Asia House award-winner Kai-Fu Lee calls for businesses to “rethink our social contract”

Asia House award-winner Kai-Fu Lee calls for businesses to “rethink our social contract”

23/11/18

The business community has a key role to play in ensuring that society benefits from the imminent Artificial Intelligence revolution, according to the Asia House Asian Business Leaders Award winner for 2018, Dr Kai-Fu Lee.

Speaking at the Asia House Asian Business Leaders Award Dinner in Singapore last night, the Chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures and author of the widely acclaimed AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order, called on business leaders to take a proactive approach to mitigate the potentially negative impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) which is predicted to cause major job losses across the world.

“While AI adoption will create new jobs, they are likely to be non-routine jobs, as AI can eventually do all routine jobs that are performed by humans nowadays,” Dr Lee said.

This job displacement “will not wait for another few decades. It is coming to us within 5 to 15 years.

“This may not be music to ears for business leaders like yourselves, but I thought it was such an important message, that it was time for you to start thinking ahead about the artificial intelligence revolution.”

In a personal speech, at times lighthearted and moving, Dr Lee also argued for a better work-life balance, and outlined examples of how AI can free up resources to enable a more caring society.

Citing a “monumental” letter by BlackRock Founder Larry Fink, Dr Lee urged corporations not to wait for governments to prepare for the future, but to effect the change themselves.

“Fundamentally we need to rethink our social contract to go beyond a purely economic one. We need to realise that we are not passive spectators in the story of AI—we are the authors of it.”

Dr Lee was addressing a room of senior figures from business and policy at the award dinner, sponsored by Harvey Nash, which featured speeches from Bicky Bhangu, President of Rolls-Royce Southeast Asia, Pacific and South Korea, and BBC World News presenter Sharanjit Leyl.

Dr Lee with Albert Ellis, CEO of Harvey Nash

The Asia House Asian Business Leaders Award is presented to those individuals who demonstrate effective business leadership which results in positive economic impact in Asia and beyond.

Dr Lee was presented the award by Lord Green, Chairman of Asia House. “Emerging technologies such as AI are issues we monitor closely at Asia House, as we believe they will transform global businesses and impact billions of lives around the world,” Lord Green said.

“As a leading authority on AI, Dr Lee has promoted the need for governments to understand the social and economic challenges these technologies will bring, and to create policies that ensure their populations are not left behind by the digital revolution.

“It is for this impressive leadership in one of the most important issues of our time, as well as his ongoing support of global innovation, that we recognise Dr Lee.”