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.
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.
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”
Immortality, rather sound like a Sci-Fi character’s ability, but modern science says this is no longer true. In this exponentially growing technology, the linear life of humans, being a forever one, may not be long coming after all.
Ray Kurzweil, the most popularized living futurist, “the ultimate thinking machine”, as called by Forbes magazine, says life extension will be possible within the next thirty years. Since 2010, large research companies, foundations, and institutes have solely dedicated their time, money, and resources on the aim of radically extending life.
By Ben Goertzel, Bill Hibard, Nick Baladis, Hruy Tsegaye, and David Hanson
Recent dramatic progress in artificial intelligence (AI) leads us to believe that Ray Kurzweil’s prediction of human level AI by 2029 may be roughly accurate. Even if reality proves to be a bit different, still it seems very likely that today’s young people will spend most of their lives in a world largely shaped by AI.
The rapid advent of increasingly advanced AI has led many people to worry about the balance of positive and negative consequences AI will bring. While there is a limit to the degree anyone can predict or control revolutionary developments, nevertheless, there are some things we can do now to maximize the odds that the future development of AI is broadly positive, and the potential for amazing benefits outweighs the potential risks.
One thing we can do now is to advocate for the development of AI technology to be as open and transparent as possible — so that AI is something the whole human race is doing for itself, rather than something being foisted on the rest of the world by one or another small groups. The creation and rollout of new forms of general intelligence is a huge deal and it’s something that can benefit from the full intelligence and wisdom of the whole human race. Specifically we need transparency about what AI is used for and how it works.
African researchers have recently launched the YaNetu teaching tablet crowdfunding project. This effort aims to bring an AI based educational tablet to African children. The researchers hope to create:
– An Android-based teaching tablet for primary school age children in the developing world, with both offline and online applications
– A built-in curriculum, customized with local languages, designed to grow and develop over the years along with the child
– Artificial Intelligence systems, represented by human-like avatars, designed in collaboration with leading American AI researcher Dr. Ben Goertzel. Our AI avatars offer the student not only information and coaching, but also emotional and motivational feedback.
In an interview for Next Big Future with Sander Olson, iCOG researcher Hruy Tsegave describes why he believes that teaching tablets could be an effective and efficient method for providing large numbers of African children with a versatile and compelling teaching tool.
ADDIS ABABA —The black-and-white robot stopped and its eyes, two small red lights, suddenly lit up. Rotating about 90 degrees, it recognized the blue plastic ball a few centimeters away, came forward and kicked it.
“The robot is Chinese, but the processor is made in Ethiopia,” Getnet Aseffa explains. “A student developed it, and within a few months we will organize the first national football competition between robots, in the same vein as the International RoboCup tournament!”
Welcome to the iCog Labs experiment room in the heart of Addis Ababa’s university district. Getnet Aseffa, 28, is one of the brains behind the operation. After graduating in computer science in 2012, this avid reader of futurist author Ray Kurzweil co-created iCog with the help of American researcher Ben Goertzel. It is the first Ethiopian research and development laboratory specializing in artificial intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence is the next big thing because human beings want most of their thinking done by machines. Ethiopia known for its strong army and beautiful women, but the country is also a home of innovators. The country has placed much emphasis on computer science. However, as the country celebrates their achievement in tech, an artificial intelligence R&D caught fire in Addis Ababa.
The country has many universities and polytechnics that place high emphasis on technology. Over 30 official universities and 130 polytechnics have tech related units. Ministry of Science and Technology established its own university and a $250 million dollar tech park in 2012. Techonomy reports that about 2% of its citizens can access the internet, 4% of Ethiopian children get as far as the equivalent of 9th grade, child labor is at 27% and early marriages is 41%.
By: Emeline Wuilbercq(contributrice Le Monde Afrque, à Addis Abeba) En savoir plus sur
Photo Courtesy: Emeline Wuilbercq
Le robot noir et blanc s’immobilise. Ses yeux, deux petites lumières rouges, s’allument. Il fait une rotation de 90°, reconnaît l’objet bleu à quelques centimètres de lui, s’avance et tape dans une balle en plastique. « Le robot est chinois, mais le processeur est “made in Ethiopia”, c’est un étudiant qui l’a mis au point, explique Getnet Aseffa. Dans quelques mois, nous allons organiser la première compétition nationale de football entre robots, dans la même veine que le tournoi international RoboCup ! »Bienvenue dans la salle des expériences d’iCog Labs au cœur du quartier universitaire d’Addis Abeba. Getnet Aseffa, 28 ans, en est l’un des cerveaux. En 2012, fraîchement diplômé en informatique, ce passionné de robotique, lecteur fervent du chantre de la singularité Raymond Kurzweil, a co-créé le premier laboratoire éthiopien de recherche et de développement en intelligence artificielle, avec l’aide du chercheur américain Ben Goertzel.
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.