It was a meeting of global minds in this Asia House conference in Singapore on 22 Nov 2018 at Mandarin Oriental. Leading figures shared their myriad insights on global trade, investment, policy and technology in 3 different panel discussions that ran the gamut from “The Shifting Trade Landscape in Asia and Beyond”, “Creating a Digital Ecosystem” and “The Politics of the Belt and Road.”
Having read “AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order” by Dr Kai-Fu Lee, the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures, a leading investment firm focusing on developing the next generation of of Chinese high-tech companies, I was thrilled to attend the conference and sit the feet of the AI prophet not of doom but boom.
Seeing how hard the crowd leaned in during his keynote that day, I knew I wasn’t the only one who was in awe of the man himself. Yet, invisible questions marks hung over our heads as thoughts buzzed at a similar frequency: Would AI displace our jobs and roles irrevocably? How far ahead is China in AI? To whom will the new global order belong?
While the last question is fairly rhetorical, the division of global power is not so clear cut. As he shares, “(With) American researchers leading AI discoveries, and Chinese researchers leading the implementation of those new ideas in the world’s most competitive market, these two superpowers will bring about the fastest and greatest technological revolution we’ve ever seen.”
The rest of the session gave us a glimpse into China’s progress and prowess in the AI field. Delivering the truth serum with his trademark peaceful yet incisive notes, Dr Kai-Fu Lee never once flinched apologetically for China’s growing dominion. China, I must say, has been one nation that has tripled down on its weaknesses to make them a source of pride, power and profit.
Due to the rise in economic nationalism, threats to multilateral trade agreements, and the declining influence of global economic institutions, the shift in global trade and the new trade order are inevitable. AI is a spanner in the works but also a great enabler of progress; Asia will have to eat, live and breathe technology while not forgetting to harness it for a bigger purpose of bringing greater competitiveness and peace to the region.
As Dr Kai-Fu Lee’s “in conversation” chat with Michael Lawrence, Chief Executive of Asia House drew to an inspiring and optimistic close, adrenaline surged through my body: Would I dare approach the paragon of ancient wisdom for a photo? The doubts racing through my mind could not silence the singularity of innate belief: All men are made equal and I had every right to be in the presence of greatness.
This is also the same philosophy that has driven Dr Kai-Fu Lee in his advocacy of policies that will ensure people around the world are not left behind by the AI revolution, hence earning him the Asia House Asian Business Leaders Award 2018, presented to him for his meritous support for innovation and the above mentioned.
Sometimes, all you need to do is ASK: Ask BIG, Shoot for the moon, Keep your vision in front of you.