RISE 2018 Day Two Snapshot

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Good morning. Artificial Intelligence (AI) continued to dominate discussions on Day Two of RISE 2018, plus we saw traditional and digital companies go head to head, and got some tips from leading entrepreneurs.


Where is AI going and what does it mean?

Microsoft President Brad Smith urged his Hong Kong audience to be part of a crucial global conversation about AI. With technology advances now giving computers parity with humans in key areas (including vision, speech, transcription and reading), we need to heed Stephen Hawking’s warning that AI could replace people, he says. It’s no longer about what computers can do, but what they should do; and it is up to us to make this decision. We need a new generation of laws so that ethical AI is assured. And we need to prepare the workforce to succeed as more jobs become digitized.

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  • Urban mobility: The world’s largest mobility service platform, DiDi completes 30 million trips and processes 4,800 TB of data per day. It needs to be able to predict future demand for its services with very high precision and deal with over 40 billion route planning requests a day, explains Bob Zhang, DiDi Chuxing co-founder and CTO. It must lead in big data and AI. The next decade will radically alter infrastructure, vehicles and the ride-share network.

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  • Speech recognition: Delivering his speech in Chinese, with simultaneous on-screen translation into English, the CEO of search engine Sogou talked about speech recognition as essential to humanity and the core of AI. Xiaochuan Wang explained that Sogou is working to make natural voice communications possible between people and machines. Using AI, Sogou recognizes Chinese speech with 98% accuracy and has market-leading lip-reading capabilities. This opens up new possibilities for specialist devices and accurate Q&A services for industries such as law and medicine.

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Can traditional and digital industries co-exist?

News organizations like Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post are increasingly embracing AI to enhance the user experience with customized stories and personalized recommendations. But there is still a great deal of tension between traditional media and the Internet platforms that use AI to power news searches and curate online content. RISE sat SCMP CEO Gary Liu next to Google’s APAC News Lab lead Irene Jay Liu to talk about algorithms.

  • Legacy news media – the traditional gatekeepers of truth and objectivity – have largely disappeared and new sources of news don’t have that same accountability, Mr Liu says. He argues that the rise of AI-driven news delivery is bad news because algorithms misunderstand the purpose of news, which is both to report the facts and to provide a perspective. They mash ‘news’ and ‘content’ together as if all are equally relevant.
  • While not disagreeing with this last point, Ms Liu explains that Google is constantly honing its news algorithm to ensure that people get locally relevant results from authoritative, trustworthy sources. It uses human ‘raters’ to train its algorithm and works with traditional media to make it easier for Google to verify their reporting as credible.

RISE also brought together John Tsang, chairman of Benefit Vantage Limited, which is creating a one-click log-on solution, and Marjorie Yang, chairman of apparel industry leader Esquel Group, to represent digital and traditional industries.

  • As Ms Yang is an MIT graduate, it is perhaps not surprising that she shut down the debate by declaring that traditional companies need to now also be digital companies, using data to generate value. The challenge for Esquel is to educate its 50,000-strong workforce, many of whom lack formal education, to embrace the digital economy. Mr Tsang agreed, adding that, indeed, the entire education system needs to be revamped for up-skilling at different life stages. With the right policies in place, Hong Kong can build on its past as a leader in traditional sectors and become a platform for innovation in the digital era.

Presenting a more radical vision of a society restructured by cryptocurrencies in his keynote, Ethereum Foundation co-founder Joseph Lubin predicted a world where ‘tokenized’ systems remove intermediaries between those who create content or provide resources and services and their consumers. A fast-maturing adjacent financial industry infrastructure is being built on blockchain, he said, enabling the democratization of investment, so capital comes to those with ideas as people support ideas that inspire them.

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Lessons from the front-line

RISE is a feast of insights. Here’s some of the advice we took on board today.

On building a billion-dollar company … Bill Liu, founder of flexible display company Royole, initially focused on R&D, but expanded the team to bring in the talent he needed. It was a natural progression. Simon Loong, founder of fintech innovator WeLab, had learnt from a past failure that a strong founding team, working full-time, is needed. You need to take yourself seriously for others to do so, too. Both agreed: find the right team, then look for investors.

On what being at the top of the world meansCameron Adams, co-founder of Canva (Australia’s first unicorn), is enjoying being part of a team after earlier following his personal interests and working solo. Now an educator, Mike Massimino fulfilled his boyhood dream of becoming an astronaut, but he always knew this career would end. Brandon Vera, ONE Heavyweight World Champion, stays hungry and humble: his success formula includes hard work, perseverance, and the mindset that there is always someone better than you. None of the three feel they are “on top” and they don’t want to be – there’s always more to come.

On going global … Investor Sean Rad, who founded Tinder, urges companies to think globally from day one. Tinder didn’t just localize its app in different languages; it had in-country teams delivering feedback and advocating for local users. His tips for entrepreneurs: love what you do, because there will be hard times; inspire others, because you can’t do it alone; and, most importantly, embrace obstacles, because you have to learn and grow.

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Join us for the RISE Day Three snapshot tomorrow, when we’ll hear what the final day’s presenters think about leadership and investing opportunities this year, and meet the people behind the movie Searching, a movie told entirely via computer screens. We’ll also crown our 2018 PITCH start-up competition winner.