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27 January 2009

Idea: HIV Register + Hua Tuo SMS diagnosis

1. This Chinese New Year, Year of the Ox, hongbao, goes to all, esp those at higher risk of HIV infection.

2. HIV is mostly transmitted through sex with a HIV positive person, a lesser number through blood transfusions using tainted blood, a few from sharing needles among drug addicts and a tiny, even lesser few from lab exposure to the germs infected through broken skin which allowed penetration of the HIV virus.

3. From the several methods in Para 2, a HIV Register will not mean anyone on it got it through sex, although the sex transmission is so big that this will be the main aim of the Register.

4. First, laws must be enacted, such as an HIV Register Act, that compulsorily enrols or lists anyone diagnosed with HIV. This may mean that HIV will have to be a Notifiable Disease compelling any doctor who has tested a patient positive to report him or her to the Register. This may be a privacy problem in some countries but not in others. The rationale is that HIV is as deadly as smallpox, leprosy, etc, and so equally in need to be a Notifiable Disease.

5. Once the Register is set up, each person on the Register will also have his or her personal details filed in the HIV Register database, such personal information corresponding to the easily obtainable details in his or her driver's licence or national identity card, including a photo.

6. The Register will be completely automated once set up. So, when a man or woman wants to have sex with another man or woman, he or she will obtain his or her sex partner's cellphone number, this being the easiest to obtain in all dating or sex situations. This person then sends his partner's cellphone number by SMS to the HIV Register Telephone Number, which should be as short and simple as possible, like 1800-HIVREGISTER, for example, toll-free.

7. The Register Computer, once it receives the cellphone number of the person being queried, will search its database and return an SMS stating whether the User of the Cellphone Number being queried is on the HIV Register or not. The SMS will also give the bare info as contained in a driver's licence or identity card, such as Age [calculated instantly by the computer], Race, and whatever is deemed providable. A second, separate, SMS will send the person's photo for easier identification, in case the person is using a borrowed or stolen cellphone.

8. For countries with strong privacy traditions, an additional step may be imposed. When a man wants to query whether his prospective sex partner is on the HIV Register, he sends an SMS to the Register but the Register first sends an SMS to the prospective sex partner asking if he or she allows the HIV Register to go ahead to divulge the info. Thus, no partner would have his or her HIV status revealed without first agreeing by a Reply SMS to the Register Computer. This additional step will safeguard against frivolous or malicious abuse of the Register. For multiple sex partners, all must send back Reply SMSes agreeing and any one who refuses would cancel the whole query. The SMS from the Register Computer can read like this : "The User of Cellphone Number 12345 has queried our HIV Register whether you, User of Cellphone Number 56789, is listed in our HIV Register or not. If you allow us to reveal your HIV status to 12345, Reply to this SMS with a single YES. To refuse, Reply NO; or just ignore. For more info, visit . The Register Computer can read and process such YES or NO [or ignore] instructions automatically.

9. The man who queries on a woman will thus know whether his prospective sex partner is on the HIV Register or not. However, HIS cellphone number [he must use a cellphone number for such queries, not any landline or other such as VOIP phone] will also be captured by the Register Computer, which will then send an SMS to the woman being queried. This SMS will be worded like "The User of cellphone number 12345 has just queried if you, User of cellphone 56789 is on the HIV Register and we have SMSed this person that you are [or not]. This info is given to the Enquirer according the HIV Register Act. Under this Act, if you believe that the Enquirer is obtaining your HIV status not for personal but for other or malicious use/s, you have recourse under the Act. Please visit for more info on your rights and redress. A copy of all SMSes we sent to each of you will be sent to the other. The Enquirer is ON [or NOT ON] the HIV Register."

10. Thus, both parties, the Enquirer and the Enquired, will have a copy of all SMSes generated by the Enquirer.

11. A disclaimer about the accuracy of the HIV Register may need to be incorporated into the SMS and/or the website if legalese requires.

12. Thus, a man who approaches a woman for a date and sex will have a good likelihood of obtaining her cellphone number and can quickly check whether she is HIV positive or not. The woman being checked will also know she has been checked on and also get to know whether HER prospective sex partner is HIV positive or not. All done quickly and automatically. Through cellphones. SMS is a must because every cellphone in use has SMS while only the better cellphones and mobile subscription plans can receive photos, which must therefore be sent separately from the text SMS to ensure at least the text SMS gets through.

13. However, for threesomes or group sex or orgies, 1 SMS containing all the participants' cellphone numbers should be enough to inform all the participants.

14. Some time AFTER the HIV Register Computer has sent out the SMSes for the query, the query and its info can be deleted from the Computer if necessary. In countries with strong privacy laws and practices, this may be necessary. It can be minutes, 1 day or more. The Computer program can be written such that it auto deletes all the query info after the lapsed time after all the SMSes have been reliably sent out.

15. For countries which can keep all such data, there is a further benefit : tracing back all sexual contacts for follow up checks for HIV upon any one of the partners getting into the HIV Register later. Assuming a man has had many sexual encounters and queried each partner, this builts up a chain of sexual contacts, each of whom is traceable through his or her cellphone number. [So only cellphone numbers based on subscriptions should be allowed to use this HIV Register service, not prepaid cards, rented cellphones or other where the User cannot be traced to a contact address or location]. Once this man is put on the Register as HIV positive, all his previous sexual partners can be traced [and THEIR partners also traced] and a warning sent by SMS to urgently go for HIV tests. Common sense would allow only for a period of likely infection and not every single partner going back decades.

16. With global travel patterns, there is a need to allow queries from a foreign cellphone but used in the country. But this would mean that the foreigner will not be on the HIV Register even though positive. Unless there is cooperation among major countries to allow each other's Register Computer to query theirs. This will require possibly a UN directive and close cooperation among prevalent countries.

17. This HIV Register is a balance between impossible to apply draconian measures and voluntary measures that won't work. It balances between the rights to privacy against rights of not being exposed to danger, health and medical costs of treatment. Above all, it is workable since anyone about to have sex with a partner can reasonably be expected to be able to obtain the partner's cellphone number, at least. Abuse should be minimum and depends entirely on how the Act is legislated. By being completely automated, this protects privacy, too, and makes it practicable and workable. A good hongbao, no?


1. I switch on the online Guangdong Chaozhou Radio Opera FM103.1 for my mother-in-law every day, so I listen, too, even though my Teochew is poor. On the programme every day is a doctor who gives medical and medicine advice to phone-in callers. He is doing very important work, by not only asking the callers for symptoms, then identifying their maladies and prescribing medicines or treatments, but also in educating all the listeners who are listening in. Many listeners learn much from the good doctor. There should be more such programmes on radio, and tv as well.

2. Thus, educating the public on health matters is a good way to keep the population healthy, thus lowering healthcare costs both to the individual and the state. Much more should be done on tv, radio and internet to help keep the population healthy, thereby preventing more of their illnesses and diseases in the first place, from HIV to diabetes, etc. Govts may want to consider introducing medical subjects or courses from Upper Secondary school levels, to help keep their populations healthy and lower healthcare costs.

3. However, a huge part of the population have already left school, so the other public education media like internet, tv, radio, newspapers and magazines, will have to educate those who have already left school. There is much that these media can do, to help keep their audience healthy. With that, I leave this part to you, the govts.

4. Many people will not bother to read up or search the internet for medical advice, although the internet is a brilliant source of information on maladies. In the case of China, there are only 420m internet users out of a population of 1.33b. Clearly, the internet, brilliant as it is for medical advice, cannot reach everybody. But for these 420m Chinese with internet, I hope they can find all the medical websites they need to understand their symptoms, maybe identify their malady and hopefully find a treatment -- home treatment if minor or see a doctor for more severe maladies. In English, googling for "online medical symptoms diagnosis" gives many websites


I believe there are -- or should be -- many similar websites in Chinese. Since China, Taiwan and Hongkong use the same Chinese language, the difference being only some words are written differently in Traditional or Simplified Chinese, this is a good opportunity for all 3 entities to pool their combined medical knowledge to create more of such Symptom Diagnosis websites in Chinese. Especially since all 3 entities also use Traditional Chinese Medicine [TCM] for some treatments. More importantly, all these medical advice are suitable for all Chinese, who share the same genetic background, diet and even predispositions to certain illnesses and diseases.

5. But we still come back to the insufficient internet penetration in most countries. Even Norway, which has the highest internet penetration, can only achieve 90.9%. China's 420m internet users thus leaves out most of its 1.33b population. TV, radio and print media can reach a huge part of this 1.33b population but these media are more suited to mass and public [medical] education than for diagnosing symptoms, which the internet does brilliantly. But there is one more media -- the device almost every human carries in his pocket -- the cellphone. In China, about 800m people, or about 60% of the population, carry a cellphone. So, leaving out the babies and little children, or the very old, just about every Chinese adult carries a cellphone. The cellphone is always with us in our pocket, unlike a pc, so it is even more ideal.

6. If we want to use the cellphone like a pc accessing a Symptom Diagnosis website, we have to modify the procedure since the cellphone is not a pc. Some of China's cellphone users have smartphones that can access the internet and so is actually a small pc, but data charges for using the cellphone to access the internet make this group a small minority. So I will ignore this.

7. How to turn the cellphone into a medical aid to help diagnose symptoms? We could set up hotlines manned by nurses and doctors, but this will be very expensive. Much cheaper and more practical will be SMS, fully automated using computers, and software and databases with medical guidelines.

8. Suppose a cellphone user has a slight symptom he is worried about. He will key in a single number he should have already stored in his Contacts list of telephone numbers. You may want to name this service or Contact that he has in his cellphone as Hua Tuo or some other name that does not promise or imply 'doctor level' expertise or professional accuracy, but more a 'senior nurse level' kind of advice. Once he has keyed in this number, say, 111111, and sent this SMS out, he gets a reply SMS quickly [so please ensure that the telecommunications facilities for this number has sufficient or even excess capacity, so no waiting for a reply].

9. The SMS reply to his 111111 SMS begins with a caution: "If you are bleeding, in severe pain or have a broken bone, see a doctor immediately. This service is only for non-emergencies." This cautionary message will be followed by a list of separate telephone numbers for faster service, namely:

If you are a male between 10 and 20 years old, SMS 222222.
If you are a male between 20 and 30 years old, SMS 333333.
If you are a male between 30 and 40 years old, SMS 444444.
If you are a male between 40 and 50 years old, SMS 555555.
If you are a male between 50 and 60 years old, SMS 666666.
If you are a male between 60 and 70 years old, SMS 777777.
If you are a male between 70 and 80 years old, SMS 888888.

[etc, repeat for female].

10. Our caller is a male, 55 years old, so he SMSes 666666. He quickly gets a reply SMS, which offers another list:

If your symptom is around your head, SMS 666666 01.
If your symptom is around your upper body, from neck to stomach, SMS 666666 02.
If your symptom is around your lower body, from stomach to genitals, SMS 666666 03.
If your symptom is around your limbs, that is, arms or legs, SMS 666666 04.

11. Our caller has a slight ache in his stomach, so he SMSes 666666 03. He quickly gets a reply SMS asking further questions. From this stage, the diagnosis works much like the medical websites on the internet, except broken into shorter questions and answers to suit the short text nature of the SMS.

12. If all goes well, the computer, which is doing all this, this system being fully automated and working nonstop 24/7, identifies several possible causes of his stomach ache and recommends either medicines to eat or some procedures to perform to see if the symptom goes away. He gets a final SMS which is a unique Code generated by the computer, which uses this Code to identify this caller for further follow up or tracking. If he needs to call again, he simply keys in this Code and SMSes it, and instantly, his case will be recalled by the computer, who will note the earlier exchanges of SMS and will not repeat the earlier SMS questions and answers, but go on to further questions and answers, thus saving unnecessary work. If he does not call again, the computer SMSes him a few days later to ask if the advice given him by the computer worked. If he SMSes back "Y" or maybe better to use "1" for "Yes, it worked" and "3" for "No, it did not work" [1 and 3 are furthest apart on the top row of the cellphone number pad], then the computer records that this particular symptom and its advice worked, that is, correct medical diagnosis and advice, and therefore learns. With enough learning, the computer becomes better and better and more and more accurate. It is a self-learning system, and fully automatic. It also inputs into its database all the data of the patient, namely his age group, his gender, and his complaint [symptom] for mass epidemiological analysis.

13. This use of the Hua Tuo system for epidemiology is like what Google has done, but more accurate because we have better patient data. Google has used the large numbers of users who type in search terms like "flu tablets" or "most effective flu tablets' to help identify mass outbreaks of flu in a certain area, because when many people in an area googled for "flu tablets" then the reasonable assumption is that a flu outbreak has happened in that area. Our Hua Tuo system is far more accurate than this. We can not only count exactly how many callers SMSed to complain about symptoms but we also know their ages, gender, which part of their bodies they complained about, whether these complaints -- if many occurring in an area -- have been correctly diagnosed by the computer and solved. Using the cellphone base stations operated by the telcos, we can very precisely pinpoint the location of the caller when he called. Thus, our Hua Tuo system can quickly identify if an outbreak of something has occurred in an area, and even which part of the body is usually showing the symptoms and the age and gender of the affected people.

14. Suppose our caller's symptoms still remain despite the advice from the computer. He then sees a doctor. He gives his Code to the doctor who keys in this code, either into his computer, or his own cellphone, together with his own personal ID or PIN number to identify himself as a doctor following up on a patient whose symptom the computer failed to help. He gets all the patient's exchanges of SMS with the Hua Tuo computer, so this helps him improve his diagnosis and saves him from repeating what the computer has already asked.

15. At first read, all this may seem a bit complicated but not from the patient's point of view. For the patient, it is a very simple procedure, almost like he is SMSing with a friend, who is a doctor or knows some medical knowledge. From the patient point of view, all he does is key in his patient data, then this 'doctor friend', actually the Hua Tuo computer, then SMSes him questions which he SMSes back replies. Exactly like what he would be doing with a friend. So all very natural and easy. Even a young person can do all this.

16. To create this system, the work is also fairly simple and straightforward. Most of this kind of Symptom Diagnosis already exists on the internet, usually created by medical experts with a great deal of experience, often the best experts in their areas of specialisation. You only need to adapt all this existing medical knowledge and symptom diagnosis into SMS form. As for the computer software to run all these, again most China computer companies can do this, so not difficult. The only big work is to bring in all the doctors in the country into this system, and it is not necessary. If some doctors prefer to stay out of the system, then they don't need to use the Patient Code and their assigned Doctor PIN to access the records. They can simply see their patient as normal. For those doctors who would like to see the record of SMSes between the patient and Hua Tuo, they can register their computer's unique IP address or their own cellphone number into the Hua Tuo system so that they can access the patient's record of SMSes.

17. Thus, for the hundreds of millions in China and India who don't have internet, but have a cellphone, this use of the cheap SMS system can not only give the patient free medical advice [if a fee needs to be imposed, then the easiest method is to include this fee into the patient's cellphone account bill. If he is using a pre-paid cellphone card, these special numbers for the Hua Tuo service can instantly deduct the fee from his card account]. But more important than giving the patient medical advice is that we can build up, very easily, with no human work at all, a clear picture of outbreaks of any mass medical event, from flu to mass poisonings to longterm ill effects of say, air or water pollution, etc. This cheap and automatic method of building up a medical database will be very important to solve many mass medical events and even for new, or to improve, govt medical policies. For this epidemiological reason alone, the Hua Tuo system is worth creating.







23 January 2009


1. The word "Efficient" is a loaded one, all good and no bad. It is so loaded that it is often an argument-stopper. Once you say that "This is Efficient" or "This is the most Efficient way", there is no comeback, no way to argue further, for isn't the most efficient way always the best way? End of argument.

2. Today, it is time to examine this underlying and unspoken premise, maybe weave something of value into this essay, enough to be something of a first gift to the new President OBAMA, although a small one.

3. We can begin by stating a general theory of Zero Sum Game, which could be that "In Almost All Human Endeavour, One Party's Gain Is Almost Always At The Expense Of Another's Corresponding Loss. In Other Words, A Zero Sum Game."

4. Some examples. Suppose you manage a shopping mall and want to buy trash bins for it. You have to decide between buying many or buying 'just enough'. If you buy many and place them handily everywhere in your mall, the shoppers find it easy and convenient to dump their trash without having to walk far or hunt for one. It is Efficient for them, the shoppers, but means that you need more workers and more work to constantly clear them during busy times when many shoppers throw rubbish away, thus INefficient for you because you need more workers and more work. Thus Zero Sum Game. What is Efficient for your shoppers is Inefficient for you as mall manager.

5. Another example. Suppose you are a govt dept and you handle lots of phone calls daily. So you partially automate it like is common nowadays. You make each caller listen to several stages of menu, press the appropriate button, before getting to speak to a human, if at all. Very efficient for you but very inefficient for the callers. Zero Sum Game again.

6. Worse, if you as a govt dept decide that you have very few Teochew-speaking callers and therefore provide none to answer calls from Teochew speakers, you save money and convenience, therefore Efficient but thereby also totally shutting out any Teochew speakers from calling you. Efficient for you but therefore inefficient for them.

7. In almost every human endeavour, this is true. What is efficient for you is inefficient for your counterparty.

8. This general theory of Zero Sum Game has ramifications for govt because all modern govts strive mightily after Efficiency because efficiency lowers costs and saves much work. This explains why privatising public transport may be a very bad idea. Private operators operate for profit and this demands maximum efficiency since efficiency lowers costs thereby increasing profits. But my general theory states that someone loses correspondingly -- the commuter. For example, if metro trains run so frequently that you can always board one with less than 2 minutes wait, plus always find an empty seat due to the trains always being only half full, this means that the train operator is inefficient in terms of resource usage of trains and stations, etc, but efficient from the point of view of the commuters. And if you are pregnant, old, or with 2 small children in tow, being always able to board a train quickly and be seated is a godsend and saves you the taxi fare you would otherwise need since you cannot safely or comfortably commute by train. This could mean a wholesale improvement in the lives of the people who commute. An important improvement not to be underestimated. It could cut down the use of cars, even. Thus, govts have no business being efficient. Or private operators being efficient, either. The key word is Service to the people. That should be paramount although it rarely is.

9. This explains why democracies are usually inefficient whereas dictatorships are very efficient. People who have experienced living in the US or UK are often appalled at the many inefficiencies there compared with highly efficient Singapore, for example. But now, we know that Efficiency is no virtue and is usually a defect in govt. So there is no need for the US or UK to feel apologetic about their many inefficiences compared with highly efficient Singapore, which also has the overwhelming advantages of a tiny population squeezed onto a tiny 700 sq km islet -- probably measured at low tide. Efficiency is a loaded word, all good and no bad, which, as we have seen, is wrong. True democracies can never wander too far from the common good, unlike dictatorships, which are usually horrendously wrong. Thus, democracies, because they need to win the popular vote and govt every few years, have to cater more closely to Service To The People which dictators usually ignore in favour of whatever pet projects they are besotted with, which is high GDP in the case of the LIEgime, even to the extent of stupidly and incompetently building mega Bubbles which are now imploding.

10. One point established so far is that public transport should be inefficient, putting service to the people foremost and profits a distant second. This requires a new govt thinking. Similarly with every govt dept interacting with the public. This means that almost the entire govt should be deliberately inefficient. Sure, this costs more money but provides better service to the people, which should be paramount.

11. Once we drop the idea of govt needing to be efficient, possibilities emerge. For example, service to the people should be foremost but other goals could equally well be placed foremost. President OBAMA has pledged to create ~4 million jobs but mostly indirectly through bailing out industries, which in practice, means a couple of huge companies. This is like what is termed 'pushing on a string' because huge companies have so many divisions and complicated systems that billions could be sucked up by these black holes before a single additional job is created. Why not just hire more govt employees? There are ~22.5 million govt employees and if each govt dept is encouraged to hire say, 18% more staff, the goal of 4 million jobs is reached. Just like that. Pushing on a string is much harder and fewer jobs are created for the same money. Of course, it need not be 18%; can be less. Whatever is optimal and politically possible. You could channel these new hires into the perennially shorthanded important jobs like the police [non-uniformed jobs if cannot real cops], teachers, hospitals, social services, etc -- whatever does the most good for society. Once you drop Efficiency, you gain much in possibilities.

12. Thus, govts and even private companies have no business being efficient. We need to reorient our thinking and our fundamental premises. With that lead-in, we can now go further into questioning the undisputed Efficiency of Free Markets. This is important since this underpins much of govt, economics and the way we order society. We all know and agree that free markets are best to produce the best and most goods and services at the least costs [measured in dollars and almost always, leaving out such costs as environmental degradations, damage to land, sea and air, even the whole planet]. If we begin to question whether the Efficiencies of Free Markets are such a good thing, we will make much progress towards understanding and moving towards better alternatives, not totally rejecting free markets but tempering these with other important objectives and set goals.

13. This is a good time to question the Efficiency of Free Markets because the massive bailouts leading to quasi-nationalisation of banks, etc, has already led to a wholesale abandonment of ideology. Ideology is dying, maybe dead. In its place is an opportunity to question its premises. Should important infrastructural assets of society such as public transport, utilities or, to stretch the argument a little, if dangerously, further, even banks and mortgage companies, as is currently the case, be govt owned and operated? Once you accept that Efficiency is not the most important consideration, then why not govt run and operated infrastructural assets like these? Even if govts cannot be as efficient as free markets?

14. There is an oblique indication that this point is already proven. For example, for all of these important assets, there are govt Regulators who try to force some semblance of public good into what otherwise would be untrammeled free markets. The fact that Regulators are needed to moderate these free market operators and operations prove that virtues other than free market efficiencies need to be instilled, even legislated into being. From these Regulators, it is just a small step to govt owned and even govt operated assets, even banks as in today's environment.

15. Thus, arguments over Big Govt and Small Govt, Free Market Efficiency, Regulation and DeRegulation, etc, are all beside the point. When you ask the wrong question, you never get the right answer. What you need to ask and keep remembering, is what is the Best Public Good? The financial crises happened mostly because ideology triumphed over common sense. The ideology of free markets and capitalism led to un- or under-regulated banks and other financial operations leading to disaster. If Public Good had been foremost in the minds of govt and regulators, the disasters may not have happened. Divining the Public Good is not always easy. It may even require bold thinking and imagination. But we know by now, that leaving people and operators to pursue their own individual self interests does not lead to the best Public Interest.

16. To use an analogy, the free market is like the roads and highways. Everyone in the free market of stocks and other financial instruments is like the driver of cars on the roads. Every investor pursues his best self interests to maximise profits and minimise risks. Just like every driver tries to drive fastest and easiest to reach his destination without wrecking his life and car in an accident. This unfettered pursuit of self interests is supposed to result in the most free flowing traffic, meaning the most profits for the most people. After all, which driver would recklessly jeopardise his life and car by driving dangerously or recklessly? If this assumption is correct, there should hardly be any accidents on the roads. The fact is that thousands are killed in car wreckages every day proves that even when everybody pursues his own best interests at least risks, accidents happen. The financial crises are a pileup of humongous proportions.

17. I hope I have raised enough doubts about the supposed efficiencies of free markets and govt operations. Maybe even restore the rightful place of Public Good in all thinking and planning of govt and even private operators. The hardest thing to change is people's thinking. We have carried old thinking into a new century. The best thing we can do now is to rethink all of these old assumptions, theories and practices to see how they fit our needs in the new century. We really, really, need to.

[Added 3 Nov 2011, paras 18 to 26]

18. LIE KY LEEisms are exceedingly simple and simple-minded. They are not the result of deep thought, because LIE KY is too stupid and incompetent to think. All he does is operate on the basis of simple and simplistic observations and once pronounced, no LEEism may be questioned, withdrawn or repealed. LEEisms are forever.

19. One LEEism is the by-now [in]famous deliberate OverTax & UnderSpend policies, which manifests itself mainly in deliberate UnderSupply of govt goods and services like the undersupply of HDB public housing flats discussed in my essay "Stupidest Govt Of All Time". This deliberate UnderSupply also results in the tiny quotas of Singaporeans admitted to the Law and Medicine faculties, so that lawyers [of whom LIE KY is one, operating his hugely profitable law firm of LEE&LEE, which monopolises govt and GLC legal works] and doctors [several LIE KY famiLEE are doctors] can charge huge fees, etc.

20. Another LEEism is LIE KY pathetic [non]understanding of "Efficiency". To LIE KY simple mind, efficiency = reduce or eliminate Competition, which, to him, seems 'wasteful' and therefore 'inefficient'. To his pathetic stupid and incompetent mind, Competition is 'wasteful' because most losers in competition end up with losses or even bankruptcy, so therefore 'wasteful'.

21. It is obvious that one major LEEism is the elimination of Competition. For example, about 60% of Singapore economy are produced by a handful of GLCs, which operate monopolies, sometimes with token 'competition' between itself. LIE KY deems this arrangement 'efficient'. With monopolies, no losers in competition need run losses or end up bankrupt. Monopolies can charge anything the market can bear, so always profitable, usually hugely profitable, which makes them highly attractive for multi-millionaire Ministers and elites to invest in, to see automatic increase in wealth due to these monopolies ALWAYS making profits and thus increase in share prices and dividends to Ministerial shareholders.

22. Here, I will explode another torpedo under this LEEism, like I have done in "Stupidest Govt Of All Time". I hereby postulate that "Efficiency is an End Result, NOT a Process". What do I mean by this? It means that if you have lots of Competition, it only seems wasteful but is actually efficient, whereas if you have No Competition, like LIE KY ordering of Singapore economy and GLCs, the result is not efficiency but the opposite, meaning Humongous INefficiency.

23. This is because seemingly wasteful Competition ALWAYS results in extreme Efficiency while with No Competition, the result is ALWAYS humongous INefficiency. One proof is in Nature. In Nature, competition is the rule and animals, plants, every living thing, compete fiercely to survive and propagate. This is why lions, tigers, leopards, eagles, and ALL other predators are so brilliantly equipped for successful hunting and survival. Among the predatees, they develop speed, camouflage, cunning behaviour, to survive and thwart the predators. Thus, in Nature, Competition leads to extremely Efficient animals and plants. In those few areas without Nature competition, like in Darwin's Galapagos islands, no competition = dodo extinction. This same is true of human competition and competition among companies.

24. But to LIE KY simple mind, having losing companies losing money or going bankrupt is wasteful and therefore 'inefficient', so he has eliminated all competition among his govt companies and govt depts, thinking that all this thereby produces an 'efficient' society. He does not realise that without such seemingly wasteful Competition, his GLCs and govt depts become fat and lazy, MEANING THAT EVERYONE FROM CEO DOWN ARE ALL UNDERPERFORMING, RESULTING IN BIGGER INEFFICIENCIES THAN WITH COMPETITION. Without competition driving innovation and change, LIE KY GLCs from CEOs down to cleaners, all perform lackadaisical, mostly shuffling papers and Looking Busy. Nobody tries hard. Why strive to innovate and change when you can get steady profits so easily by simply increasing prices, which being monopolies, is so easy to do? When there are no regulators or the regulators, being comprised of the same PAP members, are in the same bed as the regulatees?

25. Thus, Singapore is one of the most INefficient societies on earth, since 60% of the economy are made up of govt monopolies, all helmed by the same PAP members who cannot be sacked or even sidelined [there is also no Competition among CEOs, etc]. This LEEism also extends to political competition. LIE KY and his crony Ministers are forever spouting that the political arena be orderly and non-critical, that if politics in Singapore becomes 'competitive', gridlock will result and govt thereby becomes 'inefficient', meaning that govt finds it harder to do anything it likes; that with competition, govt becomes distracted and drawn into competition thereby resulting in govt 'inefficiency', that Singapore is too small to allow Competition, whether in politics or the economy. Thus, this self-serving argument and Big Lie for a one-party state without any political competition, is a key political goal and LEEism. Famously, even the medias in Singapore are drawn into essentially one single govt group, so that everybody can sing the same praising hymns of LIE KY and his 'greatness'.

26. Thus, Efficiency is an End Result, NOT a Process. Meaning that if you start with lots of Competition, you end up with extremely Efficient entities, whereas without Competition, especially in politics, EVERYBODY UNDERPERFORMS, resulting in far more INefficiency than with Competition. Losses and bankruptcies from Competition are easy to see but inefficiencies from Underperformance, from CEO down to cleaner, is not easy to see. This is the Paradox of Efficiency. You read it first, here.







04 January 2009

Idea: Bespoke software clothes to change the way the world dresses

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Locksmiths, Computer Scientists Say

Scenes from one of the proof-of-concept telephoto experiments using a new software program from UC San Diego that can perform key duplication without having the key. Instead, the computer scientists only need a photograph of the key. Credit: UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

( -- UC San Diego computer scientists have built a software program that can perform key duplication without having the key. Instead, the computer scientists only need a photograph of the key.

"We built our key duplication software system to show people that their keys are not inherently secret," said Stefan Savage, the computer science professor from UC San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering who led the student-run project. "Perhaps this was once a reasonable assumption, but advances in digital imaging and optics have made it easy to duplicate someone's keys from a distance without them even noticing."

Professor Savage presents this work on October 30 at ACM's Conference on Communications and Computer Security (CCS) 2008, one of the premier academic computer security conferences.

The bumps and valleys on your house or office keys represent a numeric code that completely describes how to open your particular lock. If a key doesn't encode this precise "bitting code," then it won't open your door.

In one demonstration of the new software system, the computer scientists took pictures of common residential house keys with a cell phone camera, fed the image into their software which then produced the information needed to create identical copies. In another example, they used a five inch telephoto lens to capture images from the roof of a campus building and duplicate keys sitting on a café table more than 200 feet away.

"This idea should come as little surprise to locksmiths or lock vendors," said Savage. "There are experts who have been able to copy keys by hand from high-resolution photographs for some time. However, we argue that the threat has turned a corner—cheap image sensors have made digital cameras pervasive and basic computer vision techniques can automatically extract a key's information without requiring any expertise."

Professor Savage notes, however, that the idea that one's keys are sensitive visual information is not widely appreciated in the general public.

"If you go onto a photo-sharing site such as Flickr, you will find many photos of people's keys that can be used to easily make duplicates. While people generally blur out the numbers on their credit cards and driver's licenses before putting those photos on-line, they don't realize that they should take the same precautions with their keys" said Savage.

As for what to do about the key duplication threat, Savage says that companies are actively developing and marketing new locking systems that encode electromagnetic secrets as well as a physical code. "Many car keys, for example, have RFID immobilizer chips that prevent duplicated keys from turning the car on." he says. In the meantime, he suggests that you treat your keys like you treat your credit card, "Keep it in your pocket unless you need to use it."

How it works

The keys used in the most common residential locks in the United States have a series of 5 or 6 cuts, spaced out at regular intervals. The computer scientists created a program in MatLab that can process photos of keys from nearly any angle and measure the depth of each cut. String together the depth of each cut and you have a key's bitting code, which together with basic information on the brand and type of key you have, is what you need to make a duplicate key.

The chief challenge for the software system, called "Sneakey," is to adjust for a wide range of different angles and distances between the camera and the key being captured. To do so, the researchers relied on a classic computer vision technique for normalizing an object's orientation and size in three dimensions by matching control points from a reference image to equivalent points in the target image.

"The program is simple. You have to click on the photo to tell it where the top of the key is, and a few other control points. From here, it normalizes the key's size and position. Since each pixel then corresponds to a set distance, it can accurately guess the height of each of the key cuts," explained Benjamin Laxton, the first author on the paper who recently earned his Master's degree in computer science from UC San Diego.

The researchers have not released their code to the public, but they acknowledge that it would not be terribly difficult for someone with basic knowledge of MatLab and computer vision techniques to build a similar system.

"Technology trends in computer vision are at a point where we need to consider new risks for physical security systems," said Kai Wang, a UC San Diego computer science graduate student and author on the new paper. Wang is a computer vision researcher working on the creating systems capable of reading text on product packaging. This is part of a larger project on creating a computerized personal shopping assistant for the visually impaired from the lab of computer science professor Serge Belongie.

As a computer security expert, Savage said he particularly enjoyed working on a project with computer vision students.

"UC San Diego is very supportive of interdisciplinary work. There are many opportunities for students and faculty to get their hands dirty in fields they may not know much about a lot at first," said Savage.
Provided by University of California - San Diego

1. With this advance in software measurement of photographed objects, a whole new industry or whole new way of buying clothes and other apparel such as hats, sweaters, scarves, ties, etc, becomes possible, making it more efficient, easier, less wastage and therefore, cheaper for all, from clothing maker to end customer.

2. Since the above software can measure accurately even keys in a digital photo, a simple adaptation of the software will be able to measure a person's major tailoring dimensions, such as waist, hips, chest, arm length, leg length, girth of neck, thighs and arms, etc. All from 1 or 2 digital photo/s of the person, with or without the person holding an ordinary foot-ruler to help in the measurements [the foot-ruler would make it even more accurate and easier]. For best accuracy, perhaps the person should hold the foot-ruler vertical in one hand, with both arms outstretched sideways, horizontal to the ground. Perhaps, the distance of the camera to the person photographed should also be indicated roughly, for best results. Another photo capturing the side of the person may also help improve accuracy. Since most digital cameras and cellphones also capture in video, the person could also capture a video of himself turning slowly 1 complete round and send this to the custom tailor online.

3. Cellphone and digital cameras are now uniquitous and a person would only need to take 1 or 2 digital photo/s or videos of himself or herself [and be able to use these for years unless the body measurements change significantly]. Most probably, this Measurement Photo/s should best be taken with minimum clothing on but this depends on the accuracy of the software and need not be so. Wearing tight-fitting clothes such as a singlet, t-shirt, shorts or leotards, etc, should be enough for the software to obtain accurate body measurements. Or, the men can wear just swimming trunks and women, bikinis.

4. Once this Measurement Photo/s is taken, it is easy to email it to a China clothing maker or New York or London Savile Row famous clothier or a Paris couture maker depending on what clothes you want custom-made, or from even a small bespoke tailoring shop in the next city or next continent. Thus, suddenly, bespoke tailors may again become a big industry, rescued from an extinction caused by cheap mass manufacturing.

5. The China clothing maker or Paris couture maker would probably have an online catalog of all the clothing designs available and you would indicate which design/s you want tailor made to your photo's measurements. Then you pay online and wait for the finished-tailored clothes to arrive in your mail. All the way from China or Paris, and probably much cheaper than if you had it tailor-made at your nearest mall, if indeed, anyone offers such a service, which is almost extinct. This could revive the tradition of wearing tailor-made clothes again and end the sameness and almost uniform looks of all our clothes. Further, because your clothes are custom made, you can specify your own designs and needs, such as special or extra pockets. For example, an engineer who often carries a meter when he makes site visits may want a special pocket located on his pants or shirt, of a certain size to nicely fit the meter in. Another technician may want to carry some specialised tools like calipers, short steel rule and marker pens, and all these could be fitted nicely into custom pockets anywhere on his clothing.

6. Even a Hollywood star may want to order a unique dress creation for the Oscar ceremony. For example, she can email her body measurements to a Paris couture maker and the Paris couturier then dresses up a mannequin or a real human of approximately the same size, in a few dress creations using just pins and tacks to show the design, photographs it and emails it back for comments and approval. Once the star approves and pays, the couturier then goes ahead with making the dress.

7. At a time when the China clothing makers are facing recession, this could create much new business. For example, orders can come from all over the world, from America to Mozambique. The clothing maker only needs to know what designs different cultures prefer, from the standard suit and tie to an African robe.

8. We may soon be able to wear truly-fitting custom-tailored clothes at mass-manufactured prices. In unique designs, too, if we prefer.

9. Perhaps the most significant change will be cutting down wastage. Currently, with the mass production business model, clothes are mass manufactured to certain limited sizes but this probably means that a huge percentage are never sold and probably discarded eventually. With custom tailoring, every piece of clothing would be made to fit the customer, so there would be no wastage at all. This results in huge costs savings for everybody, from the clothes maker to the end customer. Since China can make everything cheaper, it can thereby also make custom suits and clothes more cheaply.

10. There will be some communication issues when a customer emails his or her requirements in say, English while the China tailor may email back in Chinese. This is not much of a problem because there are free online machine translations like Babel Fish and WorldLingo, etc, which can instantly translate short text between many languages for free, with good enough accuracy of around 60-90%. Or, a paid service can quickly translate any emails for a small fee, since emails can easily be forwarded [and translated] back and forth anywhere in the world. Also, if the online catalog website is well designed, there will be many pictorial instructions and guides which can make the whole transaction quick and easy with minimum text instructions needed. Also, websites are easily viewable in different languages thus making the transaction quick, convenient and easy.

11. The above may be termed Bespoke 1.0 . Given that software development is now racing forwards, why not go further into what may be termed Bespoke 2.0? This software development of Bespoke 2.0 would adapt from such sites as Second Life, in which players create a virtual avatar of themselves and move their avatar into all kinds of online virtual situations paralleling the real physical world. For example, in Second Life, players can make their avatars go into a virtual clothing shop and buy some virtual clothing and even wear these new virtual clothing.

12. This means that Bespoke 2.0 software can easily be adapted from Second Life type softwares except that the virtual avatars must have exactly the same physical body measurements as their owners. Now, it gets interesting. As before, the customer takes some photos or videos of himself and emails it to an online bespoke tailor in Savile Row or Shenzhen. This tailor then runs the received photos or videos in the new Bespoke 2.0 program and quickly produces an exact virtual avatar of the customer, all body measurements exactly the same. Using this avatar, he then designs or adapts the clothes chosen by the customer or which the tailor thinks will best adorn the customer, like in the case of the Paris couturier. Ideally, the Bespoke 2.0 software should be so powerful, like cadcam, that the tailor, being no computer whiz, can simply pull, stretch, snip, create folds, tighten, etc, with just a mouse or a stylus or even touchscreen, to either create a totally new design or adapt from a template of the design chosen by the customer, to fit onto the body of the avatar. The tailor should also be able to easily scan a sample of any cloth into a simple scanner and the designs, colours and patterns of the cloth would appear digitally on his Bespoke 2.0 software for virtual 'cutting' into designs around the virtual avatar body.

13. Once the clothing is finished on the avatar, the tailor saves several images of it like jpg photos or even videos and emails them back to the customer for final approval. Then makes and mails the clothes to him.

14. The Bespoke 2.0 software will possibly create a new, intermediate industry of clothing designers or adapters who are good at using this software and have some fashion design talent. These can take orders from customers who trust their fashion design sense and are willing to pay for it. These fashion designers would operate locally, in every mall, for example, and provide a very personal service much like an interior decorator. Many customers may not like to transact and deal online with a tailor far away but would prefer a living, breathing human to talk with, discuss fashion designs with and come back next week to check the final designs. After approving the final design, the design can then be emailed to Shenzhen and the finished clothes mailed back. This would be a viable industry, much like the interior decorator industry. The tailor, on the other hand, would be only too happy not to have to engage in endless discussions and emails or phone calls with the customer. Or to struggle with abstruse computer software. Thus, a local industry would be created, employing local fashion designers talking with local customers and understanding their tastes and needs, for future repeat orders and referrals business. Only the final tailoring need be done elsewhere, in the cheapest place, probably China.

15. If all this comes true, we are looking at a world in which everyone could be wearing unique clothes, and the current uniform, same, mass-manufactured clothes will all be history.

16. This is my New Year gift for 2009.