LCI lunch with Ethan Tu & Tesla
The ECCT’s Low Carbon Initiative (LCI) invited Ethan Tu, one of Taiwan’s early tech pioneers, to give a speech at a lunch to coincide with its mid-year meeting. The event was held at the Taiwan headquarters of Tesla. Also at the event, Yvonne Chan, Country Director, Korea & Taiwan at Tesla, shared insights about Tesla’s vision for the future of e-mobility as well as some of Tesla’s other solutions such as solar roofs and electricity storage.
In 1995 Tu founded PTT.cc, the largest terminal-based bulletin board system based in Taiwan, and in 1998, the social network for Yam.com, the same year Google was founded and a full six years before Facebook. In 2003, he joined the National Health Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) in Washington DC, as Program Lead for the Human Genome Project, before moving on to work for Microsoft as a Principal Development Manager in 2006, where he worked for 11 years. In 2017 he founded Taiwan AI Labs, a privately-funded research organization based in Taipei which focuses on healthcare, smart cities and human interaction.
Tu said that what sets his projects apart from those of US-based giants, is that they are not-for-profit and adopt a collaborative approach with multiple partners to work on activities that benefit humankind, rather than exclusively for either enterprises or governments. He made the point that all projects are on open platforms and algorithms are transparent and therefore subject to public scrutiny.
He said that while Taiwan is well-known for its computer hardware expertise, there is also a lot of talent in the software field, although many Taiwanese software engineers have found work overseas or for local hardware companies. However, this is changing along with market dynamics. As Tu described it, the first tech era was centred around the PC and the second around mobile internet. We are now entering the third era, which will be centred around AIOT and 5G. In the new era, according to Tu, hardware will be given away free and service providers and owners will become the dominant players.
Tu went on to talk about some of the projects he is working on. This includes precision medicine, using X-rays to diagnose Covid-19, malaria diagnosis, speech recognition and new advances in creating digital models.