This Article Was Written by Artificial Intelligence.

SINGAPORE, June 6: According to forecasts released on Wednesday by the global consulting firm PwC, up to 21 per cent of Singapore’s workforce could be placed at risk by automation in the near term.

In its Artificial Intelligence (AI) report, published annually, global consulting firm PwC said that the Singaporean economy would witness a net reduction in workers as automation takes over trading, financing and warehousing.

“Some jobs will be eliminated, others may be augmented by new jobs, and yet others could be transformed. It is hard to predict what the net impact on jobs will be,” said Lee Baow Hwee, senior partner and head of PwC Singapore’s financial and professional services practice.

The company believes it is crucial for business to work together in an agile way to adapt to AI. So if everyone wants to maintain jobs, then people need to prepare, embrace the change and look to AI for help,” Baow Hwee said.

In his keynote speech on Thursday at the International Summit of Economic Transformation, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also highlighted the importance of education and training for Singapore’s workforce.  

He pointed out that some people may be affected by automation or other changes as manufacturing, hardline professions and professions of recent years will no longer be as sought after. The government wants to provide support for these people to upskill so they have a better chance of finding new jobs and so that they can better sustain higher standards of living.

Meet Grover.


Believe it or not, what you just read was the work of Grover— a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence program.

While most fake news online today is manually written, experts around the world are concerned about the prospect of AI-written disinformation, which could be deployed faster and further. This is exactly why Grover was created by the University of Washington and the Allen Institute for AI (AI2). By learning to create convincing fake news, Grover also learned to efficiently spot it.   

The AI was trained using 120 gigabytes of articles from the top 5,000 publications tracked by Google News. By studying these articles, Grover learned how certain phrases or styles are used and what topics and features follow one another in an article, how they’re associated with different outlets, ideas, and so on.

In our case, all we needed to do was feed it a title (21% of Singapore’s Workforce might be Displaced because of AI), and train it with Channel NewsAsia articles. In mere minutes, Grover, was not only able to write an article with frighteningly similar style and formatting, but also was able to reference contextual knowledge. It knew for example, that Lee Hsien Loong is the Prime Minister of Singapore.

The Artificial Intelligence Debate Explained 

Grover’s existence, nicely encapsulates the huge debate going on about AI. 

One camp of economists think that AI is going to create jobs. There are the direct jobs for people who design and maintain the technology, and sometimes whole new industries built on the technology. In this case, when AI like Grover can successfully replace me as a writer, I could be involved in teaching or training the bot to write. 

There is also the indirect effect of labour-saving innovations. When companies can do more with less, they can expand, maybe add new products or open new locations. Yet again, when AI becomes a better writer than me, I could do other jobs inside The Kopi Company. Since there are more writers, I might be able to get an executive or managerial position inside the company. These are positions which involve more subjective decision-making and are better suited for us, humans. The key economic logic here is that AI will indeed displace workers. However, it might not affect the total number of jobs in the economy because of these offsetting effects.

On the other hand, however, the argument is a compelling one: this AI revolution is different and unlike what we’ve experienced before. 

Automation anxiety has always been a common theme in our workforces throughout the years. During the Industrial Revolution, fears of mass-unemployment by mechanical automation were rampant. British textile workers formed the ‘Luddite Movement’ – where workers damaged or destroyed machines – to protest the automation of textile production. In the late 1970’s, people also feared computers and what they might do to their jobs. Each time, it was proven that technology eliminates jobs, not work. 

This time around however, it isn’t just automation at play. As of 2017, over forty organizations worldwide are doing active research on General Artificial Intelligence– a type of AI that can perform any intellectual task that a human being can. So if one day, Groverbecomes not only a good writer, but also a good manager, executive, videographer and photographer, what do I do then? Submit to my Grover overlords?


Singapore and Artificial Intelligence

Vivian Balakrishnan participating in the “Global Cooperation and Artificial Intelligence” Roundtable. (Source)

The article produced by Grover might be fake, but the statistic we fed it was completely real.  A study conducted by Cisco in 2018, showed that about one-fifth of Singapore’s full-time equivalent workforce (20.6 per cent) will have their jobs displaced by 2028.

This seems to be just the start of it. 

Singapore is very keen to adopt AI and be a trailblazer in that field. Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative, Vivian Balakrishnan, stated earlier in the year that Singapore plans to “double down” on AI. Through the Smart Nation Initiative, the government is investing up to $150 million over five years in research, “to use AI to solve major challenges that affect society and industry”. AI Singapore, a national AI program, has also been set up with the National University of Singapore. 

The adoption has been a cautious one though. While the government wants to push AI in Singapore, it is also conscious that the technology will disrupt society. In 2018, it announced the formation of an Advisory Council on the Ethical Use of AI and Data, to examine legal and ethical issues raised by commercial deployment of AI. It also unveiled a Model AI Governance Framework which contains “ethical principles and practical measures that can be implemented by organisations deploying AI”. The Skillsfuture initiative, introduced in 2016, was also in anticipation of changes like this to the labour market. 

But are these measures going to be enough to safeguard Singaporean workers from the threats of AI?

As Grover puts it poignantly: “Some jobs will be eliminated, others may be augmented by new jobs, and yet others could be transformed. It is hard to predict what the net impact on jobs will be”.

Hey there, welcome to Kopi. Through deeply analysed explainers, we uncover and explain the multifaceted issues facing our societies. Through engaging narratives, we tell stories that are bold and unique. We just went live on Facebook. Subscribe to our page so that we can keep you updated. We really want to build a community there – so offer us your tips, suggestions and opinions. We’ll always be a work in progress and will try our very best to listen.

In a world that is bubbling with clickbait, sensationalism and oversimplifications, Kopi aims to bring long-form journalism back to South-East Asia.

Through deeply analysed articles, we uncover and explain the complex and multifaceted issues facing our societies. Through engaging narratives, we tell stories that are bold and unique.

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