Mantra of the ‘super corridor’

by Dr. Azly Rahman

Now we are aiming to be a major player in the Information Age industry. For this we will welcome with open arms foreign investments. Those who have experience doing business in Malaysia know that we are ever willing to listen and to act to meet the multifarious needs of foreign investors. And so the Multimedia Super Corridor is created to become a giant test-bed for the soft and hard products of the cyber age.- Dr Mahathir Mohamad, speech to MSC investors, 1998

Without doubt, machinery has greatly increased the number of well-to-do idlers. – Karl Marx, circa 1880s

In Sanskrit, the word “mantra” (mentera in Malay) means formula. Mantra is correlated to the idea of a grand strategy or a belief system in the form of political ideology that permeates the consciousness of the leader and the led or the author and the authored. Inscribed onto the consciousness of the people, via print, broadcast, and electronic media is the mantra of economic success rapidized by information technologies. The formula for success many developing nations, such as Malaysia, is undertaking is one characterized by the dependency on Informational Communications Technologies (ICT) particularly on the technology of the Internet/broadband to fuel the engine of capitalist development, relegating the state as a haven for cheap pool of labor in the microchips industry.

The mantra of success is one driven by the belief in the formula of “cybernetics.” I will discuss how the “cybernetic chant”, one orchestrated and broadcast by the government, permeates through the social environment. Let us first look at the geneology of “cybernetics”

I shall relate the idea and genealogy of cybernetics to the idea of what is currently known as “Information Age” or its varying and more fanciful terms such as “The Age of Cybernetics,” or “The Networked Economy,” or “The Digital Age.” I will then relate the idea of this “formula” of cybernetics to the notion of “inscription” of the ideology onto the landscape of human consciousness since the beginning of the second half of the twenty-first century.

On Cybernetics

The idea of “Information Society” or “The Network Society” stems out of the revolution in computing and has transformed our psychological, ideological, and material landscape of humanity. Social relations of production are altered and transformed as a result of new patterns of division of labor in what many a Chaos theorist would call patterns that arise out of randomness and chaos.

There are different levels of meaning of cultural change as it is impacted historically by “technologies of the body,” such as the Internet. In the case of cybernetics as technologies of the mind, this seems to be a “natural progression of late stage of capital formation” and in fact, as the Critical Theorist Herbert Marcuse and many a Frankfurt School analysts would call an age wherein technologies are at its final stage of development which will actually liberate humanity out of mundanity as a consequence of automation. Hence cybernetics, as a foundation of artificial intelligence and a philosophy close to the Cartesian philosophy of the mind and appealing to the “philosophy of human liberation via technological feats,” is at the present, the highest stage in the development of techno-capitalism. This proposition is reminiscent of Vladimir Lenin’s conclusion on the analysis of capitalism made almost a century ago.

Writings on social structures and political theory have primarily centered on the relationship between Capital, Humanity, and Nature. Many sociologists have written on how capitalism appropriates natural resources through the creation of labor and surplus value, which will then establish classes The debates that rage between the proponents of free market enterprise and command or controlled economies revolve around the issue of human nature, and who gets to control the production and dissemination and the monopoly of capital. At times, on a different plane there is also the reflection on the need for capital to be interpreted not only as physical or material, but also as cultural, and metaphysical. The central issue of these writings and debate and reflections is of equality and equity; an issue that continues to plague humanity in this age of rapidized technological developments, as echoed by many a contemporary social theorist.

In the age of cybernetics, French social philosopher Rousseau’s notion of the discourse on the inequality amongst men can be used to explain the evolution of contemporary social problematique such as digital divide, architecture of power, and the erosion of the Self into fragmented and miniscule selves. Other themes also include the furtherance of protectionist democracy via the use of tools of cybernetics, the control over the coding, encoding, and decoding of information by those who monopolize information, and a range of other tools of imperialism and domination and hegemony deployed and employed to the fullest advantage of those who owns the means of social reproduction. And those who own the means to control these processes can also own the means to engineer cultural reconfigurations

The nature of thought formation and consciousness production in the world of broadcast media can be exemplified in the media capitalism of Rupert Murdoch whose empire span Britain and the United States made possible by the modern oligopolic system of capital accumulation

The scientific paradigm of cybernetics, by virtue of its origin in the mathematical and exact sciences, out of the Copernican Revolution, of Newtonian physics and of Principia Mathematica, onwards to its march of Classical Physics, and next, Quantum Physics and Informational and Decisional Sciences and so on – is a science which has appropriated the “Natural-ness” of the art of being human. Being a paradigm subjected to the development of propositions, verification by the testing of hypotheses, falsification by the rejecting and accepting of the null, and replicating these processes and so on and so forth, cybernetics creates a “space” between what is Natural and what is Artificial. In-between these spaces, Technology as the motivator of civilizations to progress and to dominate, to extent the limits of what otherwise is impossible (for example the navigational technology of Christopher Columbus which made it possible to open up European colonization of the Native Indians of Amerigo Vespucci’s America) is also psychologically, a way to create the Technocratic and Authoritarian self. In between these spaces of Nature versus the Artificial lie Media as technology of the mediated self. Technology, as it is developed not by the hands of the “Author” has thence become a powerful tool of the surreal – of inequality amongst men. Popular culture presents technology as a colonizer of humanity, as exemplified by the theme of the movie,
The Matrix.

Cybernetics as a paradigm of thinking about the technology of action and feedback and the loops they produce is an interesting synthesis of three theoretical orientations: logical positivism, critical theory, and phenomenology The paradox is that on the one hand, it is derived from the Classical and Quantum Physics, on the one hand, it is a good foundational philosophy of technologism which combines many fields to form a unified theory of living things (like Critical Theory’s attempt to universalize and integrate the disciplines, albeit in a dialectical fashion), and on the other hand, Cybernetics too is phenomenological.

Precisely because we can derive three clusters of theories out of the paradigms above makes Cybernetics appealing and hegemonizing. The Internet as a manifestation of the ideology of cybernetics is a good example of how it is both a technology of advanced logical-positivism, and at the same time, one that is employed to make the concept of democracy more “accessible” when one goes into the study of free speech on the Internet.

Cybernetics and the idea of Cyberjaya

What is the link between the mantra of Cybernetics and the creation of Malaysia’s Cyberjaya? I propose the existence of a possible link between Cybernetics and Cyberjaya; on how the idea of cybernetics, as Systems Theory (employed to explain the nature of how living systems operate in a loop-feedback fashion) suggested undergoes transcultural evolution. The idea is now interpreted and transmutated by the government of Malaysia to mean the base and superstructure of hypermodern digital cities such as Cyberjaya, a city that embodies a new spirit of national development. Hence, the term evolved from the description of the physics of living things to the politics of domination and control in what I argue, is commonly known in the world of militarism, as the science of Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (C³I).

In each phenomena of social transformations, lies the history of dominant idea and of power, technology, and ideology. In the case of Malaysia’s corridor, the idea is alien and alienating to the masses. It is a transplantation of a mantra not understood by the local elites who benefit from the real estate projects associated to “cybernetics”.

  1. #1 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 8:41 am

    Indeed. The proponents of the MSC have shown that they are clueless as to what cybernetics is all about. TDM’s only motive is, if Singapore has its Intelligent Island, then Malaysia must have a MSC which is a few times the size of Singapore. Never mind that you can always demarcate a huge zone by putting one project at each corner of the boundary with nothing in between. Just like the boast about the Bakun dam project flooding an area many times the size of Singapore. And now the Iskandar Development Region is going to be many times the size of Singapore, never mind the fact that within the IDR, only pockets here and there will be developed.

    Cybernetics is all about the communication processes and feedback principles. This is at variance with the government thinking and principles. TDM must be regretting that he had to concede “no interference or censorship with the internet” in his desire to kickstart the MSC. This is just about the only positive outcome of the MSC project, and it is an unintended consequence.

    The other point about the internet is the globalisation of the world and distribution of the manufacturing processes which can be digitalised to anywhere in the world which can do them cheaper. It means a borderless world. BUt this is at odds with the NEP and the Ketuanan Melayu concept.

  2. #2 by BlackEye on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 8:47 am

    So?? What’s your point?

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 9:10 am

    Going forward from what TheWrathOfGrapes commented, well pessimistic as many of us are on (what you call them?) – shenanigans and peccadilloes – of Bolehland, at least there’s perhaps this very slender ray of hope (hope for change – of Barack Obama’s kind?) in this country – and the political administration thereof – being always, in terms of policies, based on conflicts and inconsistency of (say) MSC & Bill of Guarantee on one hand and NEP and the Ketuanan Melayu of the other; Iskandar Development Region and other Corridors (needing foreign investors’ support for the critical mass) on one hand and what’s disclosed in Royal Commission of Lingam Clip & surging crime undermining foreign investors’ confidence of the other; enlightened Islam Hadari approach versus body snatching on the other; the ex premier whose administration is identified with the very idea of money politics, cronyism and nepotism now condemning its continuance under the present administration…..You’d probably can find many other dualities of conflicting opposites in other areas where tail does follow the direction of the head. Yet that’s not that bad because we got at least one side of the conflicting equation to leverage and play on. At least we’re not some real third world African or Middle East countries where people in control have not heard of a word like Royal Commission or even ‘pretend’ that they know anything about a cybernetics city…. Though much as I agree we ought benchmark against our betters than inferiors, yet here, I must say, is still an interesting place (taking the optimistic view of things) from its many BS, funny going-on (body snatchings etc) and conflicting happenings….. :)

  4. #4 by Jimm on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 9:11 am

    Malaysian were put into the IT rat race because it’s a very promising industries that will generate mega returns to those whom dare enough to be pioneer. The Done Master have been eyeing on this to put him ahead of other leaders in this region to managing country wealth planning. He knew that there are concern risk however the monies are too tempting to resist and enough wealth to go around his camp and family members too.
    This country, Malaysia are unique and quite ‘unbalanced’ due to policies and religion practises. On one hand, we need more ‘investors’ to come in to start our economical races and the other hand, we need religion to ‘control’ the 60% majority to keep the current government continue to stay in power. As for the Rulers, they need to have income and their state to be developed to show that they are royal. BN government have been acting as the main contractor to all those royal and their families in most matters until they become the main coordinator to all country affairs and security. With the judiciary, enforcement, security, civil services, financial in both international and domestic under their control, we all are living under their mercy.
    Now, wealth are very important here and that we cannot denied at all. Managing wealth and getting wealth must be a well balance equation which we can see now that there are no proper process in making such decision.

  5. #5 by TrueMalaysian8888 on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 9:22 am

    Shouting and argued on every issue or organising street protest will it help the country ???

    I don’t think so….We are all educated folks. You can’t buy our vote by just giving two sacks of rice and an ang pow or paving the road with new tars and even up to my personal toilet ( which is what happened in Ijok ) does not do the trick.

    DAP needs to image themselves as Gentleman, educated and well mannered in order to win the hearts of educated voter.

    DAP needs to image themselves as the whistler blower for the chinese and indian to win the hearts of educated voter.

    DAP don’t have to shout or complain on every issue as we educated voter know what is happening.

    We all knows that there is no difference between DAP and MCA as both still need to look at their bumiputra partner.

    Does MCA did their best to protect chinese benefit???

    I think they did their best !!!! Datuk Ong Ka Ting had done so much for us.

    But, we still need DAP as whistle blower to help MCA as they can’t keep on complaining to their bumi partner.

  6. #6 by TrueMalaysian8888 on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 9:29 am

    But as long as DAP still link with PKR or PAS, I don’t think educated voter will for DAP as we all know what PKR and PAS is up to.

    DAP did best if worked alone, imagine all chinese voters in malaysia support you. Thats more than enough I guessed.

    Think again lim…..with that you will win Penang . else, the chances are slim as educated voters will not vote PKR or PAS.

  7. #7 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 9:32 am

    //Managing wealth and getting wealth must be a well balance equation which we can see now that there are no proper process in making such decision//. –Jimm

    That’s correct, correct, correct now that I am suitably inspired by VK Lingam!

    Money – wealth – the mother of all evils and also that is good, that’s the beauty of it.

    Uncle Sam developed weapons system from billions of Dollars but did any of it bring down and fragment the evil communistic system of the Soviet Bloc or monolithic Chinese communist system under Mao?

    No, it is the internal process, that realisation that systems within need be changed to capitalistic and market and profit driven processes (ala Adam Smith style) that brought change from Moscow to Shenzhen and Shanghai….

    Like here : one can pander to religious extremism, attempt to control judiciary etc, enjoy the hubris of Ketuanan facilitated by NEP but how long if the elites still desire wealth and means to generate it in light of the changes all around in this Global Village and the factors militating against their policies ?

  8. #8 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 9:35 am

    “…DAP needs to image themselves as Gentleman, educated and well mannered in order to win the hearts of educated voter…” – TrueMalaysian8888

    And what happens in a one man one vote system the greater 2/3s majority of voters have not the “hearts of educated voter”?

  9. #9 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 9:53 am

    It won’t work unless you dismantle NEP.

  10. #10 by sukumaran on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 11:46 am


    The ant and the grasshopper

    Older Version

    The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter.
    The Grasshopper thinks the Ant is a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away.
    Come winter, the Ant is warm and well fed. The Grasshopper has no food or shelter so he dies out in the cold.

    Modern Version

    The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter.
    The Grasshopper thinks the Ant ‘ s a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away.

    Come winter, the shivering Grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the Ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.

    TV1, TV2 & TV3 show up to ! provide pictures of the shivering Grasshopper next to a video of the Ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.

    The majority of the Malaysian Parliment stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be that this poor Grasshopper allowed suffering so?

    Khairy stages a demonstration in front of the Ant ‘ s house .

    Nazri goes on a fast along with other Grasshoppers demanding that Grasshoppers be relocated to warmer climates during winter.

    MOst of the related people criticizes the Malaysia Government for not upholding the fundamental rights of the Grasshopper.

    The local news paper & the Internet is flooded with online petitions seeking support to the Grasshopper (many promising Heaven and Everlasting Peace for prompt support as against the wrath of God for non-compliance) .

    Deputy minister immediately passes a law preventing Ants from working hard in the heat so as to bring about equality of poverty among Ants and Grasshoppers.

    Hishammudin makes ‘More Special Reservations ‘ for Grasshoppers in Educational Institutions & in Government Services.

    The Ant is fined for failing to comply with 30% sharing and having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, its home is confiscated by the Government and handed over to the Grasshopper in a ceremony covered by maju ———.

    Prime Minister announces to the whole Malaysiathat this is part of the NEP and all have to respect, no questions asked and have to follow it.

    Many years later

    The Ant has since migrated to the USand set up a multi-billion dollar company.

    100s of Grasshoppers still die of starvation. Despite having reservations somewhere in Malaysia
    because of losing lots of hardworking Ants and feeding the Grasshoppers, Malaysiais still a developing country!!!

    All because the ANTS are still doing their work………………………..

  11. #11 by dawsheng on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 12:14 pm

    Sukumaran, very good leh!

  12. #12 by BoycottLocalPapers on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 12:17 pm

    Looking at the current situation in Malaysia right now, I think Malaysia is more likely to be Mullah Super Corridor than Multimedia Super Corridor.

    Malaysia will never have its own version of GOOGLE because people like Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google who was born in Moscow, Russia and a son of Jewish mathematicians who emigrated to USA in 1979, will never get the chance to enter Malaysia’s top Universities like UM or USM (for your info, Brin studied at Stanford), first because of his race i.e. Jew and second, because he is not BUMIPUTERA and he will be treated as second or third class citizen.

    Malaysia will never have its own version of YAHOO! because people like Jerry Yang, the co-founder of Yahoo! is a Chinese and as a Chinese in Malaysia, Jerry Yang will find it difficult to enter top universities like UM or USM (for your info Jerry studied at Stanford University).

    Malaysia will never have its own version of HOTMAIL because people like Sabeer Bhatia, the co-founder of Hotmail is an Indian and as an Indian in Malaysia, Sabeer Bhatia will find it difficult to enter top universities like UM or USM (for your info Jerry studied at Stanford University).

    Malaysia will never have its own version of YOUTUBE because people like Steve Shih Chen (a Chinese born in Taiwan) who is co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of the popular video sharing website YouTube will be turned away from Malaysia and his place will be taken by Ali Amrozi bin Haji Nurhasyim and his ilks.

    People like Shantanu Narayen who is the current CEO of Adobe Systems (famous for Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Flash etc software) will never get the chance to lead Malaysia version of Adobe because he is an Indian not a BUMIPUTERA.

    The only type of people that Malaysia welcome wholeheartedly are people like Abu Bakar Bashir, Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Yassin, or others of like ilk.

    People like Sergey Brin (a Russia-born Jew), Jerry Yang (a Chinese born in Taiwan), and Steve Shih Chen (a Chinese born in Taiwan) will find it very difficult to fulfill their dreams in Malaysia.

  13. #13 by k1980 on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 12:30 pm

    The only type of people that Malaysia welcome wholeheartedly are actually people like Ayman Al Zawahiri, Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi, Suleyman Abu Ghaith, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, Muhammad Atef, Khaled Sheikh Muhammad, Abu Hafiza and so on

  14. #14 by BoycottLocalPapers on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 12:34 pm

    Our country wanted to be good in “Computer and Cybernetics” but is too proud to admit that the Indians and Chinese are the best in this field and definitely not the Malays or the Arabs. This is a hardcore fact that is very difficult for pro-Ketuanan Melayu to accept and swallow.

    If a great superpower like USA is humble enough to admit thousands of software engineers from India, then why can’t we? Why is our leaders afraid to admit the fact that the Malays (and also Malaysian Chinese, Indians, etc) are not yet good in this field? Why can’t they be humble?

  15. #15 by BoycottLocalPapers on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 12:40 pm

    Sabeer Bhatia the co-founder of HOTMAIL studied at St. Joseph’s Boys’ High School in Bangalore before he started his undergraduate education at the Birla Institute of Technology & Science, Caltech, and Stanford to pursue his M.S. in Electrical Engineering.

    Looking at Sabeer’s old school I think if that school is in Malaysia, Sabeer’s school will be one of those schools having trouble with Little Mullah Osamas for having Christian symbols like what YB Lim Kit Siang reported in another article.

  16. #16 by cheng on soo on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 12:45 pm

    All these ‘corridors’ for show only, might as well declare whole Msia one big ‘economic corridor’. Feel sad for Msia, if no change, these corridors hv very little hope of success

  17. #17 by trader168 on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 1:19 pm

    Corridors for cunrrecy appreciation, good for the stock market! However it must be realized successfully otherwise I would agree with cheng :)

  18. #18 by oknyua on Thursday, 14 February 2008 - 1:52 pm

    I read with interest AMDE Sidik’s blog about this corridors. According to AAB, the corridors were his ideas – he mooted the idea.

    According to AMDE Sidik, the corridors concept was formulated in 1970 by a team assembled by Tun Razak. This was part of the stages of development concept. This AMDE Sidik is lecturing on corridors even before AAB became PM.… once again, we are conned.

  19. #19 by AhPek on Friday, 15 February 2008 - 1:28 am

    ‘Why is our leaders afraid to admit the fact that the Malays (and also the Malaysian Chinese, Indians etc) are not yet good in this field? BoycottLocalPapers.

    This is an interesting question posed but this is a problem concerning not only in softwares.It goes to all fields of human endeavours.The UMNOPUTRAS are spinning out to every Malaysian about the superiority of the Malay stock … the so called ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ status over the rest of Malaysians of other ethnicities.They are spinning that often enough to actually think that they are superior.
    But how can they be superior especially following the arguments of Mahathir in his Malay Delemma that it is a race resulting from too much in-breeding!That is why perhaps he has to intervene into the passing marks of medical students in MU way back in the 70’s resulting in the non recognition of MU medical degree by THE Medical Association of Britain.
    Then again how could the paying of 20 million USD to Russia to enable Malaysian Bolehnaut to hitch a ride on a Russian spacecraft be considered an achievement.Only a nitwit will think it is.
    We go back in time to the year 1984 when Ronald Reagan was President of USA and in his eagerness to extend friendship to China, offered Deng Xiao Ping a seat for a Chinese astronaut in America’s space shuttle. Deng Xiao Ping graciously decline the offer for he has in mind making China a space-faring nation and all great nations aspire to be space-faring nations.That simply means having your own space industrial complex building your own launch vehicles (rockets),spacecrafts, launch sites,remote sensing system,telemetry, tracking and control system etc etc
    There are no standard of excellence in this country.Just look at our schools or our public universities. Is it any wonder we can never produce the likes of Sergey Brin, Jerry Yang,Steve Shih Chen,Sabeer Bhatia or Shantanu Narayen.

  20. #20 by ChinNA on Friday, 15 February 2008 - 7:03 am

    Malaysia, sigh! What a loss to Malaysia.

    Thousands of us are in our closest 2 neighboring countries making their GDP grow. Some are even in their Ministers in another government. One of us had become the biggest automotive parts supplier in ASEAN.

    Some of our best and brightest are not with us.

    Sigh, if only we knew how to appreciate these talents, some would still have been still here in Malaysia.

    Sigh, sigh, sigh.

    We might the next sick man of ASEAN.

  21. #21 by kappikappu on Sunday, 17 February 2008 - 6:33 am

    Vision 2020 is only 12 years away. Now Pak Dollah is talking about 2057….or until eternity. The fact is that BN is buying time at the expense of the Rakyat. With such brain drain in our country now can we achieve Developed Nation status ? Surely the answer is NO if BN is allowed to govern Malaysia. Everyone likes pleasure and avoids suffering if given the chance. Being spoonfed is easier than going hunting. The Chinese proverb is very true in that “GIVE ME A FISH AND I SHALL EAT FOR A DAY. TEACH ME TO FISH AND I SHALL EAT A LIFETIME”. However the scenario here is the non bumi are treated as robbers of wealth in this nation. The future of Malaysia? You guess for yourself.

    BN never learn from past misdeeds. They are sweeping their misdeeds under the carpet. The word Prevention is better than cure never exist with BN. They prefer to cure after an incident rather than to prevent it from happening. The end result is usually there is NO CURE. Take Hindraff protest for example. If there had been an avenue in the first place to listen to the plight of the Indians, there would be no demonstration. After the demonstration, there was NO CURE but the Hindraff leaders put under ISA.

    The main intention of the Corridors created are for the BN leaders and their cronies to get fatter in the pocket and in the end the real sufferers are the Rakyat.

    So wake up and put an end to the BN rule this coming GE if we really want to be a developed nation.

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