Being a knowledge worker in 2020

We live in strange times. In my hometown Hong Kong, there were the Anti-Extradition protests in 2019, closely followed by the Wuhan Coronavirus in 2020 — my Government announcing their ‘Truth about Hong Kong’, officials whitewashing police brutality, citizens panic buying and price-gougers setting ridiculous prices for masks, all stem from the very fact that information is almost always disproportionately disseminated and processed. People appealing to authority without even slightly questioning their version of ‘truth’ because they never knew better.

As someone working in IT, or in a more general sense, as a knowledge worker, we always strive to make the most pragmatic and rational decision based on limited facts. It is our second nature to:

  • Distinguish facts from opinions
  • Make deductive instead of inductive conclusions

But in order to be good at making decisions without a full picture (the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth), we have to first be humble, and I would say this is the quintessential quality that a knowledge worker can have in order to be successful.

I pride myself in being humble. Yes, this ‘brag’ might sound contradictory but it is this sense of constant infighting between these two qualities that keep me grounded. Humbleness gives you the eagerness to learn, to accept the fact that you do not know everything about the world, to improve upon known knowledge; Pride allows you to be confident in your domain of knowledge, to back your arguments with facts, to convince someone there is a better angle of looking at things — It is the Yin and Yang of building knowledge.

In my eight years (and counting) of IT career, I have noticed a pattern where many developers like to work in silos, all by themselves and hoarding knowledge that is only known to them. While I completely understand these as typical introvert qualities — I certainly am guilty of these behaviours at various points of my career — this is simply bad teamwork, and is certainly doing no good to information transparency. When these behaviours exacerbate at scale, you get what the world is experiencing right now, disproportionate information.

Ironically, it is not that difficult to solve this problem. Having some empathy goes a long way. At a personal/career level, simply think twice or give ample heads-up before acting, document non-obvious paths you have trekked through, keep people that might be affected by your actions in the loop are all effective way to close information gaps. These not only promote team accountability, but they also set you up for a reputation for being reliable and a good team player.

At a societal level, we have to get in the habit of performing ‘fact checks’ on the news we are fed with. Taking the recent reveal of Independent Police Complaints Council’s report on 2019’s anti-extradition bill protests for an example, on one hand, our logical minds have always taught us not to draw conclusions from unproven hearsays; on the other hand, it is only human nature to question the truthfulness of ‘The Truth of Hong Kong’ when all Lam’s government does is nothing but deception and kowtow to the CCP. Her administration’s stubbornness to accept opposing voices, no matter how reasonable they sound, is her Achilles’ heel.

Today marks the tenth month anniversary of the 2019 Yuen Long attack, and also marks the inclusion of Beijing’s further interference of Hong Kong’s autonomy by proposing a national security law applicable to this city, completely circumventing Article 18 of the Basic Law:

National laws shall not be applied in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region except for those listed in Annex III to this Law. The laws listed therein shall be applied locally by way of promulgation or legislation by the Region.

Yes, of course, Beijing officials are undoubtedly going to release statements with something along the lines of ‘The Central Government has the power to amend Annex III as it sees fit blah blah blah’. We all know how it goes. The interpretation only goes one way: completely to the CCP’s favour. The Hong Kong Government is just a puppet to its CCP master without caring what it is actually best for its citizens.

I am getting off-topic and it is getting late over here, and I do not know what am I going to wake up to tomorrow.

God bless Hong Kong.

Programmer | Watch enthusiast