In Which I Sing(apore) for my Supper

Posted on 22nd December 2023

The last day in Vietnam was an early rise. We had to be at Hanoi Law University for an 8 AM talk!

On the way over, our “Grab” driver (the local uber equivalent), committed a traffic violation, and it took some words about the official nature of our delegation for the police officer to let us pass.

Hanoi Law University

Accompanying us to the university was a kind and very effective translator. Unlike our previous sessions at the hotel, this time the translation would be asynchronous, limiting how much we could say in one block. We would speak for a few moments, pause, and then the translator would repeat the sense of our words in Vietnamese to the audience. The talk Jeannie and I presented there was on the state of global AI regulation–which overnight had changed again.

We also had an opportunity to meet with dignitaries and local law professors. The architecture and design of the rooms quite noticeably reflected Vietnam’s political allegiances and philosophy—no further comment, but you can see for yourselves in the photo below.

Off Again

Immediately after our talk, Jeannie and I hightailed it to the airport to catch our flight to Singapore….and as happens when one rushes, we arrived to find our flight had been delayed.

After a disappointing hunt for ice cream (the disappointing part was the price-to-volume ratio), we finally boarded our flight and arrived in Singapore.

That evening I met up with Gail and Alon, two old friends from Melbourne who had relocated to Singapore. We had a lovely dinner, followed by dessert at Hvala–a pricey Japanese dessert bar with exceptional tea, which I would return to with my students Elisa and Liam.

Singapore Management University

The following day was the joint SMU/Unimelb Workshop on Future Directions in Commercial Law and Data at which Elisa, Liam, and myself, were all presenting works in progress.

Elisa spoke on the gap that is created when we switch from using law to regulate people’s behaviour, to using code. Liam spoke on regulation of decentralized social media platforms, and I spoke on flaws in implementing blockchain-based organizations. I was particularly proud of my students for their first presentations to senior scholars.

Notably, I was the only computer scientist at the workshop, which was primarily for law professors. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was a great chance to expand my academic network further in my secondary field. Long term I hope to be able to pursue a productive career that is recognized both by CS and by law!

A highlight for me was Niva Elkin-Koren’s presentation on using generative AI models to assess the contributions of a new work for the purposes of copyright. While I’m not sure we’ll yet see courts using such evidence, it was certainly a nifty and clever use of models that is outside their original scope.

A Dinner Delayed

Dinner that evening was a multi-course extravaganza. Singapore is notable in that many of the fancy restaurants are located within large shopping malls–likely due to the weather. So the academics gathered in two private rooms in the back of a restaurant in a food court!

Unfortunately, I was left out in the cold: I had a zoom class to teach, and so I sat outside in the food court for my regular office hours (before joining dinner 40 minutes late).

The Sights of Singapore

The next day I worked a little in the morning before taking Elisa and Liam out for a walk, first to the marina.

On the way we also spotted an incredibly cute family of Otters that kept our attention for a good ten minutes!

Our main destination was the Singapore Botanical Gardens, where we shelled out for the view from the supertree, a central pylon from which one can see much of Singapore, the bay, and out to Malaysia. After paying the hefty fee, we took the opportunity for a few photos in the glare.

We next walked over to Marina Bay Sands, a casino, hotel, and shopping plaza, for some lunch, before returning to the hotel to get ready for Jeannie’s book launch that afternoon.

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