just another rakyat

English + 中文。Made in Malaysia 🇲🇾

Last February, OpenAI founder Sam Altman claimed that he could “imagine ways” that ChatGPT could “break capitalism”. Wow, that would be awesome. Time for us to enjoy our universal basic incomes while our robot slaves do all the tedious work for us!

Sadly, as of now, ChatGPT and other so-called “AI” tools have only helped the capitalists—like bosses who use “replacing you with AI” as a threat against workers who complain about their growing workload and low pay. In fact, I’d go as far as say that AI technology is what will keep capitalism alive (and throw the rest of us under the bus in the process).

Our bosses have been too nice. Capitalism has been too nice. It’s time to take away the goodies and make the world feudal again!

Here’s how and why this is happening.

  1. Capitalism relies on exploiting inequality to maximize profits and efficiency through cheap labor.

  2. However, capitalism also allows some people to climb the social ladder and improve their living standards. (This is, no matter how you feel about capitalism, a very real benefit but also ultimately self-defeating.)

  3. As the middle class grows, so does the rise of white-collared bullshit jobs. Many of these jobs are unnecessary or unfulfilling, but provide employment and income.

  4. There is more than enough wealth for everyone, but to maintain the illusion of meritocracy and justify the extreme wealth, career “progress” is necessary for accessing a better standard of living.

  5. You can’t just design stuff and be able to afford a house in the city, you need to progress into a managerial role.

  6. This undermines the efficiency of capitalism, which depends on cheap and abundant labor. To be more cost-efficient, factories must move from the US to China and then to South & Southeast Asia. Capitalism’s big unintentional benefit becomes self-defeating.

  7. To restore the balance, capitalism needs to eliminate white-collared jobs, undo the wealth sharing and create more inequality.

  8. The latest developments in “AI” are a tool for achieving this goal. They are designed to reduce dependence on white-collar workers, and it does to some degree of success, but...

  9. Many white-collar management class have secured their positions and status by creating an illusion of value and importance. They are good at defending their interests and privileges. Meanwhile...

  10. Artists, creators, and other cultural workers are seen as beneficiaries of the wealth and innovation generated by the technological elite, making them easy targets for resentment and blame.

  11. You can see this resentment in much of our cultural discourse. People who believe that they deserve to be elites because they have a strong opinion on text editors are gleeful that they can “liberate” art from the hands of those with a strong opinion on artistic tools.

  12. Moreover, their “ungrateful” role as critics and challengers of power and technology makes them enemies of the technological elite, who see themselves as the true creators of wealth, and convenient scapegoats for the self-important management class who are deeply insecure about their positions of privilege.

And so, here we are. Is there a way out? Perhaps Sam Altman’s “imagined ways” are feasible. Perhaps capitalism’s addiction to cheap labor exists because society is too unequal for capitalists not to exploit vulnerable human beings. Perhaps human labor should never be cheaper than robots. Perhaps we have enough resources to provide a social safety net for all. Perhaps a higher income for all means that everyone gets a better job while technology finally makes good on its promise of eliminating menial jobs and increasing productivity.

All this is theoretical, but if we never try, we’ll never know. It’s time for voters to vote for governments who are smart enough to think about hard problems like what’s next for capitalism and tackle them face-on, instead of taking the easy route of pandering to the managerial class.

Capitalism is broken, and everyone is scrambling fix it. Will the bosses fix it first, and make themselves Gods of this world, forever out-of-reach for the rest of us? Or will we fix it by shattering the illusion of meritocracy and scarcity, so that we can start working towards a more equal world for all?

The world is changing. How it’ll change is up to us.

All it takes for a society to become intolerant is for the “moderate” majority to not mind what a tiny intolerant minority demands.

If you have ever felt that

I don’t like it but it doesn’t affect me

or worse

I don’t want to look like the intolerant guy, so I’m secretly happy that the intolerant bunch is doing the dirty work of making the environment more favorable for me

Then you are part of the problem.

Plenty of digital ink has been spilled over Apple’s implementation of Stage Manager on the iPad and the Mac, and much of it has been either mixed or downright negative. While improvements have since been made and Stage Manager eventually won over some former critics, a subset of iPad power users continues to yearn for a Mac-like multitasking experience (though fundamental differences between the Mac and the iPad mean that this “simple” solution is a lot easier said than done).

Personally, I’m not exactly an iPad power user (though I use an iPad as my only “laptop”alongside my work-assigned Windows computer). Maybe that’s why I don’t care about the multitasking aspect of Stage Manager.

What I do like is when I activate Stage Manager on my 12.9-inch iPad, apps and windows aren’t confined to full-screen mode. Not every app benefits from a full-screen interface on a 12.9-inch screen, and Stage Manager permits apps like iMessage to use only as much screen estate as they need instead of being awkwardly stretched out (while still allowing full-screen for apps that benefit from generous screen estate).

But I digress.

Not your favorite manager

The point is, despite enabling Stage Manager on my iPad, I pretty much ignore the strip of recent windows on the left of my screen. I often rotate quickly between dozens of apps and windows and whatever relevant set (workspace containing multiple windows) I have been working on disappears from the strip because it only shows a few recent windows or sets at a time.

The easy solution to this, IMO, will be allowing users to pin certain sets/windows to the top of the strip, but this demands more proactive windows management from the user. There is, IMHO, a much better way.

Too many managers

My other gripe with Stage Manager is how it adds to an already messy pile of iPadOS multitasking methods that conceptually clash and result in unnecessary cognitive weight. Right now, it feels… almost as clunky as the Mac, maybe more so. The iPad is supposed to be the simple and lightweight alternative!

Yes, a casual user may just stick to full-screen mode forever and only occasionally accidentally summon Split View or Slide Over and be extremely confused. But for a iPadOS power user, every attempt at multitasking becomes a cognitively taxing moment of decision making as one figures out whether they want to type ⌘-Tab, 🌐-↑ for App Switcher, access Stage Manager’s strip, tap on the three dots on top of the current window to add another window, or just ⌘-H and tap on an app icon.

That’s… very far from ideal. I suppose that Apple is throwing everything at the wall and see what sticks, and will eliminate some of these options later on.

A modest proposal

Here’s what I think they should eliminate, and how they should consolidate whatever’s left into a relatively simple, elegant, and functional multitasking interface.

All it takes are a couple of simple design tweaks without changing anything about iPad app management!

The roaring twenty… eleven

When Apple introduced Mission Control on OS X Lion, it effectively consolidated Exposé, Dashboard, and spaces into one multitasking interface.

I’m sure not everyone loved it at first but as a whole, it was an instant improvement over the messy bunch of separate and disparate user interfaces that users had to discover on their own and choose between whenever they multitask. As John Siracusa wrote in his OS X Lion review for Ars Technica,

“As big a step down as this is from the much more flexible grid arrangement of Spaces in earlier versions of Mac OS X, the new limitations are probably a good idea. The new behavior of full-screen windows and the surprisingly natural-feeling four-finger swipes used to switch between them and enter Mission Control means that many more Mac users will likely find themselves using these new features than ever used the combination of Exposé and Spaces in earlier versions of the OS.”

One can argue that the App Switcher on iPadOS is the closest equivalent of Mission Control on the Mac: it shows all your open apps and even displays sets that you’ve set up via Stage Manager.

A more civilized age

Unlike Mission Control, though, instead of a handful of “open” apps that you can quickly choose between, the App Switcher displays an infinite scroll of app windows based on how recently you’ve used them.

This is inevitable, as apps/multitasking are handled very differently on the iPad. The user is not supposed to think about which apps are open or closed. Having the user actively manage which apps are open and which apps are not are the norm on macOS (though Apple did try to phase it out with OS X Lion and later chickened out) feels as antiquated as having to type ⌘-S to save a document’s current state. With more powerful chips, an iPad Pro could theoretically keep so many apps open in the background that all apps are technically open (I know we’re very far from that reality, but it’s the ideal that Apple appears to be working towards.)

I mostly understand why Stage Manager is designed the way it is. There are only so many ways to reconcile how iPadOS handles apps and the user’s need to have multiple windows appear on the screen at the same time. Sets are a good and obvious way to implement multi-window workspaces without throwing iPadOS’s more modern application management out of the window. With this in mind, if we try to redesign multitasking on the iPad, we’ll probably inevitably end up with something very similar to Stage Manager’s sets.

Having multiple windows open on the screen at the same time is essential for productivity, and sets is something I think any new iPad multitasking paradigm should fully embrace.

Switching things up a little

I’m also convinced that iPadOS’s App Switcher is a pretty solid foundation for our consolidated iPad multitasking design.

My main gripe with App Switcher is how unintuitive and inefficient it is to invoke it with a keyboard shortcut or through trackpad/multitouch gestures. 🌐-↑ isn’t as easy to remember and use as ⌘-Tab or ⌘-H, while a three-finger swipe up via the on-screen Home Bar or trackpad takes you back to the Home Screen instead of App Switcher, unless you pause mid-gesture which makes it a lot less efficient and a lot more time-consuming than invoking Mission Control on the Mac.

A more intuitive keyboard shortcut and a more efficient gesture might not sound like much, but it will make a big difference in making the iPad feel as efficient as the Mac. I feel that the three-finger trackpad swipe should invoke Mission Control instead of the Home Screen. Just swipe on the Home Bar or spread your fingers on the Trackpad if you want to go to the Home Screen, exactly the same was as you show the Desktop on the Mac. More efficiency, more consistency between platforms.

So now that we’ve made the App Switcher easier and more intuitive to invoke, let us try to consolidate Stage Manager into the App Switcher while making sets a whole lot more useful, shall we?

Sets are the new spaces

You know how on the Mac, Mission Control displays a horizontal row of spaces at the top? Since there’s no spaces on the iPad, I propose that we use the same horizontal strip to display sets in our new multitasking view.

After all, sets are essentially the iPad equivalent of spaces. Both are workspaces containing a set of open windows, if you think about it.

As I have explained, the current biggest issue with sets is how they are often hidden in both Stage Manager and the current App Switcher. With this new design, all existing sets that the user has created are displayed as a row above the App Switcher. Yes, this means that the user may have to scroll a bit if she created 20 sets, but if Mission Control is good enough to manage most Mac users’ number of spaces, it should be good enough to manage most iPad users’ number of sets.

So… that’s my simple (and boring) proposal! The current App Switcher remains essentially unchanged, but updated with a strip at the top to display all multi-window workspaces (sets). This way, sets are now no longer drowned out by a bunch of recent windows within the App Switcher.

Best of all, now there’s a conceptual consistency and familiarity that is portable between the Mac, the iPad, and a hypothetical future iPhone with an expandable screen.

Cleaning it all up

What about Stage Manager?

It has its advantages, like how it is always displayed on the left side of the screen when you’re within a non-fullscreen window. There’s no need to invoke it with obscure gestures or keyboard shortcuts and that might be great for less tech-savvy users. Some people apparently love it on the Mac because it simplifies windows management. Perhaps Apple should keep Stage Manager around as an option for Mac users, though I don’t care about it.

But on the iPad, it’s a visual and conceptual mess. No need for Stage Manager when you can just invoke Mission Control, I mean the App Switcher, to access all recent apps and sets. Split View & Slide Over should be dumped into a garbage bin and set on fire. No need to make the iPad more complicated than the Mac.

Back to the iPad

Heck, while I’m partial to re-branding the updated App Switcher as Mission Control for iPad, Apple can just decide to call it Stage Manager — though I’d argue that Mission Control sounds a lot more empowering as it highlights how the user stays fully in control instead of outsourcing her window management to a Stage Manager, but that’s just my copywriter brain speaking.

It is only fitting that the iPad should learn from a feature introduced in OS X Lion, the version of macOS that started the whole trend of bringing iPad features “back to the Mac” twelve years ago. The iPad is already plenty powerful despite its simplicity. It’s long past time for Apple to let iPad users feel powerful as well.

吃吃吃

「年輕一代都不愛吃豬雜、牛雜了。」年僅三十的友人K深感痛惜。「他們只吃上等的肉。」

身為大馬華裔,這種腔調我已屢聞不鮮。「吃不吃下水料理」逐漸成為長輩看不起新世代的諸多有色鏡片之一,正如吾等龍的傳人向來最愛宣稱「華人能把整頭動物吃得內臟都不剩,不像西方人,只吃最上等的牛扒肉」,並為此驕傲。許多華人甚至覺得,因為歐美人不吃噁心的內臟,他們一定也看不起我們吃的東西,他們覺得我們很下賤!

這種明明是自己在歧視自己,然後還要怪罪到別人頭上。

撇開許多新世代的年輕人依然喜歡吃肥腸牛雜不談,前輩們吃下水也不見得是因為喜歡,而是因為沒有選擇。反之,現在年輕一代吃這些東西通常是因為好吃,不是因為便宜。時代是變了,人們現在可以大口大口吃肉,但買房也比以前更難了,不是嗎?

還有啊,誰說在歐美國家人們就不吃內臟?香腸不就是下水和雜碎做的嗎?大馬華裔當成經濟午餐的午餐肉,不也是從洋人發明的嗎?説洋人不吃內臟的人,只不過是暴露了自己的無知。冰島人從羊頭吃到睪丸,甚至為了蛋白質,連有毒的格林蘭鯊魚也埋進土裡等腐爛發酵了再吃,美國人也把牛的睪丸拿來炸,稱之為 Rocky Mountain Oysters,華人吃這些嗎?

何況華人一旦有錢起來,浪費奢侈的程度可是十分讓人乍舌的。有什麼食物比魚翅更奢侈更浪費?每天都有無數鯊魚被捕撈切除魚翅,然後活生生丟回海裡。有什麼比這更浪費?這好比切除牛的蹄子,然後整條牛就丟掉,好在愛吃牛扒的洋人並沒有我們這麼浪費。

今天譏諷歐美人士不吃內臟的華人,一有了錢,還是會過著奢華而浪費的生活。人一有錢起來,飲食自然就變得不一樣了,在歐美國家,牛扒可不是人人都吃得起,就算是中產階級也不是經常能吃,而在華人地區,現在中產階級都偶爾吃得起魚翅了。

是的,在西方也有浪費和奢侈的一面。在中國我們到處可以找到奢華的酒宴,在西方也自然有許多成天紙醉金迷的富人。但這是階級問題,這是社會變得富裕的副作用,這是人性問題,不是民族文化的問題。與此同時,不論東西多數人還是相當節儉,有創意地善用有限資源,我們把隔夜飯做成炒飯,洋人也一樣經常或天天吃隔夜菜。

杜甫寫道,朱門酒肉臭,路有凍死骨。可見大唐盛世充滿著貧富不均,而今天的東方和西方亦是如此。這,才是問題所在。

而這種「我們過慣了苦日子,所以我們比那些富裕的民族優越」的變態民族主義,說白了不過是對別人的妒忌和對物質的強烈慾望。它只會讓我們把矛頭指向同樣充滿著貧富不均的其他民族,而徹底放過了那些正在壓榨我們的自己人,這可真是笨了。

When I was a kid, I was very close with a Malay girl living right next door. Her parents were approving of our friendship and told her, you see your Chinese neighbour learned to speak Malay, shouldn’t you also be learning to speak Chinese?

Much, much later on, I learnt from my parents that my childhood playmate’s parents were in fact shunned and harassed by the other Malay neighbours for being “too liberal” and “not religious enough”. (They moved away after a few years.)

Some things never really changed.

Staring blankly at a screen Heck, I don’t even know what language am I supposed to blog in. I’ve thought long and hard about this and... I haven’t made up my mind. On a practical level, there are pros and cons to writing in either English or Chinese. But more fundamentally, I don’t even know which language I’m more comfortable with. I’m a 兩棲動物, an amphibian, stranded between worlds.

There’s value to bridging different worlds, but I don’t know how to do it either.

I think I’m too much bogged down by my past. I need to convince myself that my opinion article writing days are long over. I suppose I need to start fresh. At a few points in my life I stopped drawing and painting for months and years, and by the time I start drawing again, I was able to reinvent my style, untethered from what worked in the past.

So now I’m trying to find new directions. This will take a while.

What should I write about?

I’m convinced that there is too much serious stuff written out there. Everyone has hot takes for everything. And in between all the shouty opinions, the delicious nuances of life faded away.

There is plenty of value in blogging about one’s personal life and inner thoughts. But my life is pretty mundane. It has to be mundane, because with severe anxiety affecting every facet of my life, I grasp eagerly at mundane moments that to me feels like relief. But that does not make for an interesting life that people might be interested in reading about. (No, I don’t think my anxiety is something I want to write about.)

What about my hobbies? Maybe, at some future point. Right now, while I’m pretty crazy about my houseplants, I have limited space to experiment with. Maybe at some future point, when I’ve space and money for fancy setups and exotic plants and experimentation, I’ll relook into this.

Maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. Everything must start with the why, before thinking about the how.

Why am I writing?

I’ve found that writing is a fantastic way to help me think. It clarifies thought through articulation. Without frequent writing, your mind becomes a muddled mess of barely-formed thoughts and unanchored opinions. Writing is a virtuous process that helps your thoughts become more interesting, which in turn results in more interesting writing, and as a side benefit it also makes you more interesting to talk to.

I guess that there is no other way. If I want to write interesting things...

I need to start writing. About anything. Maybe about everything. Finding my niche and audience can come later.

So. Where do we start?

Spreading our genes is natural, yes, but so is not having kids.

Gender is natural and so is not being confined by gender.

Heterosexuality is natural and so is homosexuality.

We are not slaves to our genes. Nature is not as boring as what some people seem to think, it encourages diversity and experimentation and free will because rigidity results in extinction.

Nature is why the cat is curious even if there a chance curiosity might kill the cat. Because when a cat is bold and willing to explore, it might open up new possibilities – or even the key to survival.

Since Nature has endowed us with the ability to choose for ourselves, let us be free to choose love and happiness even if some people see that as “unnatural”.

Those of us who voted for PH, those of us who voted for PN, those of us who voted for third force, those of us who voted tactically, those of us who voted out of principle, those of us who voted out of fear, those of us who voted out of anger, those who stayed at home because no point voting, politicians who played the race and religion card, politicians who took voters for granted, politicians who worked with sincerity, politicians who split votes, opportunists, idealists, cynics, pessimists, optimists…

Whatever results we see later today, it’ll be our collective karma.

All of us played a role in this.

And that’s democracy for you.

In the dance of progress, big wins shrink in hindsight while small wins grow in silence.

Keep this in mind the next time you celebrate or despair.

Do I believe in an afterlife? No, not that I can.

Do I wish that there’s an afterlife, so that my wife can be happy knowing that her grandma is now in a happy place with Buddha?

Yes, absolutely yes, desperately yes.

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