Speech by Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry & Ministry of Education at the Closing Ceremony for Caltex Fuel Your School - Tech Jam 2019

Published Date: 30 October 2019 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, Chief Executive, Science Centre Board

Mr Shahid Ahmed, General Manager, Products, Malaysia/Singapore/Cambodia for Caltex

Educators, distinguished guests and students

1. A very good morning to all of you. I am happy to join you and I would like to take this opportunity to wish our Hindu friends a happy Deepavali.

2. Earlier, Professor Lim shared with me about a counter here that has an interesting app – it looks at your facial expression to determine your emotions. At the moment, it can detect three emotions – whether you are happy, sad or surprised. It will then offer you a drink based on your facial expression and mood. This is a good example of how Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machinery can translate visuals into decisions.

3. Fuel Your School is Caltex's signature community outreach programme designed to spark students' interest in the learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM. This is done through engaging and interactive activities, like the ones you were participating in this morning. These include today's micro hackathon as well as workshops, which feature learning journeys that incorporate hands-on activities guided by industry mentors and volunteers from Caltex. I had the chance to go around and talk to some of the groups earlier and I am impressed by what you have done. You have applied what you have learnt to come up with creative ideas on how AI can be put into practice.

4. Encouraging the learning of STEM requires collaboration between our education institutions, companies and enterprises, as well as our scientists and industry professionals. I am heartened that Science Centre Singapore and Caltex have partnered each other to work on this very special project. I understand that the event has grown over the last three years and has reached out to about 1,200 students – almost double the number of participants since its first year. Caltex has also provided motorists a convenient way to show their support for the Fuel Your School Tech - Jam programme, by pledging $3 for every qualifying fuel purchased using their CaltexGO app. With this, and thanks to the community spirit of local motorists, Singaporeans have helped raise $60,000, which was channelled to the Science Centre to organise this programme.

STEM – the Foundation to Learning Artificial Intelligence

5. Science and technology has a significant impact in our daily lives. Just look around us – information is now easily accessible using any of our mobile devices; we can easily monitor our health, our heart rate and the number of steps we have taken for the day. We can even monitor our homes. These smart devices are easily available and affordable as well. We are all adopting STEM in our lives in one way or another because someone has discovered how we can improve our lives through science and technology.

6. Quite a number of groups here were doing chat bots for counselling and interactions with users. I have also seen chat bots, instead of call operators, used in hotels to answer questions from guests. Doing so can help free up other officers to do other areas of work since these chat bots can provide assistance round the clock. We have also seen how chat bots have gotten better over time. The more you use a chat bot, the more information gets embedded inside its algorithm, and the better the chat bot becomes. What you have designed today is a very good start. If you use it more and programme more information into it, your chat bot will become smarter and better. This is what machine learning is about.

7. AI is also used for immigration clearance and security checks. How many of you here have been to Terminal 4 and used the Automated Immigration Gate and the Automated Boarding Gate? Instead of having to go through a counter with an immigration officer, you can just use your passport and scan your boarding pass. The technology will also scan your face to collect your facial data, before allowing you to go through the gate.

8. AI is also used in healthcare to assist doctors to identify cancer tumours. This is a good combination – machine and man coming together, not to replace but to supplement. We still need doctors to make the final call and diagnosis, and machines can be used support them in their work.

9. I also visited Ping An Insurance in Shenzhen in May this year. We saw how AI could be used to compose music, write novels and even paint pictures which recreate the style of master artists. The possibilities are endless, and there are more to be discovered – I hope by some of you – in time to come.

10. The theme for this year's Fuel Your School - Tech Jam, "Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Life", aims to encourage all of you to do the same – by giving you the opportunity to design and implement solutions by applying fundamental theories including those in AI, engineering, coding and design.

11. Some of you have worked on developing an AI friend chat bot earlier today. This is similar to some commercial solutions out there. For example, some agencies are using a chat bot called Ask Jamie. I also saw that one team had worked on a food recogniser, which was created as part of today's challenge, in response to the "Eat Healthy Challenge". The app can recognise a food item and advise us if it is healthy to consume. This can help to improve lives and encourage Singaporeans to adopt a healthier lifestyle. These are encouraging efforts, and I hope that more youths will explore and use AI to create a positive impact on their peers and the wider society.

12. Before I conclude, I would like to share three points with you. While AI creates many new opportunities that we can use to improve lives, I would like to remind us of three things that must still be 'real'. The first is that the 'real world' is important. The things that you do are not detached from the real world – what you create is to help solve a real world problem. That's the first real that you have to bear in mind: AI to solve real world problems. The second is 'real people'. Real people need to use the AI. As such, when you design your apps and your tools, and when you think about AI and the ethics behind it, remember that you are ultimately dealing with real people. Don't take the human being out of the equation. Make it human-centric and people-centric. The last thing to remember is 'real relationships'. Between companies, individuals and even countries, we need to build relationships and trust. We need to build more opportunities for collaborations. That is something we cannot leave for the machines to do. Human beings will still have a role in the future world because we still need the human touch. To sum up, while AI has become important and we must be comfortable in using it, we must remember – real world, real people, real relationships.

13. To conclude, I would like to thank Science Centre Singapore and Caltex for coming together to give our students a taste of learning by doing in the AI field, and giving them the opportunity to learn how to be creators of technology. To the students here today, I encourage you to stay curious and explore meaningful innovations. I hope you enjoyed the experience and will not only continue to pursue STEM, but to use it in a meaningful way to benefit our community. Thank you.

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