What Creative's Sim Wong Hoo would have thought of ChatGPT


The late Sim Wong Hoo, who founded Creative Technology and was once Singapore’s youngest billionaire, would have embraced generative artificial intelligence (AI) such as ChatGPT.

This is according to Kevin Shepherdson, CEO of Straits Interactive, who worked closely with Sim as the Head Audio Evangelist at Creative more than two decades ago.

“If he were alive today, I could imagine him chasing all of us to generate ‘creative’ business ideas for the company,” said Shepherdson, who worked with Sim for seven years, from 1994 to 2001, also as an interactive marketing manager and senior manager in experiential marketing.

Shepherdson said that Sim, who passed away in January 2023, would often “throw so many seemingly crazy ideas at us” at Creative.

“But as we learned, he only needed a few to be highly successful,” he said, adding that Sim also had a keen eye for innovation and fine tuning Creative’s products.

“I recall engineers sharing with him our 3D spatial audio concept for gaming, where they could get 3D sound effects from just two speakers,” said Shepherdson. “Sim then suggested, ‘Why don't we just put two [more] speakers behind?’ And that was how the four-speaker category was born, which would go on to earn Creative millions.”

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No turning back

ChatGPT, which was launched in November 2022, is an AI chatbot built on large language models that is capable of content through conversational prompts.

Asked what Sim would have made of ChatGPT at Creative, Shepherdson said he would have taken the same approach as he did with his staff.

“I expect Sim would throw all kinds of questions at ChatGPT, asking it to link different unrelated topics to create new ideas and products,” he said.

Shepherdson also felt that Sim would likely compare the current global concerns and risks of using ChatGPT and generative AI to what Sim called the “No U-turn Syndrome”, a term he coined to describe Singapore's business culture.

This metaphor refers to the risk-averse thinking Sim observed in Singapore, comparing the inflexibility and rigidity in decision-making to a driver who cannot make a U-turn on the road unless explicitly told to do so.

“Just as he encouraged Singaporeans to embrace change, take risks, and think outside the box to foster a more innovative and competitive business environment,” Shepherdson said, “Sim would do the same for ChatGPT, believing that there is no U-turn for generative AI.”

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A version of this article was first published in TransformLife on 22 June 2023.

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