Opinion

AI and Ethiopia

By: Yoseph Berhanu

One can easily argue humanity’s primary mission on earth is to learn, discover what is hidden, and make life a little bit easier than it was before. Moreover, sharing of what
one has learned has been at the heart of this learning endeavor.

The advent of electronic computer and the Internet has helped in both the discovery and sharing efforts significantly. It has also changed the way people acquire, analyze and disseminate information. Starting from the use of search-engines to fully automated class rooms experiences and even artificial intelligence tutors; the teaching learning world has changed considerably.

This impact of computing has been felt beyond the world of academics and research. From agriculture to military applications, from healthcare to finance, one can hardly find an industry not leveraging the powers of computing.

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Technology: The Last Frontier in Economic Challenges

By: Hruy Tsegaye

“Poverty can put you in a difficult state of mind, and a difficult state of mind can make it more difficult to escape poverty”. Jamele Rigolini.

1) The weak link in Economics

The science of Economics had always been a mystery for the layman, but the strange thing is Economics has never been an unambiguous discipline even for those who trained to be professional Economists. To make matters more complicated, regardless of our insight into economics, we still live by it!

Let us begin with the weak link of Economics principles. Most principles of economics are built on a simplified model of human behaviour, which the economists call the “homo economicus”. Although John Stuart Mill did not coin the term, the concept of the economic man was first introduced through his famous book, “The Principles of Political Economy”. Moreover, he even defines what the Economic Man is in his essay titled, “On the Definition of Political Economy; and on the Method of Investigation Proper to it”.  According to Mill, Political Economy perceives humans from one, a bit narrower, angle: “It is concerned with him [man] solely as a being who desires to possess wealth, and who is capable of judging the comparative efficacy of means for obtaining that end”. (Mill, 2000, p. 137)

It is a concept in many economic theories, which assumes humans as agents with narrowly well-defined self-interest and who have the ability to make judgments toward their subjectively defined ends. The most notable element in this assumption is that the choices of the economic man are marked by rationality. Hence, to most economists and economic principles, the economic man is a rational and profit motivated man.

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Inspiring a Generation of Technology Enthusiasts!

By Scheherazade Goertzel

I’ve been living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the past three months, during which time I’ve been able to spend a lot of time at iCog-Labs’ office and observe what type of work they are doing. Yesterday I visited iCog-Labs’ first Anyone-Can-Code (ACC) lesson, where iCog staff began to teach simple coding to selected High School girls.

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A Transhumanist World

By Senayt Nur

The rapid technological progress of our time is obvious to anyone with an observing eye. The changes that happened in the past few years were not even dreamt a few decades back. If we get the chance to bring back a person who died fifty years ago, he wouldn’t know what to do with a lot of the changes and honestly our dead friend would have been bewildered beyond words. I have been blessed to see the changes firsthand since many of the vagaries occur in my generation, and I have seen instruments get more portable and more efficient through time.

Nowadays the changing technology  have given me  devices for education and entertainment that weren’t even ideas a century, and diseases that would have been a death sentence a few decades back could now be diagnosed rapidly and have a straightforward treatments. This influx of technology has led to economic growth – and everywhere in the world, everyday people workout how to do things a little bit better and a little bit easier.

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iCog in Nigeria

By Hruy Tsegaye

My one-month trip in Nigeria, on behalf of iCog Labs, was full of drama. Yet, here, I am allowed to write only the ‘not too exciting’ part of it and unfortunately, this does not include ‘the horse, the girl, and I’ incident on Elegushi beach.

iCog Labs was invited to attend the Disruptive Africa Expo and I arrived in Lagos Muruthalah Mohammed International Airport midst a very hot and sunny day. August 21 is usually a rainy day in Nigeria; it is the rainy season there. However, on that particular day, the sun was out with all her kinship.

Thinking that it would be rainy, I had packed two jackets and a sweater;  my punishment for complaining about Addis Ababa’s recent climate change via a cruel jock for I had never got the chance to wear those. Nigeria is hot through and through and you will feel hot while standing in the middle of the rain wearing nothing but a t-shirt.

After passing through the usual boring boarding process, I am now standing in front of the sign that says “Welcome to Lagos”

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The Upside of Artificial Intelligence Development

By Stephen F. DeAngelis

The Upside of AI

In “Practical Artificial Intelligence Is Already Changing the World,” I promised to write a follow-on article that discussed why Kevin Kelly (@kevin2kelly), the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a former IBM employee and strategic advisor to Citigroup, are optimistic about the future of artificial intelligence (AI). In that article I noted that some pundits believe that AI poses a grave threat to humanity while other pundits believe that AI systems are going to be tools that humans can use to improve conditions around them. I also wrote that it would be foolish to predict which school of thought is correct this early in the game.

In the near-term, however, I predicted that those who believe that AI systems are tools to be used by humans are going to be proven correct. Irving Wladawsky-Berger is firmly in that camp and he believes that Kevin Kelly is as well. “What should we expect from this new generation of AI machines and applications?” asks Wladawsky-Berger. “Are they basically the next generation of sophisticated tools enhancing our human capabilities, as was previously the case with electricity, cars, airplanes, computers and the Internet? Or are they radically different from our previous tools because they embody something as fundamentally human as intelligence? Kevin Kelly — as am I — is firmly in the AI-as-a-tool camp.” [“The Future of AI: An Ubiquitous, Invisible, Smart Utility,” The Wall Street Journal, 21 November 2014]M

Wladawsky-Berger bases his conclusion about Kevin Kelly’s beliefs about artificial intelligence (AI) from what Kelly wrote in an article in Wired Magazine. [“The Three Breakthroughs That Have Finally Unleashed AI on the World,” Wired, 27 October 2014] In that article, Kelly writes about IBM’s Watson system and how it is transforming as it learns and about all of the good things that cognitive computing systems can do now and will do in the future. He continues: Read More

Coding Academies Are Nonsense

By Stephen Nichols

Image courtesy of artrOnix

Image courtesy of artrOnix

Coding as a profession has recently catapulted from the dark rooms of nerdom into the shining light of mainstream appeal, and few people are better off for it. In 20+ years of professional coding, I’ve never seen someone go from novice to full-fledged programmer in a matter of weeks, yet that seems to be what coding academies are promising, alongside instant employment, a salary big enough to afford a Tesla and the ability to change lives.

It’s an ingenious business model. There’s a dearth of skilled coders in the marketplace to fill the five million computing jobs available in this country. For somewhere between free and $36,000, you learn to program computers in less than a year. If you’re one of the lucky few, you will hit your aha moment with programming and develop a personal passion for it, as well land a real job.

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An Appeal to Transhumanism on the Question of Technological Inequality in Africa

By Hruy Tsegaye

“We are deceived by the appearance of right.” J.J Rousseau

Part One: Today’s RealityAfrica

The idea of improving humanity is not a new one. Such movements, notions and groups have marked our past. Some of them achieved their target and some have concluded with remarkable results; and yet, some have brought more suffering to the human condition.

Transhumanism is a movement that aims to enhance and improve humanity. As it happens with any notion and philosophy of this kind, it faces widespread criticism from many groups. Some criticism is constructive, passed on with the intention to improve on the shortcomings of the movement; then there is also criticism based on dogmatic and irrational grounds and expressed out of the fear that the movement is so radical and groundbreaking to the very idea of life itself.

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