Saturday, August 29, 2009

PhD Taxi Driver in Singapore

Wow, this blows my mind. I don't even know how to categorize this!

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why not consider crossing over here where we are in dire need of expatriate english-teaching chemistry teachers. . .

Suggest to categorise under " do and dare "

ais ~

Anonymous said...

Not surpising as I have been in academia for more than 10 years I too realise that a PhD or MBA no longer holds weight or water. The whole thing is useless without experience. Also, it is a marketing gimmick that propels students to go through the whole exercise only to be disappointed when the unemployment environment is so detrimental. It no longer is substantial to have paper qualifications and it is not a guarantee that one will do well in life. No matter whether you are talking of an accredited or unaccredited university. The dumbing down of standards mean those paper qualifications will depreciate far faster than one can imagine and the thousands lost in attaining academic excellence does not befit the disappointing return on investment of sweat, effort and time.

rajan r said...

I don't know; this is a case of one-side-of-the-story. After losing his job, he still failed to find another in Singapore and elsewhere. Why? It isn't as if ageism is rife in the academia.

clk said...

This is is a typical case of mismatch in talent and demand plus possibly something else, X-factor?

Today we live in a world where despite our fantastic IT world, mismatch happens worldwide with man-made barriers. What else can explain for our world food shortage for example when nearly 1/2 of the developed world food is discarded...no different from this PhD cab driver in S'pore.

dungu said...

As rajan r said, we are only hearing a one-sided story from this Dr Cai.

I could think of the following reasons why he is driving a cab now instead of having another research job:
1) He is actually on sabbatical;
2) He wants to try something new. That a little publicity now doesn't hurt;
3) He was sacked by his employer and couldn't go anywhere else because of bad testimony; and but not limited to
4) He got attitude problem.

Dunno la. If he wants to drive a cab for whatever reason, don't start blaming the world for it. Nobody pointed a gun to his head to do his PhD and enter academia or research in the first place.

Chun-Yang Yin said...

I agree with Rajan and Dungu. We are definitely hearing only one side of the entire story. I did a check on his publication record in Scopus and GoogleScholar. Sure, he did conduct some good research while at Stanford, but not much impact during his stint at the Singaporean Institute (i.e. not good enough by Singaporean standard). That explains it.

Anonymous said...

Tan Cairong said...

.... “I have been forced out of my research job at the height of my scientific career” and was unable to find another job “for reasons I can only describe as something uniquely Singapore”. .... His unhappy exit is generally attributed to a personal cause (he has alleged chaotic management by research heads) rather than any decline in Singapore’s bio-tech project, which appears to be surviving the downturn. ...

Read the text again. This is Singapore. The same situation happens in Malaysia too. It's our society's way of handling bright people with "attitude" problem. If you want to work here don't create problem.

Anonymous said...

My take is that it was a mismatch in expectations. The same reason for the stand-off between the s'pore minister (what his name - yeoh?) and LHL scientist-sister. The former wants to put s'pore bioscience on a solid footing of fundamental research, the latter wants to move fast into applied, tangible stuff.
I guess Dr Cai's training in Stanford, and the fundamental nature of his research did not allow him to fit into the establishment's expectations. I have seen many scientists trained in top level institutes coming back and having their own sets of expectations - quality of research, culture of openness and cooperativity, academic integrity etc. Unfortunately these are usually perceived by the establishment as unwelcomed 'cultural garbage'. Just do what we tell you, and publish the required number of papers per year. Quality doesn't really matters.

You either adapt, or remain stubborn and drive a cab.

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff coming out. Concur with the statement just made. Environment for empirical inquiry and investigation does not really exist. Sharing and debate on controversial topics and issues hushed up. Science is one thing but social science may be silenced to a greater extent by the establishment. In Asia it is a matter of GUANXI again and that will determine whether you get the right amount of funding for any endeavour. So shall we say the days of cronyism even under a more meritocratic society down south merits attention and a certain degree of wariness, should one arrive with certain presumptions of Western academic openess that exists in Western universities. It is this that differentiates performance between the two hemispheres. One is a creator of new knowledge and the other is a disciple waiting in the wings ready to take the place of the Grand Sifu.

Anonymous said...

What is so strange about this?

Singapore is a capitalism democracy nation, a form of government inherited from the British.

In a democratic society, majority businessmen or capitalists' interests should be look after first not some minority geek freaks with PhDs.

Anonymous said...

That's quite true also. In times of budget cuts, R&D is always the first to go.
When time is desperate, it is OK to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Another reality of life.

Anonymous said...

Before March 8, 2008 political tsunami occurence in Malaysia's political scene.

The structure of Malaysia's society is as follows:

The top half of human food chain:

Businessmen-capitalists and their associates,Media executives and entertainers,Lawyers.

The bottom half of human food chain:

Doctors,Engineers,Schoolteachers, ustaz and ulama.

Pray tell me, YB Tony,Kian Ming and John Lee, ...Post March 08, 2008...now at present time..any changes or the old status quo still remains??

Anonymous said...

If the government were to produce more tertiary education graduates there would be more graduate taxi drivers in Malaysia. If there is an over supply of taxis then by right the cost of taking a cab should come down not go up.

Anonymous said...

Come on, be realistic about global economy.

The figure I heard last time was 9.5% unemployment in USA.

There are millions of young Chinese universities and college graduates unemployed in mainland China.

Are they any different from the rest of young Malaysian and Singaporean graduates?

Even in Malaysia, you heard of Engineering graduates doing sales, Science graduates doing sales, Business graduates doing sales, Arts and social science graduates doing sales, Lawyers also doing sales.

Even SPM,diploma,STPM leavers also doing sales...

So what is wrong with the picture that these university graduates ended up working as waiters/waitresses or even taxi-drivers.

We are all businessmen-capitalists.

Charis Quay said...

Someone forwarded this to me as well. I guess pertinent questions are what was the nature of his contract and what were the criteria for renewal? How is this different from someone being denied tenure?

social service worker said...

Not so strange for me, Because I have also heard some more stories like that from my friend. He said me stories about some students who are also well educated but unable to get the jobs like this taxi-driver.

Anonymous said...

So what's new under the sun? In the early 90s, I met a Burmese labourer who was working at a building site in New Town, PJ. Nice chap, spoke excellent English and held a PHD from a Burmese University. When asked why he was working as a labourer, he replied that 1 year as a labourer in Malaysia was equivalent to a few years as a university lecturer in Burma. And a year or so ago, I read in the English newspapers about a Cambridge PHD researcher who decided to become a plumber after he found that the plumber he was employing to fix his pipes was earning almost twice as much as he was. This Cambridge researcher went on to do a plumbing course and became a full time plumber and part time researcher for interest!

Anonymous said...

That's when money is the motivation, and you don't care what you do as long as it brings in more money. But if you do want to do research, and can do research, but not given the chance, that's somewhat a tragedy. It takes quite a sum of taxpayer's money to train a PhD, then have it wasted driving a cab.

Anonymous said...

5000 years of history for this mainlander race and finally with the Westerners' help, we have democracy and capitalism.

Power to the people!

This can only happen if we elevate "Merchants and Traders" to higher social status within the society.

Finally, a total revolution!
For freedom and liberty for all mankind !!

If money is not the motivator or liberator forces to propel mankind to greater height of achievements.

What then is money's replacement..?

Long live capitalism!!
Long live capitalism!!
Long live capitalism!!

Anonymous said...

This is a failure from Dr.Cai's parents who failed to plan, therefore plan to fail.

Should they be aware of the capitalistic society that Singapore has already embraced, they will forbid their son to continue studying into PhD level, to become a minority.

Be streetsmart, always choose to study business,finance, accounting and economics.

These capitalistic knowledge will always ensure that majority is right and the majority has the power to create money out of thin air.

The closer you are to the source of money creation, the more secure the livelihood you shall have.

Coltz said...

"When asked why he was working as a labourer, he replied that 1 year as a labourer in Malaysia was equivalent to a few years as a university lecturer in Burma."

You forgot the fact that Burma in general is not a very pleasant place to live. Neither is Malaysia, but Burma is orders of magnitude down the line.

"Should they be aware of the capitalistic society that Singapore has already embraced, they will forbid their son to continue studying into PhD level, to become a minority.

Be streetsmart, always choose to study business,finance, accounting and economics. "

Sounds like a selfish and bitter sucker to me.

It's bad enough that people like this Anon can't succeed in their lives nor have any noble purpose; but they can't even bear to see others actually pursuing something greater than personal greed. And we wonder why our society looked so crappy.

ignoramus said...

Dr Cai is in his late 50s and was an Associate Professor at his institute. His contract was not renewed for reasons known only to him and his employers.

His writing on his blog is good though. If he continues on, he may be able to publish a book someday.

Kalambong said...

So what's the fuss?

There are PhD in USA waiting tables, professors in USA working in car assembly plants and so on

Anonymous said...

Two clear examples why minority deserve to be tyrannized.

1) Michael Jackson's doctor, whoever he is, is to be sued, ridiculed, persecuted, bullied, humiliated, to be make bankrupt, and maybe even hang on a lamp post for lynching(possible??).

In a capitalism democracy society, an entertainer like Michael Jackson has higher social status than a doctor.


2) General Motors is allowed to fail and go bankrupt, where engineers-executives, technicians and factory operators are forced to accept retrenchment but not Citigroup, a banking and financial institution that is too big to fail. Cititgroup's bankers and financial executives are too precious to be retrenched.

Colt, you better know your place in the world's capitalism-dominated society.

Malaysian Observer said...

Wow, there are a lot of ignorant commenters on this post.

Does it not perhaps occur to you the situation and work culture in Singapore is less than rosy? First, you have to contend with the huge Asian egos in Singapore's academia, second, the pervasiveness of ageism in that country, both in academia and non-academic circles, and the third fact, Singaporean academics are pretty bad at research, it seems their academic heads cannot differentiate between a science project report and a paper worthy for academic publication.

That's why Singaporean educational institutions, good only for getting high exam score marks, are never known for publishing anything of good academic value.

And no, PhD does no way stand in your way of a fabulously lucrative corporate career. Ask that of the co-founders of Adobe, or the people who started Google, Bloomberg, etc. numerous other startups, and you find many of them to have one time been PhD students.

Morons. The commenters here.