Home-grown yet U.S. based digital warrior, Sonita Lontoh, talks about the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in Indonesia and her plans to leverage her recent induction into The Asian Hall of Fame.
Technology magnates, Elon Musk of Tesla and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, recently sparred on social media on the merits of artificial intelligence (AI), with Elon erring on the side of caution. Their debate magnified the intensifying discussions on the potential AI among technology practitioners and observes whose thoughts cover a broad range of possible scenarios.
Home-grown digital maverick, Sonita Lontoh, weighed in on the matter as well, with a special focus on Indonesia.
“Personally, I think we are still quite far away from AI really taking over and achieve singularity, where a Universal Basic Income (UBI) may make sense,” she commented about AI as a whole.
One topic that has cropped up in the West is the need for a universal basic income, whereby governments provide basic incomes to all citizens once AI renders many jobs obsolete.
Instead of supplanting human workers, Sonita said that AI would contribute to social betterment, including in Indonesia once the technology is massively applied.
“Just as in the U.S., I think there is no reason why AI or machine learning cannot be applied in Indonesia to make things safer and easier for people,” she said.
In the U.S. itself, the application of AI is still in its nascence whereby companies are leveraging AI to analyze their big data generated by their ubiquitous digital connectedness.
“Companies turn that data into insights and most importantly, into actions. Some are also leveraging AI and machine learning for autonomous cars,” she said.
However, to graduate to the application of AI and machine learning, Indonesia must focus on transforming digitally beyond just hardware, software, data, and analytics.
“While understanding technology is important, even more important is how we understand the ways in which digital can change the way a business operates, as well as how a digital culture is important in succeeding,” she said.
She added that to make strides in the “new digital world”, businesses and even governments must adopt “digital characteristics”, namely “an expanded appetite for risks, an affinity for rapid experimentation, and an entrepreneurial spirit, in its people”.
“Digital has to act as the catalyst that enables the transformation of the overall organizational or societal strategy,” she said.
Here, forward-thinking leaders play a fundamental role as they will be the proponents of change with their transformative vision.
“I think in the next decade, what we have to focus on is how best to educate and train the next-generation of young people to be prepared for the 21st century knowledge-based economy,” she added.
As for Sonita, her undoubted leadership capabilities has led her to be inducted into the Asian Hall of Fame this year. The Asian Hall of Fame recognizes and honours the achievements of Asian Pacific Americans, with the intention of inspiring the next generation.
Beside her, former Yankee and Red Sox baseball player Johnny Damon, Hollywood actor Daniel Dae-Kim, and inventor of 24 patents Duy Loan-Le were inducted this year. Past inductees are the likes of martial arts master Bruce Lee, Olympic gold-winning figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, and former US Secretary of Commerce and Transportation Norman Mineta.
“The way I will leverage this is by sharing with the world that my heritage has given me the opportunity to look at the world from a more global perspective. That while we have an unsurpassed opportunity here in America, we can also help spur a more global cross-collaborations between America — especially related to technology in Silicon Valley — and the world to enable more growth, opportunity, and sustainability for all,” she said.
Sonita looks to continue enhancing this global cross-collaborations in technology and innovation between the U.S. and Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, through the Silicon Valley Asia Technology Alliance (SVATA), which she co-founded.
“We’ve successfully done that in the past and in 2018 (and beyond), we seek to continue to do that, through our experiential boot camps and through proactively connecting the technology and innovation ecosystems in Southeast Asia to that in Silicon Valley,” she said.
When not connecting people across continents, Sonita takes time to read newspapers and magazines, although she said that her packed schedule makes it “hard to be able to properly digest a good book”, besides music albums.
“My playlist is mostly songs to keep me motivated at the gym, songs like “Eye of the Tiger”, “We Will Rock You”, “Living on a Prayer”, “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and the likes. When relaxing, I like to listen to slow songs such as Frank Sinatra’s or Diana Krall’s, but unfortunately, I don’t have that much time to relax!” she said.