Letters to the Editor, April 8, 2016

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 April, 2016, 4:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 April, 2016, 4:48pm

Computers will not be taking over our lives

I refer to Tiffany Ng’s letter (“Could AI pose serious threat to our jobs?” March 30).

When automatic teller ­machines were invented in the 1970s, there were worries of bank tellers losing their jobs. ­Today, the banking sector ­employs more people than in the 1970s.

This is because when machines take over more ­routine, straightforward tasks, humans can be released to ­perform advanced tasks that ­require greater knowledge, and together they bring ­economic activities to a higher level and improve our lives.

Today, bank tellers perform smarter tasks than counting bills, making deposits and withdrawals – they provide more advanced services regarding ­various bank products, give professional advice, and can ­protect an elderly customer when spotting a suspicious withdrawal. When washing ­machines were ­invented, housewives could spend more time taking care of their children, cooking better food, and managing ­family finances. Some could eventually move into the job market. Machines took over the old, routine, lower-level tasks that were done by people.

There is no need to be ­worried by the recent success of a computer beating a human in chess. Chess mainly involves logical, rule-based problem-solving, which is the strength of computers, there was nothing surprising about a computer winning.

Computers and computer programs are still a long way from matching or mimicking aspects of human intelligence.

In the workplace you can gauge what a customer or your boss really means, not only from what they say, but also from ­gestures, facial expressions, and your ­prior experience of that person’s behaviour. You can work out that this person might not be saying what he actually means, but a computer is unable to do that. You might be able to use a robot vacuum cleaner, but I doubt if you would enjoy ­dinner made by a robot chef.

There are also lots of other job competencies that are ­beyond computers, such as managing relationships and networking. As I said, when we hand over any tasks to computers, we are then free to perform more advanced and meaningful tasks, and we stay in ­control.

We have to face the challenges posed by an ageing population with a reduced workforce, so it may not be a bad thing if artificial intelligence could take over more routine tasks.

Joe Lee, Cha Kwo Ling

Much-needed breath of fresh air in Legco

I refer to the report (“Top official sees young radicals joining ­Legco”, March 15).

Feng Wei, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau ­Affairs Office in Beijing, said that he expects these activists will eventually become politically mature.

I think it is good for young people to join politics. The Legislative Council is full of voices from the older generation and so policies which affect younger citizens tend to get ignored and that is not good for Hong Kong. It may widen the generation gap and this can damage harmony in our community.

I agree with the official that these youngsters will eventually reach political maturity. It can start with joining protests, then organising them and eventually joining Legco. It will be politically refreshing to see more lawmakers from the younger generation and this can only be good for Hong Kong.

Emily Yeung, Sham Shui Po

Unhappiness levels hardly surprising

I refer to the report (“HK students less happy than in 2008”, April 5).

The issue of the state of mind of youngsters has aroused a great deal of concern following reports about a sharp increase in the number of student suicides since the beginning of the school year. I think there are a few reasons that have led to this situation.

The main reason for the ­decline in levels of happiness is to do with the increased pressure Hong Kong students feel to do well academically. They are pushed to excel by schools and parents who keep urging them to get higher marks so they can get a place at a university. A ­degree is seen as a way to ­improve their career prospects.

A Form Five student said there was so much going on in his school, “activities, tests, talks”, that he felt stressed out.

Schools and parents have a distorted view of education and its goals. They equate happiness with a student who gets good grades and can deal with the pressure.

Students are also less happy because many have little or no leisure time. The government has urged parents to make sure their children get enough time to relax (at least one hour a day) but this does not happen with all ­families.

Some parents see school as a race and want their children to have the best advantage before they leave the starting blocks.

So during the periods when their children should be relaxing, they are instead signed up for extracurricular activities and tutorial classes. Add to that all the homework they have to do in the evening and it is hardly surprising that many youngsters do not get enough sleep. We should see the revelation that our students are becoming more unhappy as a worrying trend.

The government, schools and parents need to make the necessary adjustments.

They need to ensure youngsters get the right balance and are able to find enough quality time to ­relax. This may require introducing long-term reforms.

Natalie Siu Hoi-tung, Yau Yat Chuen

Cyberbullies can cause so much grief

There is no doubt that the invention of the worldwide web brought about major changes in our lives. For example, it has made keeping in touch with family and friends easier, wherever we are in the world. But while it has so many advantages, there is a downside in the form of inappropriate use of the web.

People can misuse the ­internet and send offensive messages and at its worst it can ­become cyberbullying.

Thousands of people are victims of such offensive behaviour and can be attacked ­because of their race, faith, sexual orientation, gender, or just because of views that they expressed. Malicious language can have a devastating effect on ­people, especially youngsters.

Parents have an important role to play. They have to get the message across to their children that cyberbullying is cruel and totally unacceptable. They can teach their children by example and take a clear stand against this kind of behaviour.

I would like to see anti-bullying campaigns launched.

Alexis Ho, Lam Tin

US and China must unite to curb Kim

The rest of world is rightly ­concerned about comments by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un about the possible need to use its nuclear weapons against its enemies.

He has ordered that these weapons should be ready to use. Some countries could interpret this as meaning that North Korea is preparing for war.

This is a common tactic of the North Korean regime. It has in the past issued threats against South Korea and the US in an attempt to show how strong it is. The latest outburst is in response to the joint US-South Korean wargames. The Pyongyang regime regularly practises firing missiles and rockets and recently carried out a nuclear test.

There must be genuine cooperation between China and the US. Beijing’s criticism of Pyongyang has been muted and mainland journalists face restrictions when it comes to criticising North Korea.

As the world’s two strongest nations, the US and China have a responsibility to ensure that North Korea does not start a conflict that could become ­global.

Sheila Wong Mei-chun, Lai Chi Kok