Monday, 18 January 1999
A former colleague grumbles behind his beer. Anchor Beer goes down smooth, every time! It's not due to the beer. The slogan says "Anchor is a beer that goes down smooth, everytime!". I have not yet been able to prove it wrong. Malaysian beer tastes fine.

Subject of his grumbling is Singaporean customs. Every weekend he flies from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore and vice versa. Malaysian customs knows him by now. Every week they greet him like a friend. The same story at Malaysian Airlines. As a regular customer he even gets a preferential treatment.

Singaporeans just stick to their holy rules. Their customs just works according to procedure. A smile is not part of that routine. "They are dumb robots" he continues to grumble, from behind his Anchor. "They might just as well replace them by computers" The band starts to play, and disables further exchange of thoughts. His last remark triggered some thinking. What is dumb, what is intelligent? Are computers really that stupid?

Computers play a pretty good game of chess, ask Kasparov. Does that make them intelligent? Some shuttle trains are computer controlled. Are they just a clever as an engine driver? Expert Systems are quite good at making decisions on a specific field. Yet they are no match at all for human intelligence.

People have their own thoughts. The flexibility of the human mind is still way ahead of Artificial Intelligence. Even the most flexible rules are still limited. They can't divert from predefined paths.

The next day I am at Kuala Lumpur International Airport ( to fly back to Holland. A charming lady at the customs desk greets me. She browses through the strange hotchpot of stamps in my passport. "You came to Malaysia by train (" she asks in English. I reply in Malay "Keluar ke Singapura, dan masuk lagi" (left to Singapore, and quickly came back).

She recognizes my enthusiasm for her country. With a big smile she returns my passport. I am so happy there is no robot at this desk.

Till next week,