, I rang the Milo marketing department to complain about this use of imagery. The spokeswoman claimed that it was "creative license"...and then backtracked to claim that "no-one in our entire marketing department has ever read of Ainan and we don't have time to watch TV". I found this darkly funny. They are a marketing department. They are supposed to be kept informed about what is going on in the world - but they claim that no-one in the entire Nestle marketing team had read a newspaper in the last couple of years and that they had all missed the twenty or so articles that had appeared in various newspapers in that time. She also claimed that none of them watched Channel News Asia (he had been on that before the ads came out). So, we are supposed to believe that the marketing department is completely uninformed and so overlooked Ainan and COINCIDENTALLY created exactly the same imagery. Isn't it rather more likely that the Singaporean staff stole his image and copied it, right down to the detail of using a mixed race boy of the same age? Nestle's marketing team are either stupid and lazy (their own excuse) or dishonest, lying plagiarists (the more likely interpretation).

She then covered herself with a very funny remark. She said: "Even if we had read the articles, they made no impression on us at all."

Great. They had such a lack of impression that they ended up copying the imagery exactly. I am left to conclude that either they are a deluded bunch...or a lying bunch. Perhaps they are both.

The A*star ads ran on TV and showed two young chemists - a boy and a girl - of about seven years old, in a lab setting doing experiments. Then it showed them grown up and gave them real life names. Now, to me, this looks even more dishonest. It is saying that a prodigious childhood as chemists was the true story of these children, who are now adult researchers - and I am sure that that is not true. Were it so, we would know about it from other sources. So, this kind of lie involves REWRITING the history of its researchers to be like Ainan is. Again, this form of lying to the public distorts the truth of Singaporean education and gives the impression that Singapore is stuffed full of prodigious chemists - when it only has ever had one.

The most recent example of this tendency to steal imagery and abuse the life story of Ainan comes from AIA. They have run ads today in the Today newspaper showing three very young children - they look to be about six years old - doing chemistry lab work. Again, this is dishonest imagery. There are NO six year olds doing chemistry lab work in Singapore - not one. The only one who did so was Ainan. However, now, they have a whole bunch of them, in the image. This projects a lie about Singaporean youngsters. The copy line is "We are nurturing the world of tomorrow"...what RUBBISH! If they were, really, nurturing the world of tomorrow they would have sponsored AINAN for the ad and not stolen his imagery to use with other kids. AIA is not supporting anything but AIA - and the lie that Singapore's education has somehow achieved world supremacy.

What this use of a type of image which became current in Singapore before any of these ads came out, when Ainan started appearing, featured in chemistry labs, doing chemistry work, at the age of 7, in national and international newspapers, shows is that AIA, Nestle and A*star lack integrity in their marketing. It also shows that they are not above reworking the life story of a Singaporean child to make marketing copy for themselves. The images used are true of only one child in Singapore - Ainan - yet none of these organizations contacted us. They could have done so and could have sponsored Ainan. Now, this is a very serious point. HAD they used Ainan for the images, then the images would have been TRUE. They would have shown the truth to the world. Instead, they preferred to lie to the world. It was easily within reach of them to have adverts that had been made with integrity and that had not abused anyone. However, they preferred images which were lies, instead of the truth they were based on.

In more honest countries, with more honest organizations, Ainan would have been sponsored by these organizations to do the ads. That would have been the fair thing to do. As it is, however, they chose to steal his image, and use it to advertise their products, without credit to him, using child models in his place. Presumably, these cheapskates thought it cheaper to steal his image and make a fake "reality" than to use a real person and have to pay a sponsorship fee. Ultimately, however, they have, to my mind, damaged their image, by demonstrating that they value a few dollars more than they do the truth. They would rather lie cheaply...than to tell the truth at a fair price.

My response to this: never buy AIA products; never eat Nestle foods (including Milo)...and forget about A*star. I prefer to find companies with integrity to do business with.

What is most interesting about this is that these three organizations are all very large and very rich. They could easily have afforded to sponsor Ainan rather than steal his image. Brand's Essences are, to my knowledge, a much smaller concern...yet they are HONEST enough to directly sponsor PSLE students to appear in their campaigns. They don't MOCK UP models to LOOK LIKE the students. They do business the honest why can't the big boys do so, too? It seems that the richer they are, in Singapore, the cheaper - and more dishonest - they get.

(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.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: Thanks.

IMDB is the Internet Movie Database for film and tv professionals.If you would like to look at my IMDb listing for which another fifteen credits are to be uploaded, (which will probably take several months before they are accepted) please go to: As I write, the listing is new and brief - however, by the time you read this it might have a dozen or a score of please do take a look. My son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, also has an IMDb listing. His is found at: My wife, Syahidah Osman Cawley, has a listing as well. Hers is found at:

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication prohibited. Use Only with Permission. Thank you.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 4:47 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree. Firstly, it is really odd that they are all doing images of child prodigies in Chemistry - because prodigies in the pure sciences are almost unheard of. I, for one, have never heard of another prodigy in chemistry...although I have heard of one in Physics and plenty in maths. Chemistry doesn't seem to be something prodigies do.

Secondly, in Singapore, Ainan's image was everywhere for a couple of years: usually in a lab. So, he established that imagery in the public mind. It is quite clear to me that these companies are, like you say, trading off that imagery, rather cheaply, by using his life story as the foundation of their ads. It is pathetic, really. They should have more decency.

Anyway, I, for one, know where their ads have come from. Hopefully others will realize it too.

Keep up the blog. It is an absorbing read. There are too few bloggers of substance out there!

5:02 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for your kind words. It is good to hear that at least someone else has made the connection we made, too.

Prodigious kids are most commonly in maths. Very rarely are they in pure sciences, like you say. The only other examples of pure child scientists that I have found are, as you note, in physics. Ainan appears to be an exception in Chemistry.

I am glad you enjoy the blog.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is disgusting. In Singapore, they will steal anything...even a child's life story/reputation.

Why don't the ad people just sit down and have an IDEA OF THEIR OWN! (Answer: they are too stupid to do so.)

6:57 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re: Too stupid to have an idea.

I would say that the local education does that. Those who conform to it, end up not being able to think, AT ALL.

Thanks for your comment.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Ozob,

I am not posting your link. It is just silly. The example you give is of much older kids...they look like teenagers.

The point about the recent Singaporean ad imagery is that they are kindergarten to p2 kids...with an average of P1. No kids in Singapore actually do that, except the point is clear and the derivation is obvious.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. Rip off from the 1950s.

You COMPLETELY miss the point. All your examples (which I shan't waste my readers time by posting are of OLDER kids. They are not of a prodigious age. They are NOT therefore examples of that whereof I speak.

What is most striking and clearly derivative of Ainan's life situation is that the children in the ads in Singapore are FAR TOO YOUNG to be in a lab AT ALL. Indeed, our experience is that all of them would have had to be directly supervised by their parents and have special insurance to permit it to occur. It is a highly unnatural situation.

One set of kids in the ads I have seen in Singapore are around six years old in the images. This is clearly a reference to child prodigies in chemistry - and the only one known in Singapore (and presently currently known anywhere) is Ainan. It is, therefore, an obvious reference to him.

Would people stop trying to post links to pictures of older kids in is irrelevant material and just shows that you HAVE NOT READ OR UNDERSTOOD MY POST.

The Singapore ads are showing people not old enough to be in school doing lab experiments. (You have to be 7 to go to school in Singapore). Some of these kids are not even of school going age. This is clearly a reference to Ainan's life story. It couldn't be more obvious, since no other kid has lived the life he has - though it is clearly the life the ads are portraying.


8:22 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am going to write REALLY SLOWLY, for those who still don't understand my point. When Ainan first started tottering about with chem lab stuff, he was SIX years old - NOT nine. The images that have been portrayed in Singapore are of children as young as six, in Chemistry labs. This is, given the situation in Singapore, clearly a reference to Ainan's situation since there is no other local cultural reference it could be.

One person has said that Ainan is now nine...that is about as relevant as saying that one day he will be sixty. The point is that the first images of him in a lab were when he was SIX YEARS OLD...and it is this kind of image that is being emulated.

Re. the person who thinks I shouldn't be bothered by seems to me that you don't understand how irritating it is that companies are using elements of his life story and the local context Ainan created, to promote products he would not naturally have anything to do with. To show such images as they are showing, is to invoke in peoples' minds, all the contextual elements laid down by Ainan over the past several years. It is playing on his achievements. Ainan's story gives a backdrop meaning to their ads. If you DON'T understand this, then you don't know much about how human memory and awareness work.

I suggest some thought might remedy this. The images in Singapore are RIDICULOUS set against the true educational situation here which is that science is not taught until much older than the kids portrayed in these images. It is a lie, therefore, to show Singaporean kids in this way....for it has, to date, been only true of one kid.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see your point, in fact it is very clear...I am just surprised that you have commenters - the ones not posted - who can't. All they have to do is read what you have written and think.

If the children depicted in the ads are too young to be doing chemistry at the age they are...and your son did chemistry from six onwards, and this was publicly known, then it seems a real NO-BRAINER that it is a reference to him. Those who argue against it probably have a vested interest in disputing your view. Maybe they work with the companies you have mentioned. They are big concerns.

Anyway, Singaporeans usually argue against acknowledging anyone who has done something...they are an envious people. They just don't want to give credit where it is due.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

To the American, probably from New York, who mentioned Sho Yano:

It is sad to see how low the literacy levels of the USA have sunk. Did you even read the article above? My post is not about youngsters featured in is about featuring kids so young, in labs, that they could not even be in school yet. There is a big difference. However, it seems that you are unable to distinguish between a six year old and a ten year old.

You say Sho Yano was featured in a lab...but you know Sho Yano was TEN when he first went to the youngest he could have been featured is ten years old. It could very well have been older, in fact, depending on when the photos were taken. It is another irrelevant case. The surprise is that you even mentioned it given that in other comments I have pointed out the age discrepancy. Clearly, reading is a bit difficult for you. Perhaps you should take remedial classes.

You say that Ainan is not known in the US and seem to think that he is not known elsewhere, either, as a result. Your reasoning is very weak. Yes. Ainan is not known in the US...and frankly I couldn't care less about that. The US is not a suitable country for him to grow up in why does it matter if they don't know him? However, Ainan is VERY well known in much of Asia and Europe. This is what is important because his future lies in these two continents...not in your crime riddled own one.

In some countries, Ainan is a household name. It makes me laugh that you would think that because Americans ignore foreign talent, that the rest of the world does, too. America is a very insular, inward looking country that kind of ignores most of the rest of the world. Its news channels for instance, look remarkably ill informed...they only seem to cover American interest stories. It is no wonder then, that America does not know about Ainan...they don't know about most of the rest of the world in all respects, not just gifted children. Americans know very little about the wider world. Their media just don't make an effort to keep them informed. Or perhaps they are not interested anyway.

You know, where I come from, it is regarded as important that people express their thoughts. It is regarded as a worthwhile thing to do. Clearly, from what you say, where you come from, you would rather people kept quiet. I know which approach leads to a richer world.

I find it amusing that you comment on my nature, and worth, without knowing anything about me, much (for I have put very little out into the world, in actual fact, that speaks of my core). That you would assume to know someone half a world away, on the basis of no personal acquaintance, really says a lot about your thought processes. One of us is, therefore, less wise than the other...and I think it should be obvious who that is.

Your comment - which is completely unpostable, obviously - has been most enlightening. It has shown me just how much ignorance remains in America. My God that must be one benighted land. You have given me one more reason never to set up home there. Thanks for that.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Syahidah and Valentine said...

Another obvious point. Sho Yano is not known much outside of the USA. It is doubly irrelevant therefore that he should be mentioned, because he just isn't known, here. Therefore, he can have no influence over the media in South-East Asia. You might as well talk about your next door neighbour for all the chance it would have of making any difference to us.

For those who haven't realized by now, the American poster (unposted) was extremely rude and offensive...hence the tenor of my reply above. Not all Americans are like that.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i've saw sho yano on internet..bout two years ago,by accident.. yes, he is not well known.ermm,, sho yano is short at 10 yr old of age,his foot cant reach the floor when sit on chair,like most asian or japanese,,well, he's mix ..japanese-korean

2:23 AM  

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