Who’s afraid of AI?

4 min read

It will write you a poem or prepare your PowerPoint presentation. It will compose a song and even sing it for you. It will drive your car or help diagnose a disease. It will help detect and flag financial fraud. It will talk to clients and resolve their issues.

Real or imagined capabilities and potential uses make artificial intelligence (AI) both welcome and feared. Many people look forward to being liberated from tedious and repetitive tasks while some fear—fueled probably by science fiction movies of machines going rogue—it will lead to human obsolescence.

The recent AI Summit PH 2023, with the theme “Redefining the Future with AI,” underscores the good the disruptive technology could achieve and seeks to allay fears of humans being replaced by machines.

David Hardoon, chief executive officer at Singapore-based Aboitiz Data Innovation (ADI), points out that the AI revolution or evolution—however one would want to look at it—“is going to happen whether we like it or not.”

But it would not bring about the doomsday scenarios vividly portrayed in sci-fi movies. Rather, it would improve efficiency and productivity, mitigate risks and promote sustainability which, in its most basic, simply means ensuring there will be enough resources for future generations.

“Fortune favors the bold,” says Hardoon, the former chief data officer and head of data analytics at the Monetary Authority of Singapore. AI would not replace humans, he says. It might “change the characteristics of jobs” but would not really have an impact on employment numbers.

For instance, Hardoon says, “AI would not replace engineers, but improve [the way they do their jobs] and make decisions.”

In the field of power, the idea of AI lowering the cost of achieving sustainability was raised.

ADI chief operating officer for power Luis Gonzales points out that, at the moment, people have to weigh sustainability against affordability. Michael Abundo, chief corporate services officer at OceanPixel Pte. Ltd., says they have to communicate to the public the fact that sustainable might not be the cheapest alternative.

Priority is always given to affordable and secure energy sources, says Carlos Aboitiz, chief corporate services officer of Aboitiz Power Corp.

Lorafe Lozano, associate professor and chair of Industrial Engineering Department at University of San Carlos, stresses that sustainability and affordability should go hand in hand. Noting that AI is all about analyzing data for solutions and decisions, she says, “data will show consumer behavior [and] make work more efficient and [improve] resiliency.”

National scientist Raul Fabella, professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines School of Economics, stresses the need to make the power sector more attractive to investors. The cost of power per se is also discouraging to investors who are going into less power-intensive industries.

Combating fraud

While the power sector has yet to make the most of AI, the technology has become an important tool in the war against fraud waged by banks, electronic wallet operators and other financial service providers.

Union Bank of the Philippines head of fraud unit Christopher Go says, as people moved from mainly face-to-face transactions before the COVID-19 pandemic to digital interactions, frauds have also been committed digitally.

“Financial institutions have to adapt quickly to help our clients,” he says. Help includes educating people on digital risks and how to prevent them.

“We have to study how our customers behave when using [digital devices, like] smartphones,” says Celina Yulo Loyzaga, acting chief information security officer at UnionDigital Bank, as she expresses the view that the incidence of fraud would likely increase.

Fraud has shifted to the digital sphere, notes Luigi Manianglung, head of Fraud Risk Operations Department at Bank of the Philippine Islands.

From traditionally human-based solutions, says Emile Reyes, head of CFS Fraud Risk Management at Maybank, financial institutions are now using a combination of “supervised and unsupervised” models to prevent and detect fraud.

‘Responsible’ AI

AI, with its ability to manage large data cache, could be used to detect anomalies and inconsistencies. Go advises financial institutions not to think of “fraud tools as an expense but as an investment” to keep existing customers and attract new ones. Loyzaga stresses the need to educate clients.

On the matter of responsible AI and financial services, Adrienne Heinrich, head of ADI’s AI and Innovation Center of Excellence, says the impact of AI on people, society and the country has to be considered.

Isvary Sivalingam, Southeast Asia lead for Better than Cash Alliance at United Nations Capital Development Fund, says not enough is being done to promote fair decisions across different groups of customers.

Heinrich says there’s a need for more transparency in understanding how AI models arrived at certain decisions. Sivalingam points out that because data are collected by people, there is inherent bias in them.

Both women agree it’s important to promote the development of responsible AI systems. Keeping AI “honest” should be a shared responsibility, they say.

In the roundtable discussion on “Driving digital bank profitability: Product and technology mix that will see new digital bank entrants win,” panelists Henry Aguda, president and CEO of UnionDigital Bank; Nathaniel Clarke, CEO of GoTyme; Angelo Madrid, president, Maya; and moderator Hardoon agree that digital financial institutions should be regulated as banks.

However, Aguda says other things should also be considered. Clarke says they are “more similar to software businesses than traditional banks.” Madrid notes that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has adopted progressive regulations for digital banks in its drive to reach sectors of the population that are unserved or underserved by traditional financial institutions.

In discussions on Generative AI, panelists stress the need for regulation. The panel consisted of Nicolas Paris, ADI chief data and technology officer; Heinrich; Richard Coombes, regional customer solutions manager, Google Cloud-Southeast Asia; Chomchana Trevai, head of AI for Southeast Asia, Amazon Web Services; and Lina Mockeliunaite, lead, ADI Presales-Financial Services.

Coombes says “regulation has to be at the forefront of [AI] conversations. People should be held accountable.” He also says that while jobs might be impacted by AI, “they will not necessarily be replaced.”

In his keynote speech, Department of Information and Communications Technology Secretary Ivan John Uy says the “emerging disruptive technology” of data science is indispensable. He cites data as a valuable resource that could bring the government closer to the people.

“AI [would be] an important tool in shaping public policy,” he says.

There is no need to fear the new technology, the secretary stresses. As Hardoon says, people should have the courage to pursue AI’s possibilities, to get ahead and get started. —CONTRIBUTED

(The article was originally published by Linda B. Bolido on inquirer.net )