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Is Artificial Intelligence for Real?

It seems that everybody is talking about AI (artificial intelligence). Link 1 (August 5th, 2017) intimated that the technology community and the Hong Kong Government are not embracing this round of opportunities with the level of enthusiasm and commitments like other economies do.

AI is often promoted as a catch-all phrase rolling up most of the up and coming technologies. Or is it a new height for ICT (information & communication technology) to pick up more sex appeal? Link 2 is one example of numerous articles offered by solutions providers promoting AI being the “future”.

To be clear, AI is where several technological advancements converge to produce exciting possibilities, some of which are unheralded. There is more computing power in a US$200 smartphone in 2017 than a Cray 2-Supercomputer in 1985 (Link 3). Such acceleration in computing power and storage capacity will sooner or later put us in some “dotted line” comparison with human intelligence.

For Hong Kong, the relevant question is always about: Are We Missing the Boat? It seems that HK has already missed many high-tech “boats” in the past 30 years so is it a big deal we miss another one? That is a fair question. First and second movers enjoy advantages but many of them do die young, often at the expense of investors’ money.

I opine that new technologies tend to build on knowledge gained from previous generations. It is definitely harder for technology practitioners to enter the arena if their skill sets are out of date.

Mismatched skills make it difficult for entrepreneurs and foreign firms looking to set up shop in HK to recruit local talents. We need critical mass to form an industrial cluster, which, in turn, allows the best firms to emerge from healthy competition. And we become more inclined to stay on the sideline.


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