by Rose Cruz Churma
The Hawaii Philippines Business and Economic Council (HPBEC) held its monthly first Wednesday virtual forum last August 2 at 4 p.m. HST (or August 3, Thursday at 10:00 a.m. in the Philippines) on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Moderated by local business consultant and author, Joe Berardy, the participants consisted of two Hawaii-based panelists—Butch Dela Vega and Ian Kitajima, and two tech-savvy entrepreneurs from the Philippines—Karen Singson and Brandon Leong.
Butch Dela Vega, a retired tech executive of AT&T who now considers Hawai’i as home, opened the session and set the tone of the forum with a brief discussion on AI.
AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence by computer systems. It acquires knowledge for decision-making and solves problems through logical reasoning from the information already available online. It can recognize patterns and process languages—and has the capability of translating the text into other known languages.The two categories of AI—Predictive AI have been in use for the past years. Among examples of Predictive AI are friend recommendations from Facebook, or movie recommendations from Netflix. Fraud detection in financial systems and the development of new pharmaceutical drugs are also some of the results of Predictive AI.
Generative AI, on the other hand, has trended only about six to eight months ago with the launch of the app ChatGPT last November 30, 2022 by a company called OpenAI.
ChatGPT was the first to market this powerful capability, and when it was launched, it acquired one million users in five days. In two months, it racked up 100 million users.
The app was made available in most countries worldwide, except for about six nations, and supports itself in almost all known languages at various levels of proficiency, depending on the volume of data it was trained on.
The app also was able to pass the SAT, various board exams (such as the medical board exams) and the bar exams that test the legal knowledge of would-be lawyers.
Early computer systems were developed in the 1940s to the 1950s, when the initial concepts of AI were first explored in the 1950s and were first used in 1956.
In 1997, Deep Blue of IBM beat world chess champion Gary Kasparov and by 2016 Alpha Zero routinely defeated humans in the game of Go, such that with more powerful computers, AI became widely used in various industries.
What can ChatGPT do? It answers prompts in a human-like manner. For example, it can write a poem on the challenges of raising a child or write an essay on Philippine independence. It can explain Bitcoin and other crypto-currency items at fifth grade level, or even develop and project plan for building a house, or write a screenplay and/or a movie script.
Ian Kitajima, president of the Hawai’i-based Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR), who has over 21 years of developing and commercializing next-generation technologies for defense, medical, clean energy, and consumer applications–showed via his computer screen processes of using ChatGPT in real-time.
The app has a free version (downloadable on any smartphone) and a more advanced version that users can subscribe to for around $20 per month. In this version, one can download data that can be analyzed and then summarized in text and graphics format by the app.
Aside from ChatGPT, there are other apps using AI such as Stable Diffuser—using that app, an image was generated based on a prompt. Other apps available for free are Claude.ai, Google Bard, and Midjourney. Some apps can create video reels using speaking avatars that use dialogue that a user has inputted. These AI apps do the work of several data analysts in a matter of minutes.
Major corporations are investing billions in AI. For example, Microsoft just invested $10B in OpenAI while Google released Google Bard. Meta (of Facebook fame), on the other hand, has diverted its resources from Metaverse to AI. Even Elon Musk, the developer of Tesla, has just established a new AI company called X.ai. From these facts, it is evident that the development of AI will increase exponentially.
In the US, the White House last month encouraged tech companies to adopt safeguards to the use of AI. Seven leading companies (Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft and OpenAI) all agreed to develop safeguards by allowing outside experts to test their models before release; develop a system to indicate when content is AI-generated; and prioritizing research that avoids bias and discrimination in their technology.
Karen Singson, Co-Founder & CEO of Kayamo—a Philippine-based start-up that offers loans to e-commerce entrepreneurs, described how AI benefits her online lending platform, and how it creates business opportunities for clients who are, for the most part, “unbanked” due to the stringent banking laws in the Philippines and lack of credit-scoring systems for new entrepreneurs. Despite a limited 20-person staff dealing with an initial 40,000 applicants, none of its clients has defaulted on their loans, thanks in part to their judicious use of technology. It also has a 24-hour turnaround time to process and approve loan requests.
Brandon Leong is the Business Unit Lead for Round One, the Philippines’ first equity crowdfunding platform. Round One facilitates the onboarding of businesses looking to raise funds, by matching investors and fundraisers. He provides market education, financial literacy and fintech consultation for teams and organizations seeking to create their digital footprint in the Philippines’ financial landscape. He reflected on how AI has impacted every aspect of fintech and has democratized the investment process. The days when stocks are traded on the trading floor and only accessible to large institutions are a thing of the past. Nowadays, AI and technology have brought robust tools into the hands of individual investors and made financial markets accessible to all.
This virtual forum presented by HPBEC is in its third season. Started in February 2021 it helped pave the way for the first Aloha & Mabuhay Conference last October 2021 which was in a virtual format due to COVID. The Talk Story sessions are held every first Wednesday afternoon of the month (or first Thursday mornings in the Philippines) via Zoom and livestreamed on the HPBEC’s Facebook page. Each month, a diverse group of panelists tackles topics of interest that strengthen links between Hawai’i and the Philippines.
HPBEC is a non-profit organization incorporated in 2011 whose primary mission is to create a forum for the exchange of information and direction between Hawai’i and the Philippines to promote business and economic development, and advocate for Hawai’i residents who consider both the Philippines and Hawai’i as home. For this session on AI, as well as all the previous ones, the recordings are available via the HPBEC Facebook page at facebook.com/hpbecFB/videos.
by Rose Cruz Churma