HKU Bulletin November 2022 (Vol. 24 No.1)

NOVEMBER 2022 VOLUME 24 NO.1 INSPIRATION FROM NATURE A new micro uidic device that mimics the responses of clover ASSESSING HONG KONG’S LONGEVITY Why our population has the world’s longest life expectancy OUR DIGITAL SELVES How lines are blurring between humans and technology

CONTENTS Cover Story Our Digital Selves AI and the Language Barrier The ‘Digitalised Self’ Press for Success Reading Our Bodies Art for Our Sake Research Living Long, Despite the Odds Be Prepared Out of the Blue Consuming Interests In the Clover Fractured Vision The Greedy Gecko Trade The Sad Place Teaching and Learning Vision for a Village Digging It! From Landscape to Laptop Knowledge Exchange The Eyes Have It Snuffing out Alternative Tobacco Products Hatching a Plan Mindful Matters People The Mix Master Our New Head of HKU-Shenzhen Hospital Books The Impossible Book Hong Kong Directors Shaping Mainland Movies 02 04 06 08 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50 OUR DIGITAL SELVES Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming deeply embedded into the functioning of our daily lives, often for the better but also with unknown consequences. HKU scholars have been looking at these issues from multiple perspectives, as shown in the examples on these pages – revealing why it is urgently important to improve our ability to communicate with AI; the potential impact on concepts of the self from digitisation; the positive impact on health from AI; how our physical interaction with technology influences our behaviour; and how the art world is producing accessible works that expose and poke fun at the digitisation of our lives. 18 02 30 44 38 20 36 Out of the Blue Vision for a Village The Eyes Have It The Impossible Book Snuffing out Alternative Tobacco Products THE MIX MASTER Consuming Interests 48

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming deeply embedded into the functioning of our daily lives, often for the better but also with unknown consequences. HKU scholars have been looking at these issues from multiple perspectives, as shown in the examples on these pages – revealing why it is urgently important to improve our ability to communicate with AI; the potential impact on concepts of the self from digitisation; the positive impact on health from AI; how our physical interaction with technology influences our behaviour; and how the art world is producing accessible works that expose and poke fun at the digitisation of our lives. OUR DIGITAL SELVES 02 COVER STORY The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2022 03

AI AND THE LANGUAGE BARRIER Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly making important decisions about our lives. But does AI understand terms like ‘creditworthiness’ and ‘terrorist threat’ the same way humans do? Chair Professor of Philosophy Herman Cappelen argues it is time for more dialogue and effort across disciplines to address this important issue. AI has become an embedded backdrop to our daily lives. When you go to the bank seeking a loan, the decision will almost inevitably be made by AI. If you have a malignant tumour, your treatment will be informed by AI. Some court decisions in places like China and the US are decided by AI. Whether someone should be flagged as a terrorist – and whether a bomb should be dropped on a specific site – is also a decision driven by AI. “Artificial intelligence is everywhere now. But how can we be sure that it uses the same meaning we do when we say ‘medical treatment’ or ‘loan’ or ‘bomb’? How can we get AI that shares our language, that we can understand and that can understand us?” said Chair Professor of Philosophy Herman Cappelen. Professor Cappelen has pioneered the use of philosophies of language to consider human interactions with AI. His aim is to understand which questions need to be addressed to make AI more interpretable to humans and ensure they are not a threat to humans – a very real concern in some circles, particularly as AIs become more powerful. He co-authored a book last year, Making AI Intelligible: Philosophical Foundations, that explores these issues. “To protect against that threat, some people have introduced the idea of aligning the values of AI with human values. But in order to do that, the moral language that we speak needs to somehow or other be incorporated into AI,” he said. Language is also a factor in ensuring humans understand why AIs make decisions. The European Union has a law requiring explanations, but the technology still lacks sophistication. Morality, norms and algorithms Professor Cappelen argues AIs need to be able to explain themselves using human language and values and that this cannot simply be achieved by tweaking algorithms and mathematical formulas because human language and meaning are sociological phenomena that develop through interaction with others. “It’s as if you just studied the brain to understand language. It is not only the brain that determines whether you understand language, but also your interactions with the larger community,” he said. This means experts from the humanities and social sciences need to also be involved in developing AI that is interpretable and can offer explanations, not just computer scientists and engineers. “In order to think that the AI has norms or a morality or an ethics, you need to know what it is for a program to have a norm in it. And that requires understanding of the role of moral language, the nature of moral principles, the nature of morality and so on. Philosophers and social scientists have spent years studying these questions. “Right now, the people dominating the discussion on the direction and proper use and social implementation of this technology are those who make the technology – which you might think is a bit worrying,”he said. He is trying to foster interdisciplinary collaborations through the AI & Humanity Lab he has established in the Faculty of Arts, which explores how AI interacts with and transforms humanity, and his membership of the new HKU Musketeers Foundation Institute of Data Science, which is engaged in cross-faculty research on big data and AI. Time pressures Professor Cappelen acknowledges the task of injecting human values into AI is not an easy one, and it becomes even harder when cultural considerations need to be accounted for. “I think it is the biggest challenge AI faces right now,” he said. “But the solution can’t be to say that AI is not going to have any morals at all. If you’re worried about existential threats as AIs get smarter, then the solution could be that we don’t need to pick a very particular morality, we just need to make sure that the AIs like humans, that they want to support our welfare and that they’re not going to kill us. Making AI Intelligible: Philosophical Foundations by Herman Cappelen and Josh Dever was published in 2021 by Oxford University Press. PROFESSOR HERMAN CAPPELEN “There is an argument that what happens with this technology over the next 20 to 25 years and what we do with it will be the most important decision in human history, because it will shape everything that comes after it. I don’t know if that’s true, but it is certainly not impossible. The technology develops so fast and the consequences are almost impossible for us to understand. If we don’t get some control over it right now, we might just lose the chance to have control.” There is an argument that what happens with this technology over the next 20 to 25 years and what we do with it will be the most important decision in human history, because it will shape everything that comes after it. COVER STORY 04 05 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2022

In 2016, Clinical Associate Professor of the Department of Psychiatry, Dr Chan Kai-tai, took a short break from his previous work as a psychiatrist at Castle Peak Hospital to study history and culture as an Academic Visitor at the University of Cambridge. He was used to switching gears – he is also a professional songwriter – but this time he was motivated by an important professional purpose: he wanted to deepen his understanding of the impact of technology on the human mind and human culture. “Digitalisation is a two-edged blade. Of course, it can improve our lives – we are now omnipotent with a smartphone compared to 30 years ago. But on the other hand, humans have not tended to have much foresight about the potential long-term adverse effects of technology,”he said. The Industrial Revolution and urbanisation, for instance, gave rise to many conveniences and reduced the uncertainty caused when survival depended on farming. But at the same time, a sense of alienation emerged alongside a weakening affiliation to institutions such as the church and monarchy. Atomised ideas about the ‘self ’ started to develop, most famously in Freud’s ‘ego’, ‘id’ and ‘superego’ constructions. Dr Chan is concerned that digitalisation may also have as-yet-unknown impact on the human mind and self because of the blurring boundary between the physical and virtual worlds. People are developing different online identities and there are potential changes in our fundamental experiences. He recently published an academic paper proposing the idea of a ‘digitalised self ’ to describe these developments. Evidence of influence “I’m not saying there must be a digitalised self, but the evidence is pointing towards the idea that there is some unique and profound influence of digitalisation on our mind and society, which might have further impact, including on mental health. This still needs more discussion and research and my purpose as an academic and a clinician is just to ask this question,”he said. The evidence he refers to includes research by others showing, among other things, that there are differences in the brain areas responsible for language among pre-schoolers exposed to different digital media use and brain changes in adolescents who engage in more social media use. The potential implications need further exploration. “The timeframe is still very short because digitalisation has become prominent only very recently,”he said. Other scholars have also observed emotional impact from digitalisation, such as moral outrage in the digital space; behavioural changes such as internet addiction; cognitive challenges in the human brain since it is not wired for multi-tasking; manipulation of the ways people communicate and socialise online; and the use of different identities online which raises questions about potential identity confusion and disconnection with the physical world. Dr Chan himself is studying the impact of digitalisation and smartphone addiction on the human mind, including self-concepts. He is also curious about the different impact digitalisation may have across generations. “Those of us who have not grown up in the digital world are digital immigrants – our first experience of digitalisation has involved migrating some part of our original selves in the physical world, such as our original identity, to the virtual world. “Younger generations born in a highly digitalised world are digital natives and might have additional formation of the self in the virtual world. But what happens when they go back into the physical world, and which self would they prefer?”he said. Setting boundaries Dr Chan also works on the development of youth mental health and he advises people to set boundaries and practise healthy use of digital devices, especially smartphones. But his team also makes use of the advantages of digitalisation to access youth. An innovative online mental health advisory service, called ‘headwind’, established under the leadership of the Chair Professor in Psychiatry, Professor Eric Chen Yu-hai, invites young people in need to seek advice from a psychiatrist on the platform and promises a high degree of privacy, so they can be motivated to seek help. The service has attracted more than 2,000 users since its launch in late 2020. “Mentally distressed young people might tend to seek help through digital platforms, where we can engage them and further help in both physical and online settings,”Dr Chan said. Still, he advocates continued investigation of this new idea of a digitalised self. “I’m not sure whether the possible changes arising from digitalisation on the human mind and self will be eventually rejected or not. The important issue is that if something potentially fundamental to humankind may be changing, we should pay attention before it is too late. Because we cannot undo it at the press of a button,”he said. THE 'DIGITALISED SELF' DR CHAN KAI-TAI The important issue is that if something potentially fundamental to humankind may be changing, we should pay attention before it is too late. Because we cannot undo it at the press of a button. The effects of digitalisation on the human mind and sense of self are only starting to be explored. Dr Chan Kai-tai is among those pondering the potential impact. COVER STORY 06 07 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2022

PROFESSOR JACK JIANG Many of us have good intentions when it comes to staying healthy, but often we get sidetracked by the easy way out – for instance, ordering French fries rather than salad at a restaurant or online, or spending most of our time at the gym scrolling through our phones rather than lifting weights. In psychological terms, these are problems of self-regulation. But a study led by Professor Jack Jiang, Padma and Hari Harilela Professor in Strategic Information Management, of the HKU Business School shows that technology can induce us to make better choices just by making small changes to the way we interact with it. Focussing on smartphones, the study asked people to choose from a list of options on a phone provided to them that had been modified to require users to either tap lightly using gentle exertion, or press hard, which requires extra force. Pressing was expected to enhance self-regulation and the study bore this out: people who pressed hard not only ended up making healthier choices, but subsequently exhibited healthier behaviour. “We’re trying to understand how a ‘digital nudge’ can fundamentally influence people’s behaviour,”Dr Jiang said. “Other researchers have commonly observed that people’s beliefs drive their behaviour, but we find something opposite. We change behaviour first and it influences beliefs.” A digital nudge happens when people are not deliberating on their actions but performing them almost automatically, opening a window for influencing behaviour. Earlier research showed that when people have to exert more muscular strength in a task, they feel more determined to act in other ways. Taking up that idea, Dr Jiang devised three experiments that used pressing or tapping on phones to test the digital nudge effect. Tapping out The first experiment took place in a university canteen where students were invited to a table and invited to select a beverage for free on a smartphone. There were four beverages, two healthy but not tasty (such as a vegetable drink) and two tasty but not healthy (such as a soft drink). Unknown to the students, participants were divided into two groups, with one group having to press hard on the screen to answer the questions and the other group simply tapping the screen. The result was that those who pressed hard were more likely to choose the healthy drink. The effect was strongest among students who had shown a higher level of health knowledge. The second experiment took place outside a gym of a community centre where participants were first asked to indicate how much exercise they intended to do on a smartphone; they then reported back after exercising to receive a small cash award. Those who had to press hard set more challenging exercise goals and actually reported doing more exercise. This was especially the case for participants who indicated that they exercise to improve their fitness rather than simply prevent physical deterioration. looked dirty (disinfectant wipes were placed on a table that they could access if they wished), and observed to see whether and how often they touched the outer surface of their mask and kept at least one metre distance from each other. Those who failed the test shook hands, did not clean the phone, touched their mask and stood too close to others. In all cases, people who had tapped rather than pressed at the start, when reading about hygiene, were more likely to ‘fail’ and adopt unhygienic practices. Those with higher health knowledge showed an even stronger positive effect from pressing versus tapping. “The digital nudging effect is significant. In situations where you want people to be more careful with their behaviour, you probably The third experiment was particularly relevant to the context of the COVID-19 pandemic: it set out to see if pressing or tapping would influence people’s hygiene practices. Participants were asked to read educational materials about hygiene through a mobile device, then observed as they moved to a separate room and were asked to recommend personal hygiene products, such as masks and disinfectants, for university purchase. The aim was to see if pressing was more likely to induce them to follow the advice contained in the educational materials. Failing the test They were greeted at the door with an offer of a handshake (this is not advised for infection control), asked to use another smartphone that should consider using force-based touch,” Dr Jiang said, who pointed out that a number of devices are designed around touch, such as Tesla’s new steering wheel and Apple’s force touch trackpad. “At the same time, we do not want to overgeneralise the findings. These results happened when people were not deliberating over their decisions, which is often the case when people use their smartphones. But if they have to think carefully before a decision, then this effect is gone,”he said. Dr Jiang and his colleagues are now looking at how to apply the findings in a fintech context. FOR The way we physically interact with technology can influence our choices and even our behaviour. The digital nudging effect is significant. In situations where you want people to be more careful with their behaviour, you probably should consider using force-based touch. SUCCESS PRESS COVER STORY 08 09 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2022

Wearable devices like the Apple Watch can track your blood rate and blood oxygen levels and detect whether you fall. But to researchers of wearable devices, this is old hat. “Those kinds of devices were developed more than 10 years ago. Some researchers are still working on improving sensors for physical signals but the field that is very hot right now is detecting biochemical signals within our body. Imagine using your smartwatch to sense your glucose level, that would be very useful for diabetic people,” said Dr Lin Haisong, Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Dr Lin is in the thick of these advances, having recently developed what he calls a ferrobotic digital microfluidic platform, that can read and detect various kinds of biochemical signals, such as glucose, viruses, immunological health markers, nutrient levels and stress hormones, from our saliva, sweat, urine or blood. And it does not have to be worn – people could simply press their finger on it. The platform takes droplets of bodily fluids and divides them into tiny volumes so they can be tested by a variety of biological assays. The latter are add-ons to the platform that can be developed by other specialists, similar to software for a computer, to help create a tool for highly personalised medicine. Thermometer for everything “When we talk about the human-machine interface in the field of biosensing, sensing biochemicals within our body is not limited to wearable devices. In fact, we already do things like rapid antigen tests that are an example of biosensing. “We are using microfluidic technology to try to create small devices that hopefully could be deployed for various purposes. For instance, a doctor or researcher would just have to put the sample into our platform and the answer would come out. Currently, laboratories have to spend time pipetting and processing samples under the microscope and centrifuge and it can take several hours,” he said. Dr Lin envisions that the platform could even sit alongside personal computers and people could purchase applications that produce readings of parameters that are important to them. They could check whether their stress hormones are high indicating they should rest, take their temperature, or do HIV or pregnancy tests and the like, all on this one device. It would be like having a thermometer for everything. The first findings on this platform have already been published and work is underway on the next generation. The potential for detecting viruses, such as COVID-19, is obviously attracting a lot of attention. “Our platform can sense COVID-19 very efficiently, I’d say at least 10 times more efficiently than current technological agents,” he said. A question of when, not if Although there are still some challenges, such as sorting out materials compatibility, Dr Lin believes the endgame is in sight for making devices like his platform widely available. “I’m very confident they will be in use within 10 years or less. It’s just a question of whether I will be the person who makes it happen. A lot of people are working on this,” he said. “After COVID-19, we all know how important this data and monitoring technology are.” Dr Lin has one advantage in the race to develop his platform in that he is motivated not only by science but by a desire to help other beings, be they human or animal. He was first inspired to work on sensing technology when he was working at the University of California, Los Angeles. His laboratory was close to the university hospital, and he noticed cerebral palsy patients who were unable to talk. “I wanted to find a way to help them communicate their pain and discomfort,” he said. Later, he realised sensing technology could also help animals after a friend’s dog died of cancer within a week of diagnosis; the friend was upset as they were aware the pet had been in pain. “I feel this field of biosensing and microfluidics and bioelectronics is going to play a huge role in the future and benefit not only humans, but also some animals,” he added. READING OUR BODIES Researchers are not far from the day when they can produce a small desktop device that can read our biochemical signals and tell us the state of our physical and even mental health within minutes. Dr Lin Haisong is among those making advances in the field. The application of wearable microfluidic system for glucose and lactate monitoring in sweat. A ferrobotic microfluidic chip for automated biochemical sample processing and biomarkers detection. DR LIN HAISONG I feel this field of biosensing and microfluidics and bioelectronics is going to play a huge role in the future and benefit not only humans, but also some animals. COVER STORY 10 11 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2022

In 2012, American artist Heather DeweyHagborg unveiled a new project, Stranger Visions, consisting of portraits derived from people’s DNA that she had extracted from detritus collected from the street – cigarette butts, lollipop sticks, strands of hair and the like. She had learned to process the DNA herself through an extension class at a community laboratory; she fed the results into a program that matched genetic code with observable traits, ultimately realising 3D printed portraits of strangers derived from their genetic footprint. That same year, New York-based Italian artist Paolo Cirio initiated Street Ghosts, a project which involved gluing printouts of people from Google Street View onto sidewalks and buildings around the world. Later, he created Obscurity, comprising clones of for-profit mugshot websites which collect publicly available arrest photos and records and charge for both access to and removal of the information. He also released Capture in 2020, a database and public exhibition of the faces of 4,000 French police officers whose images were taken from publicly sourced photos. What these works have in common is their attempt to wrestle with the disruptions created by new technologies. Dr Monica Lee Steinberg, Assistant Professor in American Studies, has been studying the phenomenon. “These artists are activating existing technologies and legal loopholes to expose how they work,” she said. “The artworks demonstrate how personal information is neither private nor protected. They demonstrate facets of surveillance capitalism and how our personal information is being brokered with almost no regulation.” A condition of convenience The works also draw unsettling attention to an area that they do not transgress, at least in the United States and France where they have been shown, which is privacy law. Dr Steinberg uses the term“extralegal portraiture” to describe them. alongside rapidly advancing forensic and facial recognition technologies?”Dr Steinberg asked. “The problems highlighted by extralegal portraiture are exclusive neither to surveillance nor art – they are the very condition of existing within the world of convenience.” Imagining value into existence The art world’s embrace of another technology, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), has also been a disruptive force, sometimes for the better because it enables artists to earn future royalties from their works, but also in a more uncomfortable way because it exposes how we attach value to objects. NFTs are smart contracts which can help establish provenance and verify authenticity. Since property ownership is generally asserted through the right of exclusion, what does it mean to own an NFT if the associated artwork is already online, and anyone can view it? Artist Damien Hirst poked fun at this concept recently with his 2021 work, The Currency, for which he created tokens associated with 10,000 dot paintings and sold each NFT for US$2,000. He gave buyers two options: after one year, they could either keep the physical manifestation of the artwork or the token, but they could not keep both. About half of buyers opted for the NFTs and this fall he intends to burn the real paintings. Those who opted for the tangible paintings had their NFTs deleted. “Without the NFT, it is difficult to confirm whether the physical manifestation of the artwork is authentic. But if the physical “Extralegal portraiture demonstrates the more insidious potential of emerging technologies. It leaves viewers both curious and suspicious and it changes our interaction with society more broadly,” she said. Capture, for instance, turns our usual idea of surveillance on its head – pointing the camera at the police and spotlighting the power dynamics between law enforcement and citizenry. Obscurity shines a light on those who extract personal data for exploitative purposes. Stranger Visions reveals how disturbingly easy it is to conduct bio-surveillance. Along the way, the artists made special efforts to generate news coverage, thus encouraging public awareness and caution. “If an artist who took an extension class at a community laboratory is able to test the DNA of strangers, what might someone else – perhaps someone less bound by ethical concerns – realise in the coming decades and manifestation of the artwork is destroyed, there is only proof of ownership,”Dr Steinberg said. “Value is about trust, but what happens when people realise that anyone can imagine value into existence? Hirst is activating mechanisms that already exist to expose how they work and how art in the 21st century is being financialised.” The thread uniting these works is the pervasiveness of digital technology in our lives. “All of these artists are creating a user-friendly means of demonstrating the problematic issues behind these technologies. At the same time, they are pulling pranks and making fun of the art world in creative and unexpected ways,” she said. Artists are playing with new technologies to reveal their darker uses in surveillance, identity and the monetisation of art, and also having a little fun with them. Dr Monica Lee Steinberg explains. Italian artist Paolo Cirio’s Street Ghosts at the Microwave International NewMedia Arts Festival 2016 held in the Hong Kong City Hall. (Courtesy of Paolo Cirio) In the Street Ghosts project initiated by Italian artist Paolo Cirio, photos of people found on Google Street View are printed and posted at the same physical locations where the photos were taken. (Courtesy of Paolo Cirio) Paolo Cirio initiated the Obscurity project and cloned major mugshot websites and scrambled their data to obfuscate the arrestees’ records. (Courtesy of Paolo Cirio) DR MONICA LEE STEINBERG If an artist who took an extension class at a community laboratory is able to test the DNA of strangers, what might someone else – perhaps someone less bound by ethical concerns – realise in the coming decades? FOR OUR SAKE ART COVER STORY 12 13 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2022

Since 2013, life expectancy at birth in Hong Kong has been the highest in the world – 88.1 years for women and 82.7 years for men (as of 2020). And this has posed a conundrum for public health scientists and practitioners. Hong Kong has one of the highest income inequalities in the developed world, one of the highest population densities and its people work some of the longest hours. Hong Kong people also come 81st in the world when ranking their quality of life, according to a 2022 Gallup report. Plus, Hong Kong has kept its health expenditure as a fraction of gross domestic product at 5.9 per cent (lower than other high-income regions); its air quality is also not stellar. So why are people living so long? It’s a question of interest not only locally but internationally, as a commentary in the US National Academy of Medicine in 2020 put it: “there could not be a more important puzzle to solve for the rest of the world.” Now, a solution has been found through the work of Dr Michael Ni Yuxuan, Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Public Health and colleagues. Dr Ni conducted the largest and most comprehensive assessment of Hong Kong’s longevity to date, which has been published in The Lancet Public Health. “Explanations for longevity in Hong Kong have included economic prosperity, our universal health coverage, and our very low maternal and infant mortality. But these things are true for many high-income regions, including in Asia. What really distinguishes us is that we have attained a low smoking prevalence for both men and women,” he said. “For the first time, we showed that successful tobacco control was the reason why Hong Kong’s life expectancy has surpassed all other populations.” Vigilance still needed Using life expectancy data from 18 highincome countries from 1960 to 2020 and mortality data for 263 million deaths, they demonstrated that Hong Kong had the lowest mortality for cardiovascular diseases among high-income regions and one of the lowest mortalities for cancer in women – both of which are linked to smoking. Only about 10 per cent of Hong Kong people smoke, versus 28 per cent in France, 20 per cent in South Korea and 16 per cent each in the UK and US. In China 42 per cent of men smoke. On average, smokers die 10 years younger than non-smokers. For Dr Ni, the results show that there is a continued need for vigilance against tobacco around the world (see also page 38). But he cautioned Hongkongers against being too celebratory about the achievement just yet. “A caveat to this whole story is that although we have ranked first in the world in longevity for the past eight years, a global survey has shown that mental well-being in Hong Kong was among the worst. We have a very long life expectancy, but on average it may not be a very prosperous, fulfilling and happy life,” he said. Mental health remains a concern Dr Ni’s team has been studying this aspect of health, too. Using the FAMILY Cohort of 46,000 participants, they have conducted multiple surveys on physical, mental and social risen significantly since and have not dropped back to the baseline. High levels of depression and anxiety were recorded during the fifth pandemic wave this spring, when Hong Kong had the highest daily COVID-19 mortality rate in the world. Dr Ni believes mental well-being should be a factor guiding health policies during and after COVID-19 since mental health disorders are the leading cause of disability in the world and affect one in four people. well-being in Hong Kong – the key domains of health as defined by the World Health Organization (life expectancy being only one measure of health). The FAMILY Cohort serves as a health and well-being barometer for Hong Kong, having tracked the evolution of physical, mental, and social well-being with more than 20 longitudinal follow-ups since 2008. Notably, the FAMILY Cohort has shown that while Hong Kong had the lowest levels of depression in 2011–2014, these have “There is evidence that actions to address inequalities, poverty, and urban systems, and taking a lifelong course approach to mental health from birth are important. We’ve found that among all the determinants of mental health, some of the most important are the social determinants,” he said. “The next phase is to look at how we can prevent the onset of mental health disorders because they are so chronic and disabling, and how to improve the mental health of populations.” HKU researchers have revealed why Hong Kong has the longest life expectancy in the world: unlike most other places, it has attained a unique combination of economic development and successful tobacco control. Making the most of those extra years is another matter. LIVING LONG, DESPITE THE ODDS Dr Ni (right) organised the 7th Public Health Forum at the School of Public Health on the Major Health Challenges of the 21st Century, where he also presented findings on the evolution of population mental health in Hong Kong over the past decade. Male Female 1980 1990 2000 2010 1980 1990 2000 2010 0 100 200 300 400 Year Smoking-attributable deaths per 100,000 population Number of smoking-attributable deaths (per 100,000 population per year) by sex from1979 to 2016 Hong Kong 18 OECD high-income countries Australia Japan Singapore South Korea UK USA DR MICHAEL NI YUXUAN We have a very long life expectancy, but on average it may not be a very prosperous, fulfilling andhappy life. 14 RESEARCH 15 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2022

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, deposits into US banks increased from US$13 trillion in January 2020 to US$16 trillion by the end of the year, prompting business researchers to investigate how depositors were responding to the crisis and why. Dr Mingzhu Tai and Professor Chen Lin, Stelux Professor in Finance, from the HKU Business School, were particularly interested in the mechanisms that were driving the increase in deposits during the pandemic and, for their study entitled ‘How Did Depositors Respond to COVID-19?’’, analysed vast resources of data to find out what the thinking was behind people’s actions. “In the spring of 2020 when COVID-19 broke out globally, we were keeping close track on how the pandemic was impacting our economy and how policymakers in each country responded to it,” said Dr Tai. “In particular, we noticed that deposits and household savings increased dramatically starting from March and April of that year. Since deposits and household savings play a crucial role in our macroeconomy and financial system, especially during economic hardship, we decided that we should investigate what drove this surge in deposits and try to understand what we could learn from it regarding its economic and policy implications.” Dr Tai and Professor Lin, working in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, examined five potential drivers in their research. The first was the ‘precautionary savings’ view – also known as Aesop’s credo, after the Greek fable writer’s philosophy “it is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow” – whereby households saved more due to concerns about employment and income security triggered by the pandemic. Professor Lin said: “The testable predictions associated with this view propose that local COVID-19 infection rates had a positive relationship with local concerns about future job losses and income, a positive association with increases in local bank deposits, and a negative relationship with the local deposit interest rates.” The second possible driver was the ‘flight-to-safety’ theory which stresses that individuals reallocated part of their savings into bank deposits and other safer investments to avoid the financial disruptions triggered by the pandemic. “It predicts that infection rates would have had a stronger negative effect on local deposit interest rates among safer banks and a positive impact on insured deposits,” said Dr Tai. Third, the ‘drawdown-and-deposit’ view starts by noting that firms, having made large withdrawals from their lines of credit, would have then deposited this money into banks. “This view proposes a positive relationship between county-level infection rates and local bank deposits by firms; a negative relationship between infection rates and deposit rates; and no connection between infection rates and deposit rates when firms did not draw down their credit lines,” said Professor Lin. Fourth, the ‘demand-for-deposits’ view, proposes that the banks themselves may have attracted funds by raising deposit rates and cutting new lending – a notion which implies that local infection rates will be positively related to local deposit rates. Finally, fifth was the ‘policy response to the pandemic’ view. “This view suggests that the US government’s economic policies enacted in response to the pandemic – the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and the Paycheck Protection Program – were responsible for the increased deposits, since more federal funding was given to counties with higher COVID-19 infection rates,” said Professor Lin. “Thus, the view goes, the more local infections, the higher the local deposits.” Precautionary savings mechanism “Our empirical findings support in particular the precautionary savings mechanism,” said Dr Tai. “Our analysis found that local COVID-19 infection rates were positively associated with intensified anxieties about future job losses, increased expectations of future income losses and a concurrent reduction in spending due to these expectations. Infection rates were also positively associated with a boom in local bank deposits, especially retail deposits, and declines in the interest rates offered on local deposits – each of the testable questions received a solid ‘yes’.” “Human factors turned out to be the key to answering the question,” said Professor Lin. “Anxiety really does galvanise people into action.” Regarding the other four potential drivers under consideration, none of them were supported or confirmed. “The ‘flight-to-safety’ view was not supported because the study did not find that local infection rates were associated with a larger reduction in local deposit interest rates or a larger increase in insured deposits,” said Professor Lin. “Nor was the ‘drawdown-and-deposit’ view confirmed because no weaker connections between county-level exposure to COVID-19 and deposit rates were found, nor were there any larger increases in wholesale business deposits relative to retail banking deposits.” “Findings on the ‘demand-for-deposits’ view were inconsistent, as COVID-19 infection rates were associated with material declines in deposit rates, rather than increases,” said Dr Tai. “This negative relationship between deposit interest rates and infection rates also indicated that neither national- nor state-level macroeconomic policy had any causative effect, which meant the policy response perspective was also unsupported.” DR MINGZHU TAI Our analysis found that local COVID-19 infection rateswere positively associatedwith intensified anxieties about future job losses, increased expectations of future income losses and a concurrent reduction in spending due to these expectations. BE PREPARED 16 RESEARCH 17 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2022

like you’d tile your bathroom or kitchen. The tiles provided a base for the coral to cling to.” One diver, one tile Dr Baker worked on the first design with PhD student Ms Vriko Yu and research assistant Mr Jordan Pierce. “We discussed the design and agreed it should be modular not heavy – one diver should be able to carry one tile – the shape should be hexagonal so the tiles can lock together, and they would be made from terracotta clay and raised off the sand.” Associate Professor Christian Lange, Head of the Faculty of Architecture’s Robotic Fabrication Lab with Assistant Professor Lidia Ratoi, re-designed the tiles to make them 3D printable in terracotta clay. With their expertise in 3D printing, they also organised and executed the manufacturing of the tiles. In July 2020, 128 reef tiles were placed at three sites in Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park by Dr Baker and his team. “Those tiles are doing beyond well!” said Dr Baker. “As an active management tool to aid coral restoration they’re really effective. Two years on, the corals are growing so well that the tile is no longer the star of the show – that role goes to the marine life that is covering it. We get mussels, lobsters, female cuttlefish lay eggs in the tiles as they offer great protection.” The design has since been patented by HKU, and out of this has grown spin-off company archiREEF Ltd – co-founded with Ms Yu, who is also CEO of the company – which has contracts in Hong Kong and overseas, including Abu Dhabi where it has a production facility. The website sets out the company’s aims: “We offer climate solutions by restoring degraded marine ecosystems. We combine expertise in marine biology and the latest technologies in 3D printing techniques and material science to create artificial habitats that are best suited for threatened marine life.” Next, the company is working on a Sino Group-funded project in association with the Fullerton Hotel and Ocean Park to create a new reef in Deep Water Bay. “The project includes an outreach plan to invite gifted students to join restoration activities,” said Dr Baker. “There will be opportunities to dive to reefs and full public participation is planned.” archiREEF is also driving a marine restoration project in Abu Dhabi. “This is a holistic undertaking,” said Dr Baker. “There has been rapid urban development there, and now there is a strong desire to look at nature and how marine life can be maintained and nurtured. It’s all part of the larger picture to work towards climate change resilience.” “We won a government contract from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to help restore lost coral reefs in Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park, north of Sai Kung Country Park, which is home to more than 60 types of coral and 120 species of fish.” Mass mortality In 2015, an algal bloom of the dinoflagellate Noctiluca scintillans is believed to have caused what Dr Baker terms a mass mortality in the park. “The problem with these algal blooms is that people love them – it’s often called ‘sea sparkle’ because it looks cool – but it is not a good sign for marine life. The reason the cells float is because each one has liquid ammonia in it.” It was the first time the government had contracted out such a task but, by the time the team was set to start, the site in question had changed dramatically and the reef had eroded away completely, leaving only sand. “Coral won’t grow on sand alone,” said Dr Baker. “We had to come up with a solution, and we decided to tile the seafloor – Marine ecosystems serve the critical environmental function of sequestering and storing blue carbon from the oceans and atmosphere, an essential tool in the fight against climate change. A multidisciplinary project is developing new ways to protect Hong Kong’s precious marine environment using 3D printing. OUT OF THE BLUE First coined more than a decade ago, the term Blue Carbon (BC) describes the disproportionately large stores of carbon in coastal vegetated ecosystems. In the years since, the role of BC in environmental enhancement has reached international prominence, and Hong Kong’s mangrove swamps and seagrass beds are rich stores of it. However, both of these ecosystems have suffered damage and even destruction over the years, and Dr David M Baker, Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences, and his team are working to find ways to protect, repair and nurture the habitats and ensure Hong Kong’s blue carbon stores are preserved. “We’ve lost so many,” he said. “But if we can restore them we have the potential to mitigate climate change. Coral restoration has piqued interest in the private sector, and even though such ‘animal reefs’ respire just like us, and therefore are a source of carbon dioxide, the tremendous amount of life they support can function to enhance decarbonisation.” One of the solutions utilises 3D printed structures. “3D printing fascinates me – some are calling it the next Industrial Revolution,” said Dr Baker. “I had never used it before but HKU is a powerhouse for 3D printing in a variety of materials and across a variety of Faculties, including Architecture, Engineering and HKUMed. Making use of robotic 3D printing technology and environmentally-friendly terracotta materials, the project creates suitable habitats for threatened corals using artificial reef tiles to enhance coral survivorship. (Courtesy of Paul Sedille) The reef tile was first adopted by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department as an active management tool to aid coral restoration in Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park. (Courtesy of archiREEF) A 3D designed reef tile was printed through a robotic 3D clay printing method with generic terracotta clay and then fired at 1,125 degrees Celsius. (Courtesy of Christian Lange) DR DAVID M BAKER Those tiles are doing beyond well! As an active management tool to aid coral restoration they’re really effective. Two years on, the corals are growing so well that the tile is no longer the star of the show – that role goes to the marine life that is covering it. We get mussels, lobsters, female cuttlefish lay eggs in the tiles as they offer great protection. 18 RESEARCH 19 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2022

Mukbang is a Korean word, short for muknunbangsong, and means roughly, ‘a broadcast where people eat’. Mukbang broadcasts typically feature a solo eater who consumes a large meal consisting of several dishes and speaks through a camera while viewers watch online and type comments through real-time chat. The phenomenon has been popular in Korea since the late 2000s and has since gained popularity worldwide. Dr Hanwool Choe, who is Assistant Professor in the School of English, began her research interest in language and food in earnest when, as a PhD student, she wrote term papers about mukbang for coursework. “I first started watching mukbang just for fun,” she said. “At that time, I was doing my graduate studies in the United States and used to watch mukbang when I was craving Korean street food. But since I’m a discourse analyst who’s especially interested in analysing online communication, after a while I saw the resemblance between mukbang and the typical mealtime that we have at the physical dining table. That’s how I started studying this topic. “I am primarily interested in how mukbang contributes to creating online commensality and a virtual sense of togetherness: how people (a host and viewers) talk about food; how watching someone eating comes to the fore into interaction; and what kinds of identities are constructed and presented in mukbang interaction.” At the same time, Dr Choe has been studying another online content in relation to food and eating – everyday vlogging (video blogging) by Korean expatriates. “In everyday vlogs, vloggers share what and how they eat in their everyday lives, ranging from grocery shopping and cooking at home to dining out. Their daily eating scene seems very mundane, but shows the ways in which they get acclimatised to different cultures, traditions and language, thus accomplishing their new ordinary identities as expatriates and local selves,” she said. “What’s interesting is that their daily eating is evaluatively framed as ‘eating well’ by viewers. In the context of everyday vlogging, eating well is perceived to be more than a healthy or luxurious eating style. It rather resonates with the ordinariness of what and how to eat in our daily lives.” Through highlighting how technologies connect food and eating practice to digital discourse, she gained a better understanding of how digital communication about and involving food embodies the sociocultural values of eating together and eating well. Vlogging itself is not new on social media, it has existed for a long time at the centre of webcam culture, and initially much of the content was made by (micro)celebrities. “In it, they show (off ) what is called a day/ week in the life,” said Dr Choe. “Now lay people – usually the younger generation – also make their own YouTube channel to share their daily lives. I see everyday vlogs of a variety of lay people, including professionals, housewives, and students, and everyday vlogging is, to some extent, an extended form of sharing photos and videos on social media like Instagram. I would say the popularity of everyday vlogging indicates how living ordinarily has become used as a communicative resource in online environments for ordinary self-presentation as well as socialisation (with anonymous people).” Mukbang challenges Mukbang content varies, ranging from ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) to food challenges where the host eats his/ her way through vast quantities of food, often within a time limit. Dr Choe’s research primarily focusses on livestreamed mukbang where a host speaks to his/her viewers, while eating, and viewers interact with the host as well as each other via a text-based live chatroom, while watching. “Livestreamed mukbang does not include the challenge element but virtually embodies eating together that we usually have at a physical dining table, when eating with others,” said Dr Choe. “People watch livestreamed mukbang for various reasons. It can serve as ‘eating for another’ who cannot or does not eat for their own reasons – for example, they are on a diet, have morning sickness, or can’t access specific foods. In addition, people watch it so they have a virtual eating companion when they eat alone.” Mukbang also has some entertaining elements: viewers donate cyber money which can be converted into real money, so mukbang hosts endeavour to make theirs more fun. Dr Choe compares this monetisation to the gratuity that we give to street performers. In conclusion, Dr Choe offers her observations on two simultaneous identities of mukbang hosts, constructed in livestreamed mukbang. “First, expert eaters. That is, mukbang hosts ‘eat well’ [note, this is different from the meaning of ‘eating well’ in everyday vlogs] and thus can earn money – via viewers’ donations and sponsorship – through their eating. Second, mukbang hosts act as lay food reviewers: that is, they evaluate food in lay rather than expert terms while eating, which allows viewers to join them to talk about food and means that co-construction of taste and food assessments is achieved during mukbang interaction.” CONSUMING INTERESTS A study reveals that digital discourse about and involving food – including mukbang (livestreamed eating) and everyday vlogging – serves as a means of realising the sociocultural values of eating together and eating well. DR HANWOOL CHOE I am primarily interested in howmukbang contributes to creating online commensality and a virtual sense of togetherness: how people (a host and viewers) talk about food; howwatching someone eating comes to the fore into interaction; and what kinds of identities are constructed and presented in mukbang interaction. 20 RESEARCH 21 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2022