‘Smart way’ to lose jobs


  • Colours of China
  • Monday, 24 Dec 2018

In the pipeline: Xie showing some of his company’s innovations at the ‘2019 Reloading: Break & Make Conference’.

ARTIFICIAL intelligence (AI) is permeating our daily lives bit by bit and there is no escape.

“Here, we would not touch on national economy and people’s livelihood. Let’s talk about how to play.” This was the opening line of Xie Danming, vice-president of iQiyi, an innovative online entertainment platform in China, when speaking at a recent conference.

Let’s see how the technology is being utilised in entertainment to give viewers a more interactive experience.

If like me, you have the habit of using the fast-forward function to skip scenes with characters or artistes that you do not like, Xie has an easier solution for you.

“You can select a particular scene to watch or those showing only your favourite stars and skip the rest by giving voice commands,” he said.

Apart from this, viewers are also able to interact with the system by asking for a star’s profile when he or she appears on the screen. The show will be paused and details of the star will appear on the screen.

Apart from this, Xie said his company has relied on AI to restore old movies and documentaries, which are aired in HD (high definition).

“We also use AI to summarise storylines, scripts and expressions of characters, so that we can place advertisements that fit particular scenes.

“The commercial will appear on the lower part of the screen, which we called the ‘bandage ads’,” he added.

In Chinese drama Story of Yanxi Palace, Xie said a bandage ad of a treatment cream for skin diseases appeared to go along with the storyline of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty suffering from such a disease.

“In a scene in which the lead actress is smiling and showing her teeth, we put up a teeth whitening paste commercial,” he said.

In the future, iQiyi will launch its AI avatars to provide sign language service to the deaf community.

“There are some 20 million people suffering from hearing loss in China. We hope to do something for them,” said Xie.

iQiyi, which started in 2010, has nearly 81 million subscribers and an average of 565 million active users monthly.

Xie revealed that British anima­ted series Peppa Pig is the most popular series on the platform.

He was one of the speakers at the “2019 Reloading: Break & Make Conference” organised by Fast Com­pany magazine at Zhuhai Opera House in Zhuhai, a coastal city in the southern Guangdong province, recently.

The conference has gathered heavyweights and innovative experts from various key industries to share their thoughts and visions on how technology and innovation may further change our lives.

Among them were senior executives from the State Grid (China’s national electricity company), JD.com, Tencent, Xiaoyi Technology and WM Motor.

Some of the speakers believe that robots are taking over the jobs of humans at a rapid pace. One message is that the next generation must be prepared for AI-based technologies, which may eventually replace blue-collar workers, performers, chefs and even surgeons and journalists.

The fast-growing e-commerce industry has greatly boosted the logistic sector in the past decade, and robots have helped to optimise the whole process, said Zheng Yong, founder and chief executive officer of Geek+, a company specialising in robotic technology for the logistics industry.

He said the use of AI could reduce manpower needs by two-thirds and the time needed could be shortened by a third.

“From categorising orders and picking products to collecting them from the warehouses, and pac­kaging and delivering them to customers, it is a very complicated process,” he explained.

He said human intervention is still needed in these operations for now and they can focus on the task of selecting goods.

Zheng added that he foresees more so-called smart warehouses being set up in the next two to three years, with unstaffed warehouses as the ultimate goal.

Every time I come across such news, I ask, “The world population is increasing. What work can a human do in the future if so many of the jobs are taken over by robots?”

Well, the world will be an ideal place to live if one does not need to work.

Looking at the amount of pressure youngsters have to face today, be it in education, employment or even food safety, I am always grateful that I was born 30 years earlier.

Given that China is the world’s most populous country, I want to ask its leaders how the government strikes a balance between development and generating enough jobs for the people.

But of course, I do not have a chance yet to do that.

I am not worried about those armed with degrees and diplomas. But what about poorly educated people who are already struggling to survive, with their limited income unable to keep up with the inflation rate?


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Opinion , Beh Yuen Hui , Colours of China

   

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