Seen and heard this week


Seen and heard this week is a weekly column highlighting thought leadership from the NUS community


In an opinion piece in The Straits Times on 22 January, Professor Ivan Png, Distinguished Professor at NUS Business and NUS Economics, discussed the impact of high car prices in Singapore on car ownership and use. Citing a study at NUS Business conducted together with NUS Senior Deputy President and Provost Professor Ho Teck Hua and Assistant Professor Sadat Reza from the Nanyang Technological University, Prof Png said that surging car prices had the unintended consequence of stimulating driving among people who bought cars — up to 5.6 per cent more than they ordinarily would have. However, he noted that the Singapore government is aware of the dangers of relying on high car ownership costs to manage congestion, and is already reducing vehicle taxes and shifting towards usage charges that will come into effect in 2020.

In a commentary in The Straits Times on 24 January, NUS Senior Advisor (University & Global Relations) Professor Kishore Mahbubani discussed why French President Emmanuel Macron is facing violent street protests while US President Donald Trump is not. He argued that a reason could be that Mr Macron has alienated the bottom 50 per cent of society in his quest to implement economic reforms that tackle inequality in the long term, whereas Mr Trump still appeals to the bottom 50 per cent of US society. Prof Mahbubani thus suggested that for liberals to regain the trust of this segment of society and defeat Mr Trump, they ought to attack the elite interests that contributed to Mr Trump’s election rather than attack the man himself, which could include restructuring the society such that economic growth will benefit the bottom half more than the top one per cent.

A mobile application developed by NUS Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts, in collaboration with Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, that allows pre-diabetic patients to determine if their food is healthy by taking photographs of it was featured in an article in The Straits Times on 25 January. The application, called the JurongHealth Food Log app, uses AI to match uploaded photos of food to a nutritional database of over 200 local dishes. It also allows users to track their weight and exercise, as well as hold live chats with dietitians and physiotherapists. Director of the NUS Smart Systems Institute, NUS Computing Professor Ooi Beng Chin, part of the development team, said that the system learns dynamically whenever a new photo is uploaded and will get better at recognising the food over time.

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