Singapore braces to surmount challenges of our era

I attended the ATxSummit conference this year and left impressed by the breadth of Singapore's vision.

Singapore braces to surmount challenges of our era
Photo Credit: Paul Mah

I was at the ATxSummit conference this year and left impressed by the breadth of Singapore's vision.

The ATxSingapore has grown into one of the top tech events here, one where the IMDA and the Singapore government announce new policies and initiatives.

Here are three impressions that I walked away with.

AI regulation

We know we need AI regulation. I mean, the AI experts say that, the AI firms say that, and governments say that. But how does one come up with a framework for a technology that didn't exist 18 months ago?

Well, it's simple. You get started. Don't wait to see what others do first. Don't demur because you're worried about potential harm. You take action. Today.

What President Tharman said in his speech at the gala dinner struck a chord with me.

  • "You can't leave [AI] to the law of the jungle... you will otherwise simply be letting might be right. And we will be letting whatever player emerges the largest to dictate the norms."

Interestingly, an international delegate I spoke with at the gala said this of an AI firm's repeated refrains about the importance of governance - even as they sideline employees who want to implement more controls:

  • "It's a 'get out of jail' card, isn't it?"

Food for thought indeed.

Multiple intractable problems

As I sat in and listened to various panel discussions, it occurred to me that we are attempting to solve many intractable problems - all at the same time.

For instance, the energy demands of data centres give the industry a carbon footprint that is extremely costly for a nation with scant renewable resources. Yet addressing energy use isn't so straightforward.

  • Through green software.
  • Improving cooling efficiency.
  • A new generation of 'sustainable' data centres.

All extremely difficult, and all in completely different areas.

Same thing with quantum computing, for which the S'pore government plans to invest another SG$300M into.

  • Building bigger quantum computers.
  • Creating practical quantum applications.
  • Implementing quantum-safe cryptography.

... they are all completely different niches, too.

The Singapore dream

But perhaps what struck me the most was the audacity of attempting to redraw the boundaries of what's possible with data centres.

As SMS Janil Puthucheary noted at an invite-only panel, Singapore has done it before, turning itself from one of the most water-stressed nations into one having a significant amount of water resilience.

To me, that sounds like the very definition of the Singapore dream.

I plan to ink down my reflections on the additional 300MW for data centres. Do sign up for my newsletter here.