Sutapa Amornvivat, left, CEO of SCB Abacus, share her vision on the topic of “AI and the Future of SEA”at SingularityU Thailand Summit 2018 recently.
Sutapa Amornvivat, left, CEO of SCB Abacus, share her vision on the topic of “AI and the Future of SEA”at SingularityU Thailand Summit 2018 recently.

AI ‘to have farreaching impact’

business July 02, 2018 01:00

By Special to The Nation

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 manufacturing, farming and retail in thailand  may get a boost

Earlier this month the SingularityU Thailand Summit 2018 was hosted in Bangkok. Singularity University is a Silicon Valley think tank that focuses on solving global challenges through technology. This twoday event brings global leading experts on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and digital biology to share their cutting-edge insights with Thailand’s leaders. 

Sutapa Amornvivat, CEO of SCB Abacus, was among the distinguished panellists invited to share her insights on the topic of “AI and the Future of SEA [Southeast Asia]”. She was the only Thai to share the stage among international thought leaders, including Vivienne Ming, Faculty of Cognitive Neuroscience from Singularity University; and John Jiang, chief research and development officer from True Corporation. 

SCB Abacus is an AI-powered data analytics company under Siam Commercial Bank (SCB).

The discussion began with the topic of the impact of AI in SEA over the next five years. Sutapa predicted an increasing adoption of intelligent automation, especially for manufacturing processes. This refers to the use of automation combined with AI that enable technologies such as natural language processing that can interpret human language and make decisions. 

Smarter machines powered by machine-learning algorithms would allow reduced lead times to accommodate changes and increase flexibility in the manufacturing process. 

“For the government sector, we will see a trend towards a digital transformation of the economy. An example of a digital government initiative of shared infrastructure is the ‘Government Cloud’ in Estonia,” Sutapa told the panel.

“For the region of SEA, similar to the United States, we may see large corporates that have access to data and technical talents begin to accumulate market power,” said Sutapa.

Jiang noted that “smart farming” technologies were already in use in Thailand, including This robotics and AI imagerecognition tools capable of sizing up farm animals. Technologically, Thailand still lags behind China and the US, though there is high potential for technological growth in the region,” he said. The country still has a predominantly cashorientated culture although alternatives such as e-wallets are becoming more common. 

In a discussion about the ethics raised by AI, Ming expressed concern over the coming risks, particularly on the issue of bias. AI systems are only as “smart” as the data they are trained on, she said.

A core problem with AI is that “within large complex data sets, there are vastly more spurious correlations than actual causal relationships. In many cases, much more,” said Ming. This can have serious consequences when AI is used for budget allocation, hiring and criminal sentencing. Significant biases within the data can result in undesirable social outcomes. Thus, it is crucial to have a deep understanding of the contextual problems before applying AI solutions.

Looking ahead, Sutapa offered insight on the trajectory of AI in SEA. Currently, the laws governing data policy are quite grey in the region, while they are much clearer in the US.

Elsewhere, China has adopted a more laissezfaire approach to data policy, whereas Europe’s recent introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation contrasts against this direction.

The lack of transparent data laws means that large corporations and government bodies, who accumulate the mass of data, are able to determine how it is used rather than the realowners of data – the customers or citizens.

“Clearer, more transparent laws will empower all the players who drive the innovation ecosystem, not just large companies, but also SMEs and individuals,” said Sutapa.

In the spirit of imaginative discusฌsion, the panellists were asked to comment on the prospect of “consciousness” in AI as seen in popular movies.

“AI are trained for specific tasks – which they can perform exceptionally well, but do not yet possess Artificial General Intelligence” similar to humans, answered Sutapa.

The prospect of machines capable of experiencing consciousness, in the human sense, is not very likely, all panellists agreed.

This report was contributed by Siam Commercial Bank.