Did you know that the MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC Lee Kuan Yew once wished someone had invented air-conditioned underwear? Describing it to the Asian Wall Street Journal in 1999, he said that it could be "a light polyester air-conditioned undergarment, enclosed around the neck, wrists and ankles, and battery-operated". True to form, the Straits Times ran it as a straight story on page one. A month later, it published a 1455-word feature article quoting local academics and engineers hot for the idea, complete with an illustration of how a "cold suit" might work.
Reuters has jumped on Sunday Times' story, about the revelation by the director of Singapore's National Neuroscience Institute, that her 88-year-old father has sensory peripheral neuropathy, a condition that impairs the conduction of sensation from his legs to his spinal cord. "This makes his walking unsteady, as many Singaporeans have already noticed," she wrote. The daughter added, "I think with medication and simple precaution, he can continue to be of service to his country and the world." In other words, no need to dock his pay. A Bangladeshi worker who lost one or two of his fingers in an industrial accident may no longer be deemed employable, but an MP who can't walk to the meet-the-people-sessions need not worry about the pink slip. That's another advantage of the GRC - you're hoping for a by-election maybe?
Coincidence or not, there seems to be no shortage of research work on robotic ambulatory studies in Singapore. From the polytechnics to NTU, the complex dynamics of a humanoid locomotion are already well covered. Apparently the technology is well within reach, compared to refrigerated Calvin Kleins.
The worrying part is not automatic control of the limbs, but the cognitive portion above the neck. We are told someone diagnosed with sensory peripheral neuropathy has full functionality of his brain. Which makes it puzzling for us lesser mortals to understand why he had to tell his daughter to "Let the readers know I have sensory peripheral neuropathy." Has communication with the common man broken down?