Filipinos should embrace AI but not lose their humanity — DICT chief

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Artificial intelligence and machine learning are here. With these, the Philippines should maximize their benefits to grow the economy and improve the lives of Filipinos, while keeping at bay their possible perils to society, Information and Communications Technology Secretary Ivan John Uy said.

Uy mentioned that globally, AI and ML are already starting to change the “many ways we do things.” He cited news reports of a judge in Colombia using ChatGPT to help him write his ruling for a case he handled. ChatGPT is the latest AI- powered language model developed by OPENAI, a research lab founded by Sam Altman and Elon Musk.

“However, on top of that, what judges do, is they also put the human aspect—the equity, the leniency, taking into consideration the circumstances of the person, which I probably think AI would not be able to do,” the chief of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) told multiverse.ph.

“So it could go one way where society becomes so rigid, where it just does everything by the book within the square, so long as it’s logical and that’s it, which removes the humanity out of many of our daily experiences. So I think that’s one area that we need to look out for,” he said.

Uy, however, emphasized that AI and ML are very powerful in harvesting and analyzing data. This can have a profound effect on the country’s businesses, like the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, saying that with its vast pool of talent, the Philippines can be a major AI/ML hub.

He said the Philippines is considered the world’s no. 1 when it comes to the BPO industry, and that AI/ML can spell the difference between the country being the global best, with the sector among the top revenue earners, or lead to massive unemployment.

“So our call center agents have to skill up and go up the higher value chain where they can play a role, or they should learn more AI. Instead of being just customer relations agents, they become more than that. They’re the ones who now handle the AI and maybe deal with it in terms of exception handling. They add humanity into the whole robotic system,” Uy said.

He also stressed academic institutions should educate students on AI/ML to prepare them for the future and make the country competitive even as he warned of the possible negative repercussions of the tool to the learning process.

“Our students, in writing their essays, will it be a dumbing down of the next generation because they will learn not to think? They will learn not to remember or to memorize? You know, when we were growing up we were always required by our teachers to memorize facts, dates,” he said.

He said even before AI, students simply “google” or search the internet, which is convenient, but can hamper critical thinking and analysis.

“Sometimes when we are presented with a problem and we analyze it, it’s the memories that we remember that come together, then we come up with a solution. But if this gets down, we would not have those memories. How can they do analysis and critical thinking?” Uy said.

He said critical thinking could already be provided by AI. “The sad part is that kids take that as gospel truth because they have not been trained to be more critical in their thinking, and that creates a generation that can be easily manipulated,” he said.

finance.

“My ultimate message is that the future is here. Whether we like it or not we have no choice but to embrace it. But we have to make sure we do not lose our humanity.”

Digital finance and AI

In his March 21 column in The Philippine STAR, Lito Villanueva, executive vice president and chief innovation and inclusion officer of RCBC, and founding chairman of Fintech Alliance.ph, wrote about the impact of ChatGPT on digital finance.

“Whether we like it or not, ChatGPT is revolutionizing the workplace as we speak. And technology is supposed to do just this, right? Disrupt how we normally do everyday tasks to make our lives easier, more convenient, more efficient, and smarter.”

“What matters most is how we harness its power. How do we leverage ChatGPT’s potential for the greater good of the finance industry? How do we make it work for us and not against us? The AI-powered future of digital finance heavily depends on the answers to these questions,” he explained.

He said that in the digital finance industry, 24/7 customer service is hinged on instant messaging, live agents, and social media inquiries. The chatbot can save banks and companies a lot of time, energy, and resources to complete such tasks by training ChatGPT to accurately and empathetically respond to queries and concerns that may not necessarily need a live agent.

ChatGPT’s tone and delivery can also be personalized to fit customer’s behavior and needs, unlike a regular robotic chatbot, Villanueva said.

He said banks need not worry about the speed, efficiency, and accuracy of responses. Not only would it allow banks to utilize their manpower for other important operations, but this feature—if developed properly—can be key in increasing customer satisfaction and fostering trust in a company, he said.

Villanueva added that because of ChatGPT’s intelligence in spotting patterns and trends in seconds, financial institutions can use this technology as an initial defense layer of security and safety. It can help them identify potential risks, detect possible fraud, flag suspicious activity, monitor unusual transactions, and then provide insights and necessary solutions in record time. 

“Completing financial calculations, generating analysis reports, and even making stock market predictions are not far from what ChatGPT can do. As mentioned, through its ‘deep learning system,’ it can act as its own financial analyst and analyze trends, market data, and information from various channels at lightning speed and with impressive accuracy. This capability, if utilized and honed further, can help banks automate countless financial processes that take resources, manpower, high costs, and precious time to do so. Stock market trends and financial reports can be completed by ChatGPT. Imagine that,” Villanueva said.

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