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Li Xiaolong

Please tell us more about yourself.

I am curious about many things - politics, psychology, sociology, philosophy, physics, food, the list goes on. Perhaps what intrigues me most is human behaviour – our behaviour. How is it that we can be kind and benevolent at times, yet cruel and evil at another? What shapes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviours? Indeed, what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’? Aren’t these subjective? Who defined them, and why?
 
In school, I am part of SMU Judo and ICON. Outside, I volunteer with Youth Corps Singapore and the Children’s Cancer Foundation.

Occasionally, I feel motivated enough to turn my thoughts into words and I wonder out loud at my personal blog – ideasofapragmatist.wordpress.com

What made you choose to do a degree in Social Sciences and why choose to do it in SMU?

I remember when I was much younger, there were many questions that I did not have answers to. Why must we go to school? Why are some people wealthier than others? Why do we eat chickens, pork, beef but not dogs and cats? Do some animals deserve rights while others don’t? Why is life unfair?

I did not know that these were interrelated questions about how the world works. Humans have come a long way since our hunter-gatherer days. From fleeing from lions, to putting them on display, we have become so powerful that we have shaped the world and left an indelible mark on it (just look at the longevity of plastics!), ushering in the age of the Anthropocene.
 
To understand the world that we live in, we need to understand humans – ourselves. And at its core, social sciences is really about people.
 
Why did Americans vote for Trump, are their decisions rational? Why do some people support terrorism, how can we stop them? Is meritocracy good enough? As technology continues to revolutionise the world, how will people’s lives be impacted? How can we mitigate the negatives while maximising the positives?
 
These are questions with no simple answers. But a deep appreciation of the social sciences has enabled me to better understand these questions and shape my responses to them.
 
Social sciences is a broad category of disciplines, some of which are political science, psychology, sociology and public policy. Given the complexity of humans, no single social science discipline has the complete answer to many important questions. For instance, on countering the threat of terrorism in Singapore, what guides the Government’s decision to roll out the SGSecure initiative? Psychologically, policy-makers must understand how people react to different policies. If a terror attack occurs, how will the public know how to react? What is the best method to get the public to remember what to do? Politically, how can we structure and frame the policy to rally the support of all communities? What are the societal institutions, formal and informal, that can bolster or impede the implementation of the policy? 

It is therefore imperative that no social sciences student learn only one single discipline. SMU’s multidisciplinary approach to social sciences therefore best equips me for the real world.

What are some of the opportunities you have been given in SOSS/SMU?

I was privileged to have been part of a SMU-sponsored study trip to Cambodia in May 2017. It has allowed me to see how politics play out in real life, with disastrous consequences for millions of people if not handled well. There, I witnessed first-hand how business elites tend to support the incumbent, though highly corrupt government while the poor majority tend to support the opposition. Yet the government remains in power. This trip has made me realise the importance of politics and how it can profoundly impact the lives and aspirations of people in a country.
 
Further, those who have heard about blockchain and big data usually know its potential applications to the world of finance and business. But what if we could use blockchain to improve electoral integrity in democracies? What if big data could be leveraged to improve the lives of people? These, I learnt at a recent seminar co-organised by SMU and The Business Times. SMU has given me the opportunities to learn not just in the classroom, but also from leading experts in the real world.

What are your plans and goals for the future?

Given the exponential rate with which technology is changing the world, no one really knows how the future looks like, even five years from now. Many jobs today did not even exist 10 years ago!
 
But despite all these uncertainties, I know that I will pursue a purpose-oriented career. I hope I will be able to play a part in improving the lives of Singaporeans and if there is an opportunity, the world.

Do you have any advice for prospective students who are considering SOSS, SMU?

We do not live in silos. No matter what you will eventually do in the future, you will be doing it with people and for people. And to do well, you need to understand people.

Social sciences in SMU will help you understand people better.

 

Last updated on 13 Sep 2017 .