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Of digital transformation, AI and interviews

July 20, 2019

AL S. VITANGCOL III

“DIGITAL Transformation and Innovations” was the overall theme of The Manila Times 10th Business Forum held at the Conrad Hotel earlier this week. Known personalities involved in the digital business, both from the public and private sectors, gave their views and forecasts on the future of artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, data privacy and social media, among other subjects. All of these underscored the importance of digital transformation.

I first wrote about digital transformation more than a year ago, particularly on June 23, 2018, with the title “Are we ready for the digital future?” I wrote then:

“The world is evolving into a digital future. With this evolution we should welcome uncertainties, push boundaries to its limits, and be willing to take risks.

“But who is afraid of technology? Of course, it is human nature to fear what they don’t understand. For one, the public fears electronic devices that communicates with each other without any human intervention. Are we better off if there will be no human intervention in automated processes?”

What is digital transformation (DX)?

According to an online publication of a community focused on connecting chief information officers (CIOs) and senior information technology (IT) leaders, it can be hard to pinpoint a definition that applies to every organization because digital transformation may look different for every company. Digital transformation, in general terms, is defined as “the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business resulting in fundamental changes to how businesses operate and how they deliver value to customers. Beyond that, it’s a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment often, and get comfortable with failure. This sometimes means walking away from long-standing business processes that companies were built upon in favor of relatively new practices that are still being defined.”

In layman’s language, digital transformation involves the changes associated with digital technology application and integration into all aspects of human life and society. Simply, it is the move from the physical world to a digital world.

According to a published survey of 2,000 executives, they all agreed that the end goal of digital transformation is the ability to rapidly act and react to changing data, competitive conditions and strategies fast enough to succeed. In other words, it enables faster actions and reactions.

How about AI?

A major sector in the rapidly changing digital world is the area of AI. AI is “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.“ It is the ability of a computer program or a machine to think and learn.

The most common AI applications that we encounter daily are smart assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant. In the movies, a prime example was Ironman’s virtual helper Jarvis (Just A Rather Very Intelligent System). But these systems neither have a face nor a body. Humanoids, or human-like robots, have the features of a human, including mannerisms.

The integration of robotics and AI enabled the creation of machines that are designed and programmed in such a manner that they and think and act like humans, and look even more human. These machines are classified as “humanoids” as opposed to mere robots.

In November 2018, China’s state news agency employed the world’s first AI news anchor. The digital anchor was based on an actual male human broadcaster, Qiu Hao. This was followed about five months later with a female version named Xin Xiaomeng. The lifelike robotic news anchor mimics human facial expressions and mannerisms of its human counterpart.

Of course, these anchors do not resort to squid tactics used by human anchors, like ANC’s “Headstart” program.

‘Headstart’ should just employ an AI anchor

I can still remember my last television appearance with ANC’s “Headstart” on June 27, 2019 — which I considered the worst interview done by a human anchor.

For the record, I never wanted to be invited as a guest of “Headstart.” They started texting and calling me on a daily basis from June 22 until I accepted their invitation. I was asked where I preferred to be interviewed — in Rockwell, Makati or at ABS-CBN, Quezon City. Due to distance constraints, I chose Rockwell.

June 27 came, I was ushered into a 4×4 meter studio room in which I would be alone — the anchor, Christian Esguerra, alternate to Karen Davila, was in ABS-CBN studios in Quezon City. It was a remote studio guesting, of which I was not informed beforehand. Otherwise, I would have begged off.

The nightmare did not end there. Two video monitors were in front of me but all these had in their displays were the letters “ANC.” I could not see the anchor, Mr. Esguerra. I could not see what was being displayed to the public during the show. I could not even see my own self. I requested that these monitors be properly configured but to no avail.

Well, being the professional that I am, I continued with the guesting. Midway through the interview, I felt like walking out because of the anchor’s heckling and forcing his opinions on me and putting words in my mouth. Esguerra was even making faces throughout the program (which I learned later from colleagues) — an extreme display of unprofessionalism on his part. Squid tactics from beginning to the end.

It seems that Esguerra does not deserve to be an anchor of a TV show. If I were ANC management, I would replace Esguerra with an AI anchor.

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