• Desmond Hoo

Interview with our COO, Desmond Hoo

Recently, our COO was interviewed in his private capacity by a local editorial, Through The Eyes Of, and shared about his personal entrepreneurial experience as well as his thoughts on how education and technology coexist in our modern world. Full interview here.

Desmond Hoo, COO, Siloam Technologies

For the purpose of this article, we will share with you the relevant bits of his interview. There have been many concerns raised over machines taking over the world. What do you think of the people who decry AI, and do their worries have any basis? People bemoan change for various reasons, but mostly due to self-interest. Some would decry AI for taking over their jobs because they’re resistant to training and upskilling. Jobs, as with the four other industrial revolutions, will always evolve. And humans will always evolve and adapt to the latest needs. While AI threatens to replace many jobs - and it will - people will adapt and do higher-level work. While I empathise with their reluctance to retool themselves, I’m confident that the resourcefulness in humanity will help them adapt yet again. Some others decry AI for its relentless and seemingly dogged approach to tracking users’ habits, privacy is now becoming a luxury rather than a right. This concern is fair and I too am worried about our increasing reliance on such tracking. I can’t speak for others, but I sometimes find myself in a pickle because while I am concern about being monitored, I’m reliant on their “suggestions” as well. How this conundrum will pan out remains to be seen, but I’m guessing as per my assertion above, we will adapt. Already some studies have shown that young people today won’t think twice about trading privacy for convenience. How we mindlessly allow apps to access our Camera Roll or Contacts for easy upload of documents or syncing of contacts in our networks. It’s scary how even though we know the implications, we consciously chose over it. Some people are reluctant to do private tuition because they dislike social interaction with a stranger. In this regard, do you think that AI learning will be able to help special needs youths better than professional adults? As a former teacher, my views on this will likely be biased but I’ll just say anyway. Technology will never replace a trade that requires the human touch. While technology can assess objectively, the art of imparting knowledge, experience, wisdom, and the like will never be fully replaced by a machine. It’s too clinical for it to be meaningful at all. Machines, at least at this stage, are still best at diagnosing, not curing. What are your concerns about AI learning, and what limitations do you think you might face? That one day, we are too dependent on this symbiotic relationship, that we can no longer function as our own without the help of artificial extensions of our mind and body. As it is, Google has replaced our need to memorise formulae, road navigation, and many more. Like AI replacing jobs, these functions are now taken by technology and our minds are freed up for other higher-order thinking.

A more profound worry, for me, is how education as an industry itself, is still not evolving. With information readily at our fingertips today, students are still “tested” primarily via the test of recall. The more you can memorise, the higher you’ll score, and therefore the more competent you are. This is fundamentally erroneous, and more starkly, nobody’s doing anything about it because it is a “systemic” problem that cannot be solved by one company, or sector, or stakeholder. The limitation in this is no matter how pervasive AI can be in our lives, we will still be learning and testing via a pedagogy meant for the industrial revolution. By Desmond Hoo

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