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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians have no choice but to embrace disruptive technology, says Prime Minis­­­­ter Tun Dr Mahathir Moha­mad.

In his keynote address at the Beyond Paradigm Summit organised by Serba Dinamik Holdings here yesterday, Dr Mahathir said Malaysians must take on disruptive technologies as it was projected that 65% of today’s primary school children will go on to work in jobs that do not yet exist.

“As 70% of the our current workforce are SPM graduates, re-skilling Malaysians of all ages is imperative to ensure success in our economic landscape for the coming years.

“To establish an Industry 4.0 ecosystem, both industry leaders and talent supplies have to fully understand and embrace disruptive technologies.

“For now, adapting is a must, but soon, mastering the technology will be fundamental,” said Dr Mahathir, who added that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have to be at the forefront of mastering technology as they formed the bigger part of the ecosystem.

“The global value chains and geographies of production are shifting towards Asean.

“Therefore, SMEs and local businesses have to be at the forefront of digital transformation to be able to stay attractive for investors and competitive on the global scale.

“A paradigm shift among SMEs, especially in innovation and creative solutions, is key to propelling the manufacturing industry forward as it accounts for 98.5% of manufacturing companies and 42% of employment,” he said at the event that was also attended by International Trade and Industry Minis­­ter Datuk Darell Leiking and Serba Dinamik Holdings’ group mana­ging director Datuk Mohd Abdul Karim Abdullah.

Dr Mahathir also provided a light moment when he interacted with a humanoid robot named Sophia, which is being shown in Malaysia for the first time.

The 94-year-old was initially at a loss for words when he was greeted by a “social humanoid” robot.

“I am beyond excited to meet you. Not many people get to schmooze with the Prime Minister when they visit Malaysia,” said Sophia, which was developed by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics to mimic a female character.

Dr Mahathir, who was asked to engage in conversation with the robot, seemed tongue-tied for the first few minutes of the encounter until Sophia broke the ice.

“I hope it is not too late to congratulate you for your re-election and wish you for your 94th birthday.“If only I had remembered to bring a present. I will sketch a portrait of you,” said Sophia, who started drawing a portrait of Dr Mahathir – to his amusement.

Warming up, Dr Mahathir said: “Do you know about my first term as Prime Minister? Do you know better than me?

“How are you different from other robots? Do you dream of a world where robots and humans live together and get along with each other?” asked Dr Mahathir as he got into the swing of things.

Sophia then rattled off the date and information of when he was elected as the fourth prime minister. “Most other robots don’t get to hang out with the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

“Unlike other robots, I was desig­ned with human features to better interact and build relationships with people.

“When I am not helping with artificial intelligence research, I travel the world meeting the people,” said Sophia, which was activated on Feb 14, 2016 with the ability to display more than 50 facial expressions.

In November 2017, Sophia was named the United Nations Develop­ment Programme’s first-ever Inno­va­tion Champion, the first non-human to be given a United Nations title.

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