Malaysia, the land of experts

Has anyone noticed that Malaysians are adept at becoming experts in just about any field at a speed that defies logic? And if we don’t have enough knowledge about certain areas, we pretend that we do.

After doing cursory research on the internet, we behave like we have published peer-reviewed doctoral theses on the subjects.

The latest area where Malaysians have become experts in is “Deepfake” tech, which refers to artificial intelligence to produce video content that is not real.

Most probably only heard of the term for the first time in the last 48 hours. But, probably referring to nothing more than the introductory paragraph on Wikipedia, they have become overnight “experts” on the intricacies of this nascent technology.

Our sudden interest in “Deepfake” has stemmed from the explosive gay sex videos, allegedly between a senior minister and a former aide to a deputy minister, which surfaced a few days ago.

Some believe the clips could have been doctored and have given their “expert opinion” to support their assertions. In no time, many self-professed experts have started littering their social media postings with jargons like “pixelation”, “blink rate” and “focal point”.

In the past, these same people had been experts in other areas, too. During the Lahad Datu intrusion in 2013, these armchair critics became experts in military operations. During the MH370 air disaster, Malaysia probably had the highest number of aviation experts per capita in the world.

And when you bring up the tragedy of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim, these same people can present their interpretation of the event in ways that will put veteran CSI agents to shame. The list goes on and on.

Nobody says laymen and women should not give their two cents’ worth on issues that affect the nation. By all means, do your online research to have a better understanding of the issues. But please do not let your biases and prejudices cloud your judgement.

If you haven’t realised it already, most of the people who criticised the government’s handling of the Lahad Datu intrusion in Sabah and the MH370 tragedy, based on their “expert views”, were Pakatan Harapan supporters. And the “experts” who were most satisfied with the then government’s action were BN loyalists.

The truth is what all these people did was to search for answers online that justified their own political allegiance, instead of seeking the truth based on facts.

The same applies to the ongoing debate about whether the gay sex video and the confession of one of the persons featured in the clips were authentic. Based on our biases, many of us look for material online that justify our conclusions, when it should be the other way round.

It did not help that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had, at the onset, and without having watched the clips, rubbished them as fake. He even joked that given today’s technology, he himself could be a victim of the next smear video.

The video clips might have been doctored. Or maybe not. But when the prime minister openly makes a conclusion on a technical subject, based on a gut feeling or personal prejudices, he is encouraging others to do the same.

It doesn’t take an expert to know that some things are better left to the experts.

John Khoo is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.