Asia Pacific Research Center hosts 40th Anniversary Conference

May 22, 2023, 12:00 a.m.

The Walter H. Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center (APARC) hosted its 40th Anniversary Conference celebrating four decades of education, research and scholarly engagement. The two-day conference covered a wide range of topics APARC is involved with, from East Asian studies to sustainability.

APARC is a hub dedicated to studying contemporary Asia and is home to six research programs that focus on China, Japan, Korea, South Asia and Southeast Asia as well as Asia-Pacific health policy. The interdisciplinary center has an active publishing program and hosts educational events for the public. According to their website, APARC is aimed at bringing together the public and leaders in government and the social sector to shed light on the importance of Asian countries and U.S.-Asia relations. 

On Wednesday, the first day of the conference, John Everard, Former Ambassador to Belarus, Uruguay and North Korea for the United Kingdom, and Laura Stone, Former Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for China and Mongolia, shared their thoughts on the future of diplomacy with Asia. 

On Thursday, a panel centering on the topic of foreign correspondence featured discussions between 2022-23 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow Pia Ranada, and Seoul Bureau Chief for The New York Times Sang-Hun Choe to discuss their experiences as journalists in Asia.

Ranada discussed weighing different metrics of success as journalists, reflecting on her role as a political reporter at Rappler, a Manila-based online investigative news outlet co-founded by 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa. Ranada shared that at Rappler, they use two ways of measuring success: views and impact. 

“I think that’s a healthy way of doing it,” she said. According to Ranada, focusing on metrics was important for traction to the story but considering the community impact was just as important in determining the value of news coverage. 

Choe echoed the trickiness in balancing important news stories with viewer interests. Choe said that it can be very hard for young journalists to go against company policy, “That’s a challenge, it’s up to individual reporters how far you want to go.” 

Both Ranada and Choe spoke of the importance of lawyers in protecting journalism beyond being a resource for input when journalists write about constitutional cases. Choe shared that “It has always been the case in South Korea that political power use law enforcement as a government tool and if that trend increases…lawyers can push back, try to change the balance and … protect the democracy… and then the stories.”

“In our case, Rappler has really leaned on pro bono lawyers for the cases that we face before coming here. I’ve had four cyber libel cases filed against me by the former [Philippine] president’s spiritual advisor [Apollo Carreon Quiboloy], who has been convicted for human trafficking in the United States,” Ranada said.

According to Ranada, the advisor’s followers have helped file many cases meant to harass journalists like her who write and bring attention to Quiboloy’s crimes. Pro bono lawyers’ services are “a huge help to a newsroom under siege,” she said.

In another Thursday panel, the conference shifted its focus toward the progress of artificial intelligence systems. 

Professor of computer science Tatsunori Hashimoto discussed generative AI as a transformative technology. Noting recent developments in text generation and image generation and captioning, Hashimoto said, “It’s now increasingly becoming the case that we can interact with these machines fully in natural language, allowing almost anybody to unlock essentially the full power of computers.”

However, Hashimoto points out that it’s not all just exciting innovations and advancements. “There’s a lot of risks and a lot of things to be scared about so it’s not all triumphs,” he said. 

While AI technology like Chat-GPT represents a significant progression in natural language processing and generation, Hashimoto recognized that A.I. systems can still fail and produce inaccurate information. He said that this can lead to major legal risks emerging over copyright issues or defamation through falsely generated text about real figures. As AI permeates into our everyday life, Hashimoto believes these interactions with large language models highlight how technology is not value-neutral. 

“These systems have really big security holes and threats,” Hashimoto said. “Powerful language models create incentives for dual use and misuse.” 

Countries also have considerable variance in policies addressing concerns over AI, according to Hashimoto, citing the U.K. as one of the few countries to have outlined a policy explicitly declaring their intent to build their own AI system. Hashimoto observed that the U.K. is approaching AI with a national focus for safety regulation while American policy is more centered on evaluations of the technology. Alternatively, in China, Hashimoto said that polices over AI regulations are based on values highlighted by the government and there is much emphasis on the liability of AI providers or major tech companies. 

 “There’s really many different approaches to regulation, and it’s not yet clear which of these are going to be the right thing to go, given how nascent this field is.” Hashimoto said.

Hana Dao is a vol. 264 Science Technology News desk editor. In addition to writing for the Daily, she enjoys discussing fashion and having picnics on campus.

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