The long awaited grand event for the Makers Initiative was underway at the premises of Ministry of Science and Technology on March 3, 2017. While I was watching the little cute toys on the pitch, it occurred to me that they never get tired; lifeless expressions! Then I saw the competing students and ah and I saw the familiar signs, weary, worried, but determined. How did we get here?
The commercial value of artificial intelligence technology is now increasingly obvious across the board, with large companies in multiple sectors investing billions upon billions. But the importance of AI goes well beyond its direct financial value; there is a fundamental transformative potential here, which cuts at the core of human society, human life and human values.
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.
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« Nos programmeurs ont les mêmes compétences que les Chinois, les Américains et les Européens, assure M. Aseffa. La seule différence se trouve dans le fossé économique et les défis auxquels nous faisons face quotidiennement. » Parmi eux : le manque d’infrastructures, la connexion Internet erratique et les coupures fréquentes d’électricité. « Au début, les développeurs perdaient des centaines de lignes de code, poursuit-il. Maintenant, ils sauvegardent les données presque toutes les minutes. » Les serveurs du laboratoire se trouvent en Allemagne pour plus de sécurité.
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.
Young Ethiopian with robot whose AI software was created in his country.
Ethiopia has come a long way from its nightmare past of famine and war. It still has splendid 12th century rock churches carved into the ground, the plateaued Simian Mountains, the ancient city of Gondar and of course, the human ancestral fossil Lucy, its oldest hominid ambassador. But now computer science is thriving in its capital, Addis Ababa. And Ethiopian artificial intelligence R&D is on fire.
The driver for this unexpected artificial intelligence (AI) industry sector is the autocratic government’s massive multi-billion dollar, ultra-high tech, industrial plans and its fervent development of higher education to support them. Today, there are over 30 official universities and 130 or so polytechnics, most of them emphasizing technology. Many of them are in the capital and, in 2012, the Ministry of Science and Technology established its own university and a $250 million dollar tech park nearby.
Deputy Minister of Science and Technology (between Lin Kayser and Ben Goertzel): Photo courtesy of Lin Kayser
On February 2, 2015 Getnet Asefa, the CEO of iCog Labs, standing under the azure sky over the international Airport of Addis Ababa welcomed his guests from Hong Kong, Germany, and England. His exact words were, “Welcome to the era of hi-tech meetings in East Africa”.
Before three years, it wasn’t even plausible to dream about meetings and seminars on Artificial intelligence, Robotics or social movements like transhumanism, in the Horn of Africa— the place widely known for famine, disease and endless civil, nations, tribal and what not wars.