- The times we live in are certainly tumultuous, and they are highly traumatic for many. Devastating climate-related events are occurring ever more frequently; glaring inequalities of income and wealth are increasing, undermining the gains that have been made against poverty in recent decades; and old and new wars in the Middle East and elsewhere rumble on, adding to the costly toll of human suffering. In such challenging times, we are in greater need than ever of the wisdom and insight of learned and astute guides such as Tan Sri Lin. So I welcome wholeheartedly the publication of his latest book, ‘Trying Times amid Tumult and Trauma’, which provides invaluable clear-sighted analysis across a wide spectrum of topics and issues.
- As well as being traumatic and tumultuous, the times we are living through are also highly uncertain, perhaps to an even greater degree than ever before. One of the most immediate ways we experience uncertainty is in economic terms, especially the timing and depth of the next global recession, and changes in interest rates – both areas in which Tan Sri Lin provides some useful insights. While they affect us directly, uncertainties in these areas are nothing new, however.
- What is more unprecedented is the uncertainty we now face over the very nature of our future economic direction. The steady convergence towards ever-closer trade and other ties between countries can no longer be taken for granted. This has become particularly evident due to the trade war between China and US, and the move away from multilateralism by the US. As Tan Sri Lin helpfully highlights, these dynamics reflect the far deeper competition between the two global powers, which now encompasses technological as well as political and economic dominance.
- What had previously appeared to be an inexorable march towards greater economic liberalization and globalization has been interrupted. This trend can also be seen in the exit of the UK from the European Union, as well as in various other on-again off-again trade disputes. This disruption creates a new kind of uncertainty, in which businesses, for example, are unable to plan effectively even for the near term. They are forced instead to focus their strategizing on how to deal with the uncertainty itself.
- We are also experiencing great uncertainty in relation to technological change. Accelerating technological advance promises much in many fields, from AI, robotics, bio-technology, nano-technology and a host of others. Tan Sri Lin’s book provides some very interesting insight into some of these areas, including the difficult area of digital currencies. But these technological advances also carry with them many risks. These arise from both the ‘known unknowns’, the implications of which we can at least consider, as well as from the unknown ones, which we cannot even begin to comprehend.
- This introduces further significant uncertainty, on top of that associated with global geopolitical dynamics. Uncertainty about the outcome and direction of technological change is again nothing new. It is the nature and extent of the current wave of innovations that creates uncertainty at an unprecedented level. For the very first time, we are on the verge of being able to inhabit other planets, create intelligent machines, and even reverse the aging process. Such radical advances challenge the very nature of what it means to be human, and as a result introduce uncertainty about the future of a far greater magnitude than anything humankind has experienced before.
- And then of course, there is the great uncertainty created by our warming climate. It is now widely accepted that climate change is happening and that it is caused by human behavior and our ever-increasing production of greenhouse gases. We can anticipate some of the impacts of this, and indeed, floods, droughts, wildfires and hurricanes are all already occurring with greater frequency and intensity than in the past. Once again, Tan Sri’s Lin’s book provides us with some useful insights into these dynamics and how they may develop.
- But what we don’t know, however, with any degree of certainty, is how these trends will play out in the coming years. We can construct ever more complex models to try to understand them better. But ultimately we just cannot foresee exactly how these environmental dynamics will develop and interact. More and more climate scientists around the world are now focusing their efforts on the development of more robust and complex predictive models, to try to reduce these fundamental uncertainties and enable us to plan more effectively for what lies ahead.
- In times of such heightened uncertainty, we need dependable guides more than ever, and Tan Sri Lin is one such. Of course no-one can predict precisely how all these complex dynamics will play out, and Tan Sri Lin doesn’t pretend to have a crystal ball. But whether or not his more specific predictions turn out to be accurate, he provides us with just the kind of careful and considered analysis that we need to help us navigate through these challenging times. The deep uncertainties that we now face, and the extraordinary risks that they carry, are unlikely to diminish in the near future. But with analysts like Tan Sri Lin, we are better equipped to respond more effectively.
- As with all Tan Sri Lin’s writing, his thought-provoking analyses of the multiple challenges we face are accompanied by his wise words of advice on how we can tackle them. The book contains important practical pointers on some of the broader issues that it covers, such as the implications of the expected global recession and the intensifying geopolitical and technological rivalry, and the future of digital currencies. It also provides much useful advice closer to home for Malaysia. This includes in relation to the need to strengthen our education system and boost productivity – something that Tan Sri Lin has long emphasized.
- Tan Sri Lin’s prescriptions in this area resonate closely with the thrust of the new ‘Shared Prosperity Vision’ for Malaysia. This similarly emphasizes the importance of developing a knowledge economy through improving worker productivity and equipping our young people with 21st century skills. As we move forward towards meeting these goals, we will continue to benefit from his erudite analysis. I strongly urge everyone to read and enjoy this book, and I want to highly commend Tan Sri Lin once again for his important contribution to our understanding of these challenging and uncertain times.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
12. It now gives me great pleasure to launch the book, ‘Trying Times amid Tumult and Trauma’, by Tan Sri Lin See-Yan.
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