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Big words demystified: creativity is a key skill

UP alumni discuss artificial intelligence and sustainability

by Annie Nepomuceno

Moderator and speakers (l-r): Deputy Mayor Miguel Sangalang; A.I. Hacked author Elzar “Dodjie” Simon; and sustainability expert, Dr. Cris Liban.

Indeed there were big words, and indeed speakers Dr. Chris Liban and Elzar “Dodjie” Simon demystified them in a talk hosted by the University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Greater Los Angeles (UPAAGLA) held on Monday, November 25, 2019. Both gentlemen are U.P. Alumni themselves, so UPAAGLA President Ethel Rubio introduced them proudly to the attendees.

The Echo Park Library was filled with curious individuals in rapt attention in a talk moderated by City of Los Angeles Deputy Mayor for Budget and Planning Miguel Sangalang. Speakers Elzar “Dodjie” Simon, and Dr. Chris Liban filled in the crowd about the seemingly doomsday notion of Artificial Intelligence and the importance of sustainability in taking the path to the future.

Simon, whose book A.I. Hacked is gaining mass attention, cautioned that robots may replace human jobs. Simon stresses that this will replace clerical jobs, and those that are mechanical and repetitive. Humans must therefore retain, develop and focus on creativity, something that artificial intelligence (A.I.) cannot replace. He reminds us that A.I. is not human, and the future generation must train to be middle management or higher to thrive in the future. Empathy is a trait that only humans can have, and cannot be learned by A.I.

Dr. Cris Liban oversees the LA Metro’s internationally recognized environmental, sustainability and energy initiatives. As Executive Officer on Environmental Compliance and Sustainability, he mentioned that we must always consider the impact of technological advancement, and that the education system must catch up. He shared that upon learning that Finland, one of the most advanced countries in education, has one hour of instruction only in school, and the kids are sent to play outside. He says this is meant to stimulate the natural curiosity of humans to learn about the surroundings that they experience, touch, feel and see.

Attendees included Philippine Department of Trade and Industry Commissioner Eric Elnar, and UP Alumni Association of San Diego President Joe Garbanzos. It was a mixed crowd of common interest: some high school and college students, UP alumni, members of UPAAGLA, leaders of other Asian American organizations, and the general public.

Simon personally signed his books and donated part of the proceeds to UPAAGLA’s endowment fund.

UPAAGLA President Rubio closed the program by thanking the event sponsors: Alliance Group, Global Legacy Ventures Group, LLC., Fiesta Fastfood and Global International Equipment.

This event is part of a series of programs that will raise the profile of the UP alumni and the Filipino American contributions in different fields in the Greater Los Angeles community.

For more information about UPAAGLA, visit

(L-r): Cris Liban (LA Metro), Eric Elnar (Philippine Trade and Industry), UPAAGLA President Ethel Rubio, Elzar Simon (NYU), LA Deputy Mayor Miguel Sangalang, UPAASD President Joe Garbanzos. and Eric Lachica (US Census Bureau)
Miguel Sangalang, Elzar “Dodjie” Simon, and Dr. Cris Liban with some of the attendees