CUHK President, Prof. Rocky Tuan first extended a warm welcome to the guests and online audience attending the Forum. In his speech, Prof Tuan pointed out that digital transformation promises to increase efficiency and productivity and inspire products and services, as well as to improve design of sustainable and livable cities. However, it comes with many challenges, generation of information from flawed algorithms and invalid data, known as garbage-in garbage-out. Concerns also arise on job insecurity for many professionals, intellectual property, ownership issues, data, privacy issues and other issues related to professional ethics. Prof Tuan was delighted to have gathered computer scientists, social scientists, and practitioners from Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea to share their work in the emerging field of Computational Social Science and engage in meaningful dialogues about addressing the above issues.
SMU President, Prof Lily Kong, expressed thanks to all the attendees in her welcome remarks. She shared that SMU’s vision is dedicated to addressing societal challenges through interdisciplinary and impactful research and SMU seeks collaboration with diverse stakeholders in Singapore and the region. Prof Kong said that the Global Forum provides a high-level dialogue platform for fostering engagement with academia, policy makers and the business community. She also urged the relevant parties to re-consider the traditional paradigms of academic study and research, “Computational Social Science can revolutionise the way we understand human behaviours and interactions. Big data and machine learning, for instance, enable sophisticated detection and analysis of social behaviour and public opinion, providing a launchpad for innovation and change.”
Mr. Ong Siew Gay, Consul-General of Singapore in Hong Kong, placed a premium on the invaluable role that the Global Forum plays in promoting the sharing of knowledge, insights and perspectives between Singapore and China over the years. He indicated that, despite the scarcity of natural resources, Singapore and Hong Kong manage to thrive through the width of the industrious people and by adding value and being of relevance to the bigger players around. Both economies are acting as pioneers of globalisation, serving as catalysts of development in respective regions. Covid-19 pandemic has brought up many complex social and global trends and made existing challenges even more evident, including social mobility, income inequality and climate change. Computational Social Science, by providing an interdisciplinary perspective, analysing big data and leveraging technology, has great potential to help provide urban solutions.
The Global Forum then featured two keynote panel discussions. The morning session was titled ” Evidence-based CSS: Insights from Academia”. The panelists included David Chan, SMU’s Lee Kong Chian Professor of Psychology, Director of Behavioural Sciences Initiative; Jeroen van Ameijde, Assistant Professor of School of Architecture, CUHK; Jeong-han Kang, Professor of Sociology, Yonsei University. Chi-Yue Chiu, Choh-Ming Li Professor of Psychology, Dean Faculty of Social Science, CUHK, was the moderator of the morning panel.
Prof David Chan commented that the focus of Computational Social Science is on integrating the knowledge, skills and insights from these different disciplines to better understand and predict how people may think, feel and act in various settings. We are going through complex changes these days, in areas such as retail, logistics, urban planning, education, community development. The computing technologists should work closely with people from the social sciences and the behavioral sciences like psychologists, sociologists, political scientist, bringing together the expertise, disciplines, knowledge, and skill sets, because the world is really not compartmentalised into the disciplines. Prof Chan also highlighted that there are still some challenges in applying Computational Social Science, as researchers need to break down professional barriers, which requires cross-disciplinary platforms to share knowledge and a good understanding on the part of the researchers of the strengths and limitations of each discipline in generating evidence-based insights and co-creating solutions to address complex real-world problems. He believed that the Global Forum, as a platform, provides a great opportunity for researchers as well as practitioners from both universities (SMU and CUHK) coming together. It is very important for university leaderships, for governments, and for funding agencies to provide such platforms so that we can have interdisciplinary exchanges to address problems that we and the society are facing today.
Feida Zhu, SMU’s Associate Professor of Computer Science and Associate Dean of the School of Computing and Information Systems at NTU, moderated the afternoon panel session on the theme of “A New World Enabled by Computational Social Science: Insights from Policymakers and Practitioners.” The discussion engaged Dr David Hanson, CEO of Hanson Robotics; Lisa Wan, Associate Professor, School of Hotel and Tourism Management and Department of Marketing, CUHK; William Hui, Director of IT Innovation R&D, Manulife; and Dr Zhen Luo, Founder and CEO of ParityBit.
During the discussion, Dr Zhen Luo was more concerned about data privacy from an industry perspective. He said in the panel discussion that there is a conflict between the increased awareness of data privacy and the purpose of personal data collection, which cannot be avoided. But he also made it clear that personal data privacy protection is very important and the conflict with data collection and analysis can be resolved through technical and regulatory support.
In the post-event interview, Prof Feida Zhu said that it was a wonderful panel discussion. The topic centred around how this whole wave of AGI like ChatGPT will influence our life and how it has changed our life already. He expected that, in the future, people will spend significant amount of time, not in a physical space, but in the virtual space, which allows one to capture all the digital trace of this behaviour in the virtual world and will significantly affect the way we study social science. With these technologies, computer science is no longer standing beside to study social sciences as a tool, but the two disciplines are becoming more integrated. Prof Zhu also predicted that more interdisciplinary subjects will emerge in the future as computing is ubiquitous and all the domains will, to some extent, be integrated with computer science. As SMU launched the world’s first Computational Law programme, more interdisciplinary researches are expected in the areas relevant to generative AI, such as intellectual property and blockchain. Prof Zhu believed that all the attendees had gained a very good learning experience and hoped that it is a good beginning for the SMU-CUHK Global Forum.
The insights shared at the Global Forum reflect SMU’s leading position in the Computational Social Science space. The Forum that SMU co-organsed with CUHK has become a useful platform to address social issues and foster collaborations between academia, policy makers and the business community, which underscores the university’s commitment to building an engaged city university through interdisciplinary insights. It also provides a glimpse of the intellect supporting Singapore’s Smart Nation Initiative, which will instill greater optimism and confidence in the future development of Singapore.
Hashtag: #SMU #CSS #ComputationalSocialScience
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