March 21, 2019, 6.45pm. A heavy downpour did not discourage enthusiastic individuals from attending the inaugural meetup for Next X Asia on building next-gen ecosystems. Currently, we are living in a dynamic ecosystem whereby technology brings swift changes to the way we work, live and interact with each other.
Participants of the event were curious to explore new possibilities and be updated on the technology advances through the talks by the prestigious lineup of speakers.
Introduction by Yasunori Motani
The event started off with an introduction by Yasunori Motani, the Executive Director of Connectome Pte Ltd. He brought up the vision of Next X Asia and the interconnectedness of Singapore and Japan. Next X Asia is conceptualised to create an ecosystem that focuses on innovation that results in practical and better life for all.
According to Yasunori, Singapore, with the advantage of the availability of investment, accelerators and know how, is an optimal gateway for adaptation of emerging technology to various parts of the world.
AI as Emerging Tech by Dr Pierre Brunswick
The next speaker, Dr Pierre Brunswick, CEO of NeuroMem Technologies, spoke on the topic “AI as Emerging Tech”.
Setting a concrete context on how technologies impacted us, Dr Pierre compiled a list of the most valuable venture-backed private companies in the world. Topping the charts were Uber, at $51.0B, Xiaomi at $46.0B and Airbnb at $25.5B.
He pointed out the 3 approaches to digital integration in a company:
- Digital as a project
- Digital as a business
- Digital as a core value.
He believes that to be a winning company in the current landscape, businesses had to embrace the concept of digital as a core value. He further emphasised his point by deep diving into the potential economic impact brought about by Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI could create tremendous job opportunities revolving around this emerging technology.
However, it will also inversely affect many blue-collar jobs, with manufacturing and transportation industries being hit the hardest. He concluded his talks on the current application of AI on the cloud market, cybersecurity and smart cities.
Blockchain as Emerging Tech by Dr Tan Chong Hui
Dr Pierre Brunswick’s talk was followed by an in-depth explanation of blockchain, “Blockchain as Emerging Tech”, by Dr Tan Chong Hui, Head of Finance Programme, SUSS.
In this talk, Dr Tan expounded on the concept of the evolution of currency and the application of blockchain in the financial aspects. He started off his talk with the example of CryptoKitty, a digital kitty asset, which one could buy, breed and trade on the Ethereum blockchain. The most expensive CryptoKitty was worth USD$170,000!
A thought-provoking concept of money was also laid down by Dr Tan. In the past, currency took various forms, from gold to cocoa beans to shells to many other physical assets. During the World War II, the Prisoners-of-War even used cigarettes as a form of currency. During this course of civilisation, there was a clear observation that money became abstracted with each turn of history. Right now, living in the digital age, Dr Tan’s talk brought about a question for us to ponder, is digital currency the next layer of abstraction from digital banking?
Besides token as a currency, Dr Tan spoke on the concept of smart contracts. For this, he used the Ethereum network as an example of how a trustless system could be built with the help of smart contracts. He explained the intersection of the virtual world and the real world with digital currency.
Education and AI
The last speaker was Dr Ailiya Borjigin, NTU researcher and Co-founder of Horizontal Education Pte Ltd. Dr Ailiya maps out that just like the existing mature technology, AI will face a turning point from being an edge to a standard tool. The barrier to AI will be reduced overtime and the companies that are not utilising AI will be losing out.
Similarly to Dr Pierre, Dr Ailiya included many industrial examples in AI, Microsoft’s XiaoBing chatbot, China smart city integration with face recognition and Dr Ailiya’s own project, Horizontal Education.
As a passionate researcher in education and Artificial intelligence, Dr Ailiya referred to how, with the advancement of technology, the dynamics of the classrooms might be flipped. This meant that in rural areas, there might be more cases of in-house teachers acting more of a facilitator, while utilising online teaching tools and instructional videos that provide higher quality teaching materials.
Finally, the last segment of the event – a panel discussion, moderated by the experienced Mr Yuji Akaba, Co-founder & Managing Director of Breakthrough Partners and Incubation Manager of BINARYSTAR.
The main takeaways of panel discussion are on failure and the concepts of open source. Open source had changed the dynamics of development and how companies are focusing on building communities. Across the panel, there was consensus on Singapore being strategic platform for marketing and reaching out to other parts of the region.
All in all, it had been an insightful meetup with windows to the technological development and synergy between Singapore and Japan. I’m definitely looking forward to future upcoming NextXAsia meetups!