My Remarks to Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Minister Nguyen Chi Dung on Education

26 Sept 2023

Feature Image: In a private luncheon with Minister of Planning & Investment Nguyen Chi Dung in New York, I presented my proposal for strengthening Vietnamese workforce for global demands via a tongue-in-cheek educational exercise. I was a teacher in my past life, and after 2 hours of constant “serious” talks, I could feel the energy of the room disperse like deflating balloons. So I asked everybody to quickly stand up for a few minutes to “get their wiggles out” (as we like to say in the classroom). It was a rather unconventional way to approach one of the highest rank & files in Vietnam, but it did make many in the room laugh (some more than others 😉)

The Minister told me to lay it easy on the Prime Minister after the event, lol (meaning don't make him stand up)

You can view the talk here. It’s in Vietnamese but we have provided English subtitle so you can turn the CC on:

Transcript: On the Importance of Early Liberal Arts Education - A Proposal by Linh Dao Smooke

Dear Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, Minister Nguyen Chi Dung, high-level experts and advisors, and fellow businessmen and women present here today.

My name is Linh Dao Smooke. I'm the co-owner and Chief Operating Officer of HackerNoon, one of the leading publications in the United States covering up-to-date tech topics, from artificial intelligence, software development, cryptocurrency, blockchain, investment & fundraising, and many others. Founded more than 7 years ago, Hackernoon is now an online newspaper trusted and read by more than 4 million global readers, with contributions from more than 45 thousand writers, and through 3 fundraising efforts, a recent total valuation of 50 million USD. I want to share with you my personal views on liberal arts education and its importance for Vietnam's workforce planning, in the context of many unpredictable changes, especially with the rapid development of AI.

Laughing (again) during a portion of my talk

First, I want to talk about the importance of a focus on early liberal arts education (like anh Cuong Do briefly mentioned in his talk), especially innovative thinking, exploration, creativity, openness, and a ‘daring to think and do’ mindset. I was born and raised in a middle-class family in Hanoi. At the age of 16/17, I was fortunate enough to be one of four Vietnamese students who received a full scholarship to go to India at this high school called United World College with campuses in 18 different countries, which then continued to be a full scholarship to Brown University, top 8 Ivy League colleges in America. When I graduated, I felt like I owed everything to this life-changing scholarship, and I wanted to pay it forward. I then founded the first summer camp for middle school children in Hanoi (not for highschoolers or college grads since I think the earlier the exposure to innovative thinking, the better). After this, I became the Southeast Asia Regional Manager of Minerva University, a reimagined new liberal arts college whose model became the inspiration for Fulbright University Vietnam, of where Ms. Thuy Dam is currently the headmaster. She and I are both currently on the board of directors of the project to build the first UWC high school in Vietnam, potentially Binh Dinh/Quy Nhon. From my own educational journey, I realized that my knowledge and potential lie here right here (point to heart). But I need to explore it. My luck is not just going to a certain country, studying from a famous professor, or receiving substantial financial support. My luck is: at an age not yet fully grown, I realized that I could overcome the invisible obstacles that many of my peers, who also attended competitive public schools like me, had: it's the thought, “oh, there's nothing I can do. I'm too small. The problems of ourselves in particular and of society in general are too big. I can not.” Somehow, I believe I could. And that belief turns into action. And actions turn into results. For my two young children, I emphasize this importance of open thinking, exploration, daring to think and do, for example through Montessori teaching methods, or simply, baby-led weaning.

pretty good view where I gave my talk to the Prime Minister

Second, I want to talk about Artificial Intelligence. It is undeniable that AI will change the face of economics, politics, and human resources globally. There will be many jobs that were needed yesterday but are no longer needed today, leading to mass unemployment. But in return, there will be many jobs that no one can think of as a job today, which in the future will generate income for millions of people. This has happened before, especially in the past 50 years as technology, smartphones, and social media have become an increasingly inevitable part of life. But AI will make the pace of change in specifically human resources forced to be accelerated. I fully support the government's policy of investing in semiconductor technology. To put it bluntly, the more chips a country produces, the more important a position that country has in the global economy.

Pose with the Minister after the private luncheon

Third, I want to talk about informal education. Innovative thinking does not necessarily come only through books and schools. The Internet can be your school, if you have critical thinking skills and mindset. As Sam Altman, the CEO & co-founder of OpenAI behind chatGPT, mentioned during one of his recent podcasts, he’s betting on the first ever company with a solo-founder and a over 1 billion dollar valuation to be created in the next few years.

During my years running HackerNoon, I’ve read thousands of technology articles written from around the globe. A quarter of our users are from the United States. The top 10 countries reading and writing on HackerNoon the most are Hong Kong, UK, Germany, China, Canada, Brazil, France, and Japan. We translate top quality articles into 7 languages, including Vietnamese. However, there are not very many Vietnamese readers, or writers for that matter. I really hope that entrepreneurs, and those who follow this speech, will take advantage of the knowledge from Hackernoon's free library of nearly 100,000 different articles, and even contribute to HackerNoon. This is the way I think everyone can learn for a lifetime, not just within the 4 walls of school.

Thank you for listening!

You can see a little of me at the far right corner