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18. Reuben on the utopian world of UBI and the future of AI

· AI,podcast


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Podcast with Reuben Tan Part 3


Podcast with Reuben Part 3


Reuben shared his analysis on the career paths on the future of chicken rice hawkers. Old hawkers can consider taking on more people-oriented jobs while young hawkers can join the AI hype. Reuben hopes that AI will make life better for mankind. AI singularity can help mankind move past the point of scarcity. The deepening of AI might enable a future of science fiction. The workload has changed from 7 days to 6 days to 5 days and now moving to 4 days work week. One of the beauty of AI is to enable people to choose to exercise creativity and innovation instead of people having to work. If the government gives UBI like VC giving checks to founders, the society might have more Elon Musks and Bill Gates creating more value and writing off all those who choose not to work. Reuben further expounded his views on the beautiful future of AI and the possible need for UBI, universal benefit income.

[00:00:00] Andrew Liew Weida: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the AI of mankind show where I share anything interesting about mankind. I'm your host for this season. My name is Andrew Liew. I work across four Continents and 12 international cities. Also, I work in tech startups across a range of roles from selling products, making customers happy, figuring out fundraising, making finance tick, building teams, and developing sticky products. Apart from building startups. I've also worked in fortune 500 companies as a chief data scientist or technologist or people leader. You can call me Jack of all trades or master of learning. I hope to make this podcast show a great learning experience for us In each season, there is a series of interesting things where I invite guests to share their views about their life and interests.

[00:01:09] Andrew Liew Weida: Now let the show begin.

[00:01:26] Andrew Liew: In the previous episode, Reuben shared his views on leadership, and cost-benefit scalability analysis. Reuben shared an example of the concept of decreasing return to scale on the application of AI. Reuben shared his views on the future of AI and the 2 schools of thought. This episode continues the part 3 conversation with Reuben and Reuben shared his views on the chicken rice hawker's future. Reuben shared his view on the beautiful future of AI and the possible need for UBI, universal benefit income.

[00:01:52] Andrew Liew Weida: Let's say the chicken rice hawker. Because of COVID 19, there's the spawning of vending [00:02:00] machines that uses robotic hands or simple robotic methods to basically make a set of chicken rice. So then because of that, the chicken rice hawker will face an inevitable risk of no longer having a job and he would have two paths, one path could be to be a developer, or a machine learning engineer, because he can create more complex solutions to augment even more complicated, repetitive solutions. And then the other path is the path where there are a lot of tasks or there are still some tasks that are very hard to be automated because of so many complexities involved and to sync up to automate this could be a disaster and therefore you still need human beings. So my question is where do you see these chicken rice hawkers moving towards and why?

[00:02:49] Reuben Tan: It's a bit sad that because of automation, we are losing a bit of our culture, but there's a couple of tasks that they can take. . Let's say he's an older worker he'll probably have taken on something that is small human-related, at least during this transition. For those younger people, they can maybe join the AI hype. They can steer themselves in anything else, or maybe they can continue with their line of work. Maybe he's the one that actually just maintains the AI, the robots make sure that is okay. They are all well maintained. There's nothing going wrong. And there's also really some kind of quality or assurance that has to be done, making sure the food is good quality. So I believe that the transition is definitely one of the hardest things to do because it's a whole global level and not just that technology advances super fast, especially in AI. So I think the other thing that could happen is somebody transitions. And then after that, the thing to transition to get automated. So then, wow. it's really tragic.

[00:03:38] Andrew Liew Weida: If it happens this guy he no longer can do chicken rice because chicken rice has been automated.

[00:03:43] Andrew Liew Weida: Then, like I say, he goes through, the people-oriented path, he tried to be to develop a recipe or he decided to say do some training on how to cook chicken rice to the AI guy, to be able to automate a better chicken rice process. Maybe right temperature, what I call tuning the machine.

[00:04:00] Andrew Liew Weida: And then, like I said, because AI is moving so fast, then by the time he took on the second job to either create a new recipe or to train the machine learning or robotic engineers to tune a better chicken rice flavor. That has been done. So is that the reason why you believe that eventually in the next decade or two, that nations and governments would really have to experiment with this concept of universal benefit income because of the fact that it helps to reduce the volatility risk of the person trying to contribute to the society or feel that he's part of society and also reduces mental health.

[00:04:44] Reuben Tan: I believe that this phenomenon is this. AI becoming faster and faster, and eventually, the AI can replace the human making the AI. So the AI makes more AI is like the AI singularity. I think this might happen. And I believe that at that point of time, [00:05:00] hopefully that this is hopefully this realized is not science fiction. AI is like more crazy machines trying to kill us fully. They're actually making life better for us. So at this point of time, let's say even farming itself is all done automated already humans. They have very little to do. Like I said before, hopefully, people only work because they want to, not because they need to. And at that point of time, I think UBI will have to be implemented. It is an utopian view of the world. And I think this is really very futuristic but I think definitely things like UBI do have some area, even though I'm into economics like this is very counter-intuitive when you think about it yeah. What if everybody has nothing to do then how? So I think economics is the study of scarcity. So maybe the AI singularity can help move us past the point of scarcity then maybe who knows.

[00:05:51] Andrew Liew: Ah very interesting viewpoint. You talk about like scarcity. In the good old days when people think about work, there was so much abundance of work [00:06:00] and very few workers. So the scarcity of few workers, a lot of work, therefore wages or salary, because they will reach an equilibrium. If there's a lot of work more than workers, then the price will go up. And now it could be AI literally making a lot of this work like repetitive work to almost zero. And it frees up so much time. And then now it moves what I call a deepening of AI, meaning not just simple repetitive task, but an even higher cognitive level like even pattern recognition, complex pattern recognition can, you can even automate, it becomes almost you say science fiction.

[00:06:34] Andrew Liew: This Hollywood movie is called the passage, where Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Patt. They went on this movie moon ship. And they have this robot, this cocktail bartender, Arthur, but not only just can cocktail it but he can carry away intelligence conversation as a counselor.

[00:06:50] Arthur the bartender: Come on now. Every cloud has a silver lining.

[00:06:54] Jim Chris Patt: Guess I am gonna die of old age on this ship.

[00:06:57] Arthur the bartender: Oh, we all dying. Even Androids end up on a scrappy.

[00:07:01] Jim Chris Patt: I'm your only customer. Why are you always polishing a glass trigger?

[00:07:04] Arthur the bartender: Trick of the trade. Makes people nervous when a bartender just stands there.

[00:07:07] Jim Chris Patt: So lay and bartender wisdom on me. I'm lost in space here.

[00:07:13] Arthur the bartender: You're not where you want to. Do you feel like you are supposed to be somewhere else?

[00:07:19] Jim Chris Patt: You said it well

[00:07:20] Arthur the bartender: say you could snap your fingers and be wherever you wanted to be. I bet you'd still feel this way. Not in the right place. The point is you can't get so hung up on where you rather be, that you forget how to make the most of where you are.

[00:07:34] Jim Chris Patt: What are you telling me?

[00:07:36] Arthur the bartender: Take a break from worrying about what you can't control.

[00:07:39] Arthur the bartender: Live a little

[00:07:40] Andrew Liew: and eventually they move into outer space to conquer new planets where civilization doesn't even begin becomes like, oh yeah. Almost like the aliens do this new planet, which is very crazy right now. Having said that I suddenly thought about another viewpoint. I resonate with you, is that in the good old days maybe like 10, 20 years ago everybody was working seven days a week, then suddenly there was a Sunday break. Everybody was working six days a week, then suddenly, somehow there's five and a half days. Then now we are having five days. Even, recently a lot of some countries New Zealand or Germany and maybe some Scandinavian countries, are even exploring four days work week. And it is probably because they wanted to share the jobs or share the task in the job so that everybody still can do something. And it's restructured businesses to enable technology to be more productively. Now, when you think along that line, what are your thoughts?

[00:08:40] Reuben Tan: An example is Finland and if I'm not wrong, they're trying to do a four-day six hours work week life. I believe we can look at them for guidance. I think apparently what I read was that workers are instead more productive, so maybe AI really does help. So, we just leave a lot of the work to automation. [00:09:00] We just come in, we supervise, we plan new projects. And then just let things run as they are.

[00:09:04] Andrew Liew: This is one of the beauties of AI enabling, to the point where people choose to work people choose to exercise, creativity, then people have to work, and therefore universal benefit income. If you see it from that perspective, it actually fosters and empowers innovation and creativity rather than there are some countries that are always worried about, Hey if I give all of my citizens' money like a UBI, there will be people who don't wanna work. They wanna abuse the system. But by mathematical reasoning, we have seen this in the case of startups and venture capital. We all know that startups are risky businesses and venture capital to every pair of founders or every teammate here is like 50,000. Here's 50,000. Writing a number of checks that sum up to Is probably like almost close to 50 million and it's a cost of course there will be people who fail, but if the venture capital doesn't have the perspective that, all I need is just one or two, they call it unicorn company and it covers the millions of losses because it's a billion-dollar company. And if we can see it from that perspective like UBI, almost being a venture capital to give to every citizen of this country, our residents even. Like there will be a hundred residents, maybe two or three people won't work, won't even wanna do anything, but eight people of the eight people, maybe four will try something, learn something and the other four will be creative and entrepreneurial. And eventually, we will have a new Facebook, or you have a new Microsoft.

[00:10:33] Reuben Tan: Yeah. I can definitely envision that being possible. Like those, that really only those that are very motivated, those that really have ideas that can benefit humanity. They will actually put forth the work. They will be the leaders. They will bring people together. They will convince people of their vision. They will build something. They will make life better for everybody else. There's nothing wrong with wanting a simple life but definitely, I believe everybody craves a human fundamental level. We are all humans, we crave to be useful to others. So I believe people will try to at least try to provide some kind of value to others in some sort of way. I believe one of the questions that governments have to answer would be the consent of fairness now, because yeah because people that actually put forth their effort, how are they going to be rewarded, pass the universal basic income if that is such a thing, and how are the profits gonna be split? Because people are now disincentive. I'm gonna agree with some, of the arguments against it that, yeah, if there's no incentive to put food on the table, the food just comes, then you just go eat the food, and then you go to sleep. Yes. It is as simple as that. But I like to believe that people are more than that. Like we, more than less eating and sleeping, we want to do things. We want to provide entertain others. We want to make life better. There's always ways to improve the conditions.

[00:11:48] Andrew Liew: Ah, so you are from a belief that there will be a lot of human beings that will be by nature or gods calling that they are born to be more entrepreneurial, to be more creative, to be more curious, and by removing the survival need of having to work for money, universal basic income free up that opportunity for them to try and venture, therefore entire society will benefit as a whole. Now, interestingly along the line that also comes on the basis of people with the eagerness to learn and up skills themselves. And you mentioned about. Re reskill and upskilling. Now, this is also a very common topic where I talk about AI with my guests, we all know that AI will obsolete a lot of jobs and reskill and upskilling is a key. But if you think about it now, as you mentioned technology and knowledge are constantly spawning new stuff. Back then, just talk about computer science there was Fortran and then there was C, then you have C++ then eventually you have Java and then you have Javascript and Javascript. You have so many different branches you have, and Angular JS, node JS. React JS. And then now talk about AI, now you move from R to Python and all these different genres of framework and knowledge. And that's just only for computer science, but imagine there are all these multiple domains cooking or leadership. Now, if you think like that, then isn't it like the business leaders or the organizational leaders they'd be thinking, yes? I send my guys to train. How long will I be able to see the return of investment for them to convert what they learn to something practical output? There's always a risk that it will not convert into the output, but what do you think is the best way to solve this problem? The return of investment of scaling?

[00:13:30] Reuben Tan: So this is a bit more relevant to digital transformation. And I think, I believe I have got sidetracked and I haven't answered the second part of the question. I feel like for this, maybe don't be afraid to start and just start small. It's not practical to hire a whole new team or entire department for training, but it's quite practical to hire one or two guys, or this is just send two guys for training. And I think the most important part here, is to cross-share. So companies can build an internal platform for sharing what these people have learned. And it's not just things that they learn it through courses. It could be just sharing the projects. It's not just useful for learning. It's also useful for knowing, Hey, this is in my company, does this guy doing this? If I want to go and implement this, maybe I can get his help. Here, we can get it done much faster. And for the project wise it can be as simple as setting up a company website or maybe a newsletter. Then from there, you get to subscribe to the sort of stuff. And I think the most important is to leverage existing tools and ecosystems. Think like Daimein in your previous podcast. Maybe consider bringing the business to Amazon or Shoppee. Logic is very simple, I don't think we should be trying to reinvent the wheel. So you just pick up the low hanging fruits first and we try to upscale our stuff to be cognitive, especially for smaller companies on premise version can be very costly and slow. So now let's say I want to scale, my local thing, I need to go and order the hard drive. I need to wait for a couple of weeks for Hadoop to be installed. . So cloud computing offers flexibility and on-demand resources you want more. Just get more compute. It's just like that. Simple as a snap. And so this will escalate the uptake of digitization and I feel [00:15:00] that it is very important for the company to invest in the stuff it has to be willing to invest and take a risk, this spends money to make money. So they, to be willing, to invest, to see returns.

[00:15:09] Andrew Liew: Hi everyone, thanks for tuning into this episode. We have come to the end of part 3 with Reuben. In the next episode, we will continue with Reuben on part 4 which he shared his favorite book, favorite app, and his career advice to carve a career in the digital space. If this is the first time you are tuning in. Remember to subscribe to this show. If you have subscribed to this show and love this episode Please share it with your friends, family, and acquaintances. See you later and see you soon.