Monday, 2 October 2017

AI and SCB Abacus processing a new UK-Thailand future?

Khun Sutapa Amornvivat in her SCB feature makes several prescient points on the future of AI and SCB's new Abacus venture.

The dull, dirty and dangerous jobs she cites as being core to AI and even the potential for 50% of jobs to be removed by a mix of AI and automation are edging ever closer.

Banking is already being disrupted via mobile banking, the rise of ATM's and - certainly in the UK - wave after wave of bank branch closures. The latter so extensive that questions are being raised on minimum service levels for both bank branches and post office services.

While Sainsbury’s softlaunching its Euston station store with no checkout service only mobile phone AI selection and invoicing for groceries raises an end to bank queues fo rthose branches remaining.

The elderly and digtially illiterate and cash businesses all require counter services fo r some years yet. How else to cash in old banknotes for the new Jane Austen £10 polymer fibre note issued last week or the new £1 coin earlier this Summer? Hopefully those currency changes not causing too much problems in SCB currency exchanges in Thailand from UK tourists and businesses.

While AI may prove a curse before it is a benefit, not just the doomladen scenario of the Singularity or Terminator-style killer robots now cited by no less than Stephen Hawking. But also more crunchy scenarios such as the flash-crashes plaguing the worlds stock exchanges with counter-intuitive trading moves by AI engines (they are machines after all) wiping away stocks and shares values in milliseconds, as well as overnight.

While UK fears over Chinese investment in nuclear power plants such as Hinkley could see the lights going out - along with AI cybersecurity fears over the new smartmeters.

And Estonia has garnered headlines for its e-business and e-government initiatives - not least the potential for EU citizenship should Brexit lumber out of the morgue again. Yet Britain has quietly been forging a digital future to counteract the shocks of AI and mass unemployment. Basic National Income is under serious discussion as well as reviews of the Finland and Ontario financial exercises.

While identity theft combatted through the Government Verify online programme as well as universal access to welfare benefits. And stepping over the hurdle of the generations computer coding now in the UK school curriculum providing strength in depth for future AI and IT corporations.

Unfortunately not yet Thai initiatives such as Yingluck computers or Children’s Day or societal regearing such as Nurses Day or even consistent alphabet learning. Only Britain could potentially fritter away its asset in the English language.

While the growth in voice recognition with Alexa et al have raised cyberhacking fears of high frequency sonic instructions to drain your bank account, or at least stock up on excessive amounts of Hello Kitty merchandise through Amazon.

A subdued UK parliament turning away from the swamp of Brexit and onto surer ground with a soda bottles deposit scheme, microbeads in cosmetics ban and coffee shop cup recycling as well as increased animal welfare and food legislation. All no doubt relevant for Thai businesses and as Brexit fizzles away, a resurgent EU and the EU office in Bangkok.

As with most technology, AI will be a complement rather than a displacer just look at how radio and cinema and television and the internet continue to thrive together. The EKFOS project - East Kent Film Office and Studio - galvanising regeneration and job creation through the expanded satellite TV market, and digitisation and restoration of archive footage.

What price UK cinema if Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock early films are lost forever? While the advance in colourisation techniques provide a further market.

And if a VR bank branch wouldn't necessarily be a must-have digital destination or replace High St branches then the possibilities are only just beginning. With Paris now confirmed for the 2024 Olympics and LA - Follow the Sun - in 2028 then what price turbo-charged FDI investment for an ASEAN Olympics in 2032?

Kayaking on the Chaopraya in Bangkok or Perfume River in Hue or Surfing off Boracay in the Philippines at the very least make a multi-site Olympics viable in Asai-Pacific. Certainly careful planning for a riverfront promenade and hispeed rail would gain momentum. Both LA and London in the recent past showing how to make the Olympics an economic success as well as a sporting one.

A recent AI conference in London looked under the bonnet of most AI to pronounce improvements only in digital speed rather than complexity. While online advertising with the ubiquitous calls for Facebook ads or the Yahoo home page and top ranking google searches is still hamstrung by weak metrics or adserving algorithms.

My finance sector CRM experience with Barclaycard and Citibank and insurers suggests the IT department still holds the levers of power on data-mining for marketing activity. That LTV strategy and that month's ROI marcomms review oft-delayed to the pressure of the monthly credit card statement run or email messaging.

Yet the UK financial sector is booming: total investment by UK-based venture capital and private equity firms soaring to £21.4BN last year from the depths of £12.6BN at the start of the recession in 2009.

Cuba's sonic weapons a misstep even for an economy enfeebled by USA sanctions and potential fix on tobacco and sugar cane. An issue hardly unknown for the pineapple growers of Chantaburi and Hua Hin - United fruit shortsighted in Andy Hall case or BBC Jonathan Head rather than working with UK and EU markets eg Tesco Lotus.

While London is the IT hub for Europe if not the world outside of Silicon Valley in California could pump-prime Thailand's tech markets faster and easier -for tech startups and expertise in all things AI and digital.

British medical expertise Fleming - Alexander not Ian - and penicillin perhaps the greatest invention of the 20th century. Crick and DNA. Universal free healthcare NHS. Viagra at Pfizer here in East Kent keeping its end up.

SCBAbacus could well benefit more widely from the AI market in UK and London, much as UK financial market could benefit from Thai investment in the City whether SCB or others.

Thai investment in UK is still down over 30% from the failed SSI investment in Redcar steelworks now insulated from Chinese steel dumping and accessing the new Nissan and BMW vehicles. And EV and autonomous vehicles are a reality on UK roads as of next year with a concomitant surge in AI supply chains.

While Moody's downgrading UK to Aa2 below Germany, Sweden and Norway (still the world's 3rd best rating on a par with South Korea and France) the day after PM Theresa May's main speech in Florence on Brexit with a transition from 2019 to at least 2021 for essentially the status quo, speaks volumes on the viability and likelihood of Brexit beyond a few facesaving tweaks. Indeed with the political party conferences underway and the LibDems, usually the 3rd main party, already announcing a policy of cancelling Brexit, October may see the end of May as PM and Boris Johnson as Foreign Minister.

And with the German election forecast to be won by Angela Merkel rather than Martin Schulz, the instigator of Liberation Route Europe, amid almost zero mention of Brexit. Albeit the certainty of a Merkel win even the so-called Jamaica Coalition with the Greens and Liberal Free Democrats as if to reshape Europe's economy and EU policy detailed in the Juncker State of the Union address earlier this week for essentially a Bigger and Better EU with expansion of Schengen and Eurozones.

A note of caution sounded though by the dynamic German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel that: "for the first time since 1945 we will have real Nazis speaking in the Reichstag parliament" as the far-right AFD party likely to gain seats. All the more disturbing for Kent with Nigel Farage formerly UKIP leader, who I stood against in 2015 speaking to the AFD rally with the grand-daughter of the Nazi Finance Minster.

While as UKIP plummets in the polls: the leadership race - yet another for UKIP and most UK parties - with a lurch into raw anti-Islam party and rivalled by Kent's Henry Bolton now the new leader who I stood against in the Kent Police Commissioner election in 2014.

But beyond SCBAbacus sewing AI into the fabric of SCB Bank, or bringing to market fresh new AI investments and companies, surely there are some wider AI implications for UK and Thailand that are currently being neglected:

1. Farm to Pharma - the lightning fast speed of data crunching and data mining for innovation gems must surely be kickstarted in the farm industry with soil sensors? And in the Pharma industry with speeding up the too-long march through the foothills of Cancer and Dementia research. Or the fast sprint - given the legwork already undertaken on polio - for TB, HIV, Dengue and Flu vaccines. The UN cites ASEAN as the next pandemic hotspot and London already similarly afflicted as Europe's TB capital.
2. Resilience - the Caribbean storms and earthquakes and undoubtedly volcanoes at some point - the Mount Agung Bali volcano displacign 10,000 people, drowned out by the static noise around the Caribbean crises - all highlight better weather pattern sensors and satellites expedited by AI. And how absurd if Thailand's booming autoparts industry not only expanded but shifted gears to a space industry.

3. Space - and if humanity's journey to the stars and a woman on Mars by 2030 is still adrift for want of a definitive plan, it could have ended in the Caribbean floods for both NASA in Florida and the European Space Agency launchpads in French Guyana. Surely a wakeup call to EurAsia's Star City and Australia rocket ranges. While the astonishing success of Cassini mission to Saturnxxx has highlighted the decades of data available that may not be processed and delivered upon for years unless AI is actioned.

4. Education - Pepper the robot creates not just the MOOC potential of UK's excellent Open University but AI tailored language learning and translation possibilities for English in Thailand as ASEAN's second official language

5. Transport - the debate around the Bangkok bus reforms, leaving aside the actual buses themselves, raises the AI issue of Smart Cities underway in UK to integrate traffic flow, street lighting and traffic lights etc.

AI processing power with SCBAbacus could speed all the above in Thailand and ASEAN if not UK.


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