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 +

Friday, December 18, 2009

The cause of piracy in Malaysia.

There are pirates in Malaysia...lots of them. However, these pirates are not seafaring lads, with unaccountable eye patches - they are backroom boys with computer and video equipment turning out copies of software of all kinds, be it films, or computer games.

Before I went to Malaysia, I had puzzled at its reputation for pirated goods. Now, however, that I have lived in Malaysia for a while, it has become obvious to me why there is such a high rate of copyright infringement.

Last week, I went into a video store in KL and took a look at their DVDs. I was rather stunned at what I saw. The DVDs were typically priced at 149.99 RM each. To put this into perspective, the Sony DVD player that we had just bought, cost just 179 RM. So, a DVD in Malaysia is almost the price a good, branded DVD player. That struck me as appalling. I quietly left the DVD store without making any purchases.

Yesterday, I was in a computer store. I took a look for a game I had been contemplating for a while: Fallout 3. Again, I was struck by a sense of shock at the price: 189.99 RM. Again, this is much more expensive than expected and, indeed, is much more expensive than the game was, when it first came out in Singapore (where it has since become cheaper).

It is quite clear that the strongest motivation for people to buy pirated goods in Malaysia is that the genuine article is, typically, vastly overpriced. A pirated DVD costs around 8 RM (compared to 150 RM!!!). I hear that a pirated game costs about 15 RM, compared to close to 200 RM for the real thing.

Thus, it is clear that the reason piracy is common in Malaysia is that the manufacturers and distributors of software - film/games - are being too greedy. They are overpricing their goods compared to local standards, and, therefore, have made themselves entirely unaffordable to the common man. The common man therefore, seeks cheaper alternatives and, given a choice between not being able to buy something AT ALL (the original costs far too much), and buying a lower quality copy...they will ALWAYS go for the copy.

The answer to copyright infringement in Malaysia is strikingly obvious: the costs of original goods must be brought into line with the economic situation in Malaysia and must reflect what people are actually able to afford. That, to my mind, means dividing the price of DVDs and games by at least a factor of 3. Were manufacturers to do this, they wouldn't lose money, they would gain market share, as the common man started to buy original goods and prefer doing so, based on their quality (now that he could afford them).

Right now, however, original goods will sit unsold, and copies will sell quickly...because simple economics says that people in Malaysia have no other choice, realistically speaking. Almost no-one in Malaysia can afford these goods at the manufacturer's asking price.

So, if film-makers and computer games designers really want to make money in Malaysia (and other South-East Asian countries), they MUST cut the price of goods. Otherwise, they can just forget about making significant sales here.

(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:

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 2:54 PM 


Blogger Einstein's Brain said...

Those prices are ridiculous. I do think people need to have more common sense when they price things. I do think that too many things are overpriced.
DVDs and CDs (when they were popular) don't cost much to make. There is the disc (which is cheap), the case, and the paper with artwork which are all cheap. Most of the money goes to the companies. The regular workers get paid dirt, while the people higher up get filthy rich.

Here in Korea, the new DVDs are average-priced. I do know where to get cheap copies though.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes. The prices are mad. It can easily cost 5 to 7 % of an average monthly wage to get a good computer game in its original box. That is absolutely bonkers.

I am glad to hear that prices are more moderate in Korea. I fail to understand why they are not in KL. It seems obvious to me, that the manufacturers are pricing themselves out of the market - it doesn't make any marketing sense at all. They must have more greed than wisdom.

Yes. You are right. Essentially a DVD or a computer game is VERY cheap to embody in a purchasable form. The manufacturer could price it at any cost at is purely a marketing decision and not one driven by the basic cost of making the product. Bizarrely, however, in Malaysia, the common decision is to make all kinds of software completely beyond the pocket of all but the rich. Maybe the average person is not meant to watch films or play games...

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to bo honest that game costs more in the uk than in malaysia ( around 40 pounds)
if you dont mind my asking would you consider yourself a lower middle or upper class Singaporean family based on wealth?

4:31 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

No it doesn't cost more in the UK. You have not considered local salaries at all. In a Malaysian context that game is around 6.33 % of a typical local gross monthly salary. I am interpreting the prices in terms of local earning power. You are not.

By the way that means it costs TWO DAYS work to pay for the game, in Malaysia. How much is 40 pounds, however, for a UK citizen?

According to the BBC, here:

The typical gross mean salary of a UK citizen in full time work is 31,323 pounds a year. That is 85.81 pounds per day. At this rate it is going to take less than HALF a working day to pay for that game, in the UK...or about 3 hours, 43 minutes. That is over four times less than it costs in Malaysia, in terms of work expended to be able to buy it.

Thus, you can see that games in Malaysia are actually overpriced by a factor of FOUR compared to the UK. (I had estimated a factor three in my article, because that would have brought them into the affordable range for a typical Malaysian.)

Perhaps you have not lived in other countries. You must always take into account the nature of the local economy to determine whether prices are fair or not. In Malaysian terms computer games and DVDs of films are completely unaffordable. To put it into perspective, if I scale it for British eyes, using your figure of 40 pounds, that game would have to cost 171 pounds sixty seven pence, in the UK, were it to bear the same relationship to typical earnings, in Malaysia.

I think you would find that if games were approaching 200 pounds a game, in the UK, that a lot fewer people would think them a reasonable purchase. The average person wouldn't buy them anymore.

Re. wealth: that is a personal question...and I am not in Singapore anymore.

4:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Valentine,

Have you quit Singapore? What are your reasons for doing so? And what are your reasons for choosing your new home, wherever that is?


2:10 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes. I have given up on Singapore. It was simply too hard to get the educational establishment to provide what was necessary for Ainan: so much unwillingness, so many excuses, it was all "we lack resources" and "if we do it for him, they will all want it"...frankly after three years of it, we got really tired of dealing with them.

Oddly, we found every other country we contacted much more willing to provide what Ainan needed, than Singapore is. How funny...and he was born a Singaporean. What a great nation it must be to be so supportive of its promising youth. We shall bear their "enthusiastic" response in mind for the future...or should I say their remarkable lack of a coherent response. The GEP for instance, was a waste of time: so much bureaucracy, so much monitoring of Ainan and so little actual provision. What a useless programme. They can't deal with even one out of the norm case.

We gave Singapore almost a decade of our time. We tried very hard to make things work in Singapore...but you know what, Singapore doesn't want things to work out. They opposed our initiatives at various times and withdrew support just when it was most needed...but you know what: it is OK because there is a wider more welcoming world beyond Singapore.

We chose KL, for various reasons that we are not going to discuss now. Needless to say, we have found Malaysia much more flexible and willing to help, than Singapore has ever been. Singaporeans should really reflect on that.

I think, however, that if Ainan had been a PRC student recruit, everything would have been very different for him. His particular burden was to be a half MALAY Singaporean...I think that says it all.

No one can fault us for not trying, in Singapore: we gave the country almost a decade of our time and effort. But we finally realized that our lives would be much easier elsewhere. So we left.

Thanks for asking. I wish you well wherever you are.

The thing to realize about this is that Singapore doesn't really care about its homegrown doesn't really see the value in them. So, homegrown talent should really not waste their time and should get up and leave. The wider world will be far more welcoming. Good luck all.

7:09 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Other little things didn't help encourage us to when the New Paper printed a lot of inaccuracies...or should I say outright make the GEP look good and us look bad. Had they actually printed the truth, there would have beem quite a lot of public disgust concerning the GEP and its conduct. But you know, the establishment values its propaganda far more than it does retaining its promising citizens. So, they twisted the story right around and put us in a bad light.

Well, you know there is a simple answer to that...and we have answered it.

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Valentine,

Thank you for your reply.

I wonder though, if your troubles with the GEP could be attributed to the phenomenon of lower- or middle-level bureaucrats who are unable or unwilling to accommodate Ainan precisely because of where they stand in the organisation. Perhaps you can tell me.

Also, can your readers expect a socio-political critique of Malaysia now that you are living there? It would be interesting to see what you make of Malaysian society.


2:12 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi there,

I am not sure why the GEP was so ineffective - other than to note that it was a deliberate act for them to be so. I think that, at all times, they were concerned about what other parents of gifted children would think: that if they did anything special for Ainan then other parents would want something special, too. However, their position was rather bizarre since Singapore did not have any other six year olds in need of a Chemistry lab to pursue their interests! It was really quite silly.

Then again, I really think, in Singapore, that race is an issue. I have observed, on many occasions, what is parsimioniously explained as racism towards Ainan from various sectors. The media, for instance, has behaved very strangely on occasions (like the ST not covering Ainan, then finding a distracting Chinese story somewhere in the world...or putting a distracting Chinese story on the front page of the achievements of a 14 year old boy on the FRONT page - and Ainan's record in becoming the youngest person in the world to pass an O level at 7 was buried in the middle of the paper, beneath a large article on the same 14 year old...that is racism, in news priorities.). There are many examples of such behaviour.

After our dealings with the GEP we were left with the impression that they were actually actively trying to stall Ainan. I have no idea why they would wish to do that. I have some ideas though that I am not going to write here - built around his race.

re. socio-political critique of Malaysia. Hmm...from what I have seen so far, Malaysia is far more complex than Singapore, socio-politically. I am not yet in a position to understand what is going on here. I think it will be some time before I understand enough to voice my thoughts on the place. Then, again, if I am not wrong Malaysia has arrested bloggers in the past, for being a bit too frank in their commentary. So, that is another issue to bear in mind.

So far, though, I think Malaysia is more open and flexible, for our purposes - and more appreciative of Ainan, than Singapore was. In Malaysia, Ainan is a high level concern (I won't say more) - but there is definite interest in ensuring he can develop here. That was not the case in Singapore.

For me, I found Singapore's approach to Ainan puzzling, for he is so much more than they seem to realize he is. Indeed, we can say: "Let's watch this space"...for the years to come. Ainan is not just a precocious kid, he is much, much more than that. I know this. They don't.

In the end, it will be quite funny to watch Singapore wake up to what it has overlooked and failed to support. They have lost precisely what they always say they are looking for.

Best wishes to you.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

re. socio-political commentary.

I shall comment on Malaysian issues that I understand. The nature of society here is more opaque than in Singapore (partly because social status is a more complex issue here...this is a less one dimensional society than Singapore).

So, yes, I will comment on socio-political issues, but I will do so with the reservation that I will only do so when I think I understand enough of what I write of. That may take quite some time, in some areas. You have to remember I spent eight years in Singapore and had a lot of time to come to see what was happening. I have had less than one month in Malaysia. I am still learning the nature of the place.

Yet, I do feel a few blogs coming on, over what I have observed recently...

Thanks for asking.

2:29 PM  

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