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Sat 23 Jul 2005
To The Library
Category : Commentary/library.txt
Where I really want to go today is to the library.
A few years ago, they decided to tear down our historic, original, very first National Library, amid much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth. In order to provide the new in-city Singapore Management University with contiguous access to the Singapore History Museum so that they make one lush campus (will it ever be?), a roadway has to be diverted and the Library had to be sacrificed.
Whatever the merits of the decision, a new high-tech replacement was opened yesterday. And since the Library is the institution I cherish the most as a citizen of this country, this is where I want to go today - to re-establish my connection with the Place, shifted though it has been a couple of roads away.
I need to return a book that I had finished, "Trading Up", so that I can borrow "The Company of the Future". The last I check, that's still there.
Just a word about "Trading Up" before I return it. I've learnt that it's important to try to understand what makes people value what they value and are prepared to pay for. I've sat in meetings and faced countless inquisitions about why I favour wasting tax payers' money on Apple's high priced gear, why not the cheapest possible PCs, and after coming out from the battering, I see these same guys driving away in their red Honda Preludes, BMW, whatever, and I want to ask, how much is your mind worth?
And as an IT sub-contractor, don't you know that a customer would rather pay for his Merce, than spend anything more than peanuts on the IT system? The more the Mercedes costs, the better he feels, because it shows he's rich. The less he pays for an IT system the better, because it shows that he's smart about controlling his operating costs. Between these two forces, a guy trying to make a living as a software/systems developer dies a thousand deaths.
For years, Apple has suffered through these with the Macintosh. Because we don't value the mind more than we care about showing our status, Macs have been consigned to the ghetto while BMW sales rise, Steve Jobs' fruitless attempts to compare Apple with BMW be damned. Until the iPod. Which is Apple's sweetest revenge.
So it's important to understand the psychology of buying - if only to know when to get out of the way of the tsunami of people's self interests. I say this with a lot of feeling for the idealists. Even if you don't want to go with the flow, you should know enough to get out of the way. And live to fight another day. And perhaps, like Apple, learn to turn the force your way?