2023 Great WiT Debate

2023 Great WiT Debate

Leaders from Agoda, Global Tix, AirBnb, Expedia and Klook took to the stage for Web in Travel’s infamous Great Debate this year – to fight it out against each other over the big question. Moderated by investor and advisor, Louise Daley, this year’s Great WiT Debate asked panellists, will AI make us less human? Timothy Hughes, Vice President, Corporate Development at Agoda, kicked off by declaring: “AI WILL make us less human because this technology will suck… we’ll throw our hands in the air, and just give up!  An AI version of me won’t be any better than the real thing – it’ll just be a clone from information that’s there about me on the internet.  I think we’ll instead just move on to the next technology…  As everything will have become a copy, everything will have been made discoverable about us.”
But Darrell Chan, APAC General Counsel, at Airbnb argues that AI will simply take away everything in life that is boring, leaving MORE time for being human: “AI is just a tool.  We just want to get rid of all the mundane stuff that’s bringing down our humanity.  We as humans are meant to do more.  AI will take away the boring, making our lives better.  It’s going enhance us, augment our strength, help us find solutions.  It’ll be extension of our minds and souls.  We will merge the power of computing with power of human intellect.”

Chan Chee Chong at the WiT infamous Great Debate

Chan Chee Chong, CEO & Co-founder, GlobalTix agreed with Timothy. “When technology replaces humans, our body will merely be a piece of engineering.  We will merge.  We will be able to have all the creativity and capability we need, i.e. like learning a new language.  But we won’t even need to think, as AI will do everything for us.  So the question will become, are we then humans or are we machines?  Machines are thinking for us, giving us answers, working for us, and we are taking credit for it – just like those that use ChatGPT, hide it, and then claim all the work as their own!”

Michael Dykes, Vice President, Market Management, APAC at Expedia Group, simply sees AI as a partner to humans: “Humanity is wrapped up around our ability to think abstractly, we are afraid AI will make us lose this.  And yet, we recognise the ways the technology makes our lives better.  We use tools to achieve things that we could never achieve otherwise; machines are overlapped with human ambition.  AI is being treated in a similar way to how writing was when it was first invented – people thought that it would make us lose our ability to memorise… but it turned out that it enabled us to do so much more.  AI can be our partner; The collaboration between us and AI will deliver powerful new achievements for humanity.”

Martin Symes at the WiT infamous Great Debate

Commentator Martin Symes jokingly retorted: “I’m not a big fan of humans… they’re way too fraught!  When people ask me whether I think artificial intelligence will take over humanity… well, I’d be happy for any intelligence to take over humanity!  However, at the moment, AI is not being built on a diet of human wisdom, but on a flawed diet of drivel.  That diet is flawed, and it’s failing us.  It’s generating the polar opposite of intelligence, and authorities may be able to use it to control people… We need to do our bit to stop it trampling the human disposition!”

Sarah Wan, General Manager, Singapore, Indonesia & Malaysia, Klook, argued that AI helps us reach conclusions quicker: “My boss recently called me into a meeting and said he’d compiled my mid-year review using ChatGPT… it was the most human conversation we’d ever had!  The year before, he’d had no time to compile my review, as he’d got too caught up in putting it all into words!  AI helps us get to the conclusions that matter faster.  AI maximises our time, leaving us more time to focus on humanity.  More time to create, to focus, and – like today – to debate.  So, would you rather live your life, or get caught in the grind of manual tasks?  I know what my answer is.”

And, at the end of the debate, the audience concluded… that those arguing FOR were the winners – AI will indeed make us less human!

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About the author

Thomas has a university background in the UK and in Latin America, with studies in Languages and Humanities, Culture, Literature and Economics. He started his Asian experience as a publisher in Krabi in 2005. Thomas has been editing local newspapers and magazines in England, Spain and Thailand for more than fifteen years. He is currently working on several projects in Thailand and abroad. Apart from Thailand, Thomas has lived in Italy, England, Venezuela, Cuba, Spain and Bali. He spends most of his time in Asia. During the years Thomas has developed a great understanding of several Asian cultures and people. He is also working freelance, writing short travel stories and articles for travel magazines. Follow Thomas on www.asianitinerary.com

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