Cautious optimism as artificial intelligence reshapes work, living
For eons, cancer has remained a preeminent cause of death across the world, leading to about 10 million deaths annually, which is nearly one in six deaths, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Despite remaining a terror to the world, by brutally ending the lives of loved ones when not detected early, experts insist that cancer can be cured if detected early, and the treatment regime executed swiftly and aggressively.
It is because of the menace that it has created over the years, among other reasons, that scientists, researchers working hand-in-glove with doctors, built an Artificial Intelligence (AI) model that can accurately identify cancer in a groundbreaking effort, which could speed up diagnosis, as well as fast-track treatment of patients.
Findings by a study published in the Lancet’s eBioMedicine journal in the United Kingdom daily explained that the AI tool designed by experts at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Imperial College, London can identify whether abnormal growths found on CT scans are cancerous.
In another part of the globe, the United States specifically, Nadia Jaber, in an article on the website of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) chronicled, how the efforts to curb cancer deaths through AI in the country are gaining momentum. The piece is entitled, “Can Artificial Intelligence Help See Cancer in New, and Better, Ways?”
The NCI, which coordinates the United States National Cancer Programme, is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is also one of 11 agencies that are part of the United States (US) Department of Health and Human Services.
The piece goes thus: “Two identical black and white pictures of murky shapes sit side-by-side on a computer screen. On the left side, Ismail Baris Turkbey, M.D., a radiologist with 15 years of experience, has outlined an area where the fuzzy shapes represent what he believes is a creeping, growing prostate cancer. On the other side of the screen, an artificial intelligence (AI) computer programme has done the same—and the results are nearly identical.
“The black and white image is an MRI scan from someone with prostate cancer, and the AI programme has analysed thousands of them. The (AI) model finds the prostate and outlines cancer-suspicious areas without any human supervision,” Dr. Turkbey explained.
Jaber continued: “His hope is that the AI will help less experienced radiologists find prostate cancer when it’s present and dismiss anything that may be mistaken for cancer,” adding that “this model is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the intersection of artificial intelligence and cancer research. While the potential applications seem endless, a lot of that progress has centered around tools for cancer imaging.
AI’s Growing Popularity Soaring Across The World
OF late, seldom does a day pass by now without an advertisement on the Internet and sundry media urging netizens to get on the bandwagon and learn AI to be more productive in their endeavours. Without a doubt, artificial intelligence is one of the most rapidly developing fields in the technology world. Expectedly, this exponential growth and spread that it is witnessing, is also generating in equal measure, anxiety regarding potential dangers the technology may harbour.
As diverse sectors of the world’s economy continue to crave for the services of experienced AI specialists, courses like B.Tech with specialisation in Artificial Intelligence programme are sprouting up in tertiary institutions in developed countries.
By way of definition, artificial intelligence refers to computer programmes, or algorithms, that use data to make decisions or predictions. To build an algorithm, scientists might create a set of rules, or instructions, for the computer to follow so it can analyse data and make a decision. American computer scientist, John McCarthy is considered the father of artificial intelligence.
Consequently, as a result of this wide range of applications, students may resort to the use of artificial intelligence to gain insight into machine learning and automation, as well as make smarter decisions. Additionally, they also acquire an overview of essential machine learning algorithms and common methodologies.
While career choices in AI include jobs in sectors like security and intelligence, robotic scientists, computer scientists, game programmers, and data scientists, etc are also in the mix, thereby making AI not only a very popular course in the world. In addition to this, experts insist that it is quite important to have mastery of, at least, one basic machine language to function effectively in this field.
In many areas of human endeavours, be it arts, transportation, security, medicine, business, law, and ICT, AI is simplifying things and making life easy in ways that many are getting confounded.
From helping in cancer cells detection to writing computer codes, AI is also changing the world of photography by adding colour/vibrancy to hitherto bland black and white photographs, just as it has been deployed to solve knotty technological puzzles and many more.
“A task that should be done by human beings in four hours, could be dispensed with in 30 minutes by AI/automation, and with a high degree of excellence, precision, and perfection.” That was how an expert in the field summarised the sheer impact that AI has had on our daily lives, and how its enormous powers could disrupt work life in the days, months, and years ahead.
Barely two weeks ago, a fast-rising Nigerian music artiste, Nova who is currently exploring the Canadian and Nigerian music scenes, respectively, joined the league of musicians who are early adopters of the cost-cutting AI technology in music video creation.
Fused with a sparse display of human creativity, Nova emphasised the influence of AI’s assistance within the realm of music video creation. Tag-teaming an AI-designer, Damola Rufai, the official music video for his recent CTL song is an assuring hope for the adoption of AI technology in African music.
The CTL video transports viewers into a surreal and ethereal realm, where vibrant colours, intricate patterns, and fluid movements seamlessly intertwine. The visuals morph and evolve in perfect sync with Nova’s enchanting melodies, creating a synesthetic experience that transcends the traditional music video format.
“I broke my jaw back in September-been healing. However, it has been quite a journey. After getting three metal plates installed on my jaw, I didn’t feel as confident working on music, creating visuals, or performing live. I’ve always been drawn to the intersection of art and technology, however, my recent experience inspired me to innovate and tap into new ways to connect with my listeners.
“AI has been driving conversations across the music industry in 2023, with artists and labels divided on how this technology could shape the future of our industry. Intrigued by the potential of generative AI technology, I decided to partner with Nigerian-based designer, Damola Rufai to delve into uncharted territories and create something truly unique. I believe this collaboration represents the future of artistry, where human creativity and AI can coexist to produce breath-taking experiences.”
To further underscore how AI has permeated our daily lives, at the maiden Africa PR and Communications Report (ACPR), 17.3 per cent of respondents predicted that AI would be most predominant in the practice of public relations in the next five to 10 years among other things.
The report, which was released recently, and carried out by BHM Research & Intelligence (BR&I), provides insights into the current state of the industry, including the challenges and opportunities available to practitioners and stakeholders.
Federal Government Moves To Maximise Gains, Opportunities Provided By AI
IT perhaps was in recognition of the importance of AI to national development that the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), last year, sought the contribution of stakeholders in the ICT sector to the development of a National Artificial Intelligence Policy (NAIP).
NITDA is responsible for developing frameworks, guidelines, and standards for the IT sector in the country. A statement by NITDA’s Head of Corporate Affairs and External Relations, Mrs. Hadiza Umar, noted that globally, countries are grappling with managing the exponential growth of new and emerging technologies to advance their economies.
Not long after former President Muhammad Buhari launched the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) developed by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy (FMoCDE) to reposition the economy and leverage opportunities provided by digital technologies, the then Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim directed (NITDA) to develop a National Artificial Intelligence Policy (NAIP), to maximise the benefits, mitigate possible risks and address some of the complexities attributed to using AI in our daily activities.
The agency added that getting the input of stakeholders would provide directions on how Nigeria can take advantage of AI, including the development, use, and adoption of AI to proactively facilitate the development of the country into a sustainable digital economy.
Last week, the Federal Government directed the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) to incorporate robotics and artificial intelligence into the basic education curriculum in the country.
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr Andrew David Adejo, gave the directive during a robotics project presentation by the Federal Government Girls College Sagamu, Ogun State, at the Federal Ministry of Education.
Adeojo, who spoke after the Director and Principal of FGGC, Sagamu, Dr. Muyibat Adenike Olodo, led the college’s robotics team consisting of students and staff to present an innovation of the college, a humanoid, named Okikiola Sagamu, to the permanent secretary, said that as a part initiative to “catch them young,” the NERDC should work to integrate coding, robotics, and AI into the basic education curriculum.
Adejo charged the students and unity schools to move further by designing AI devices that could take orders and serve food in restaurants, assuring them that government would be ready to support such innovation.
With the charge handed to the students by the permanent secretary, workers are likely to fear the worse as far as their job is concerned.
Is There Anything For The Nigerian Worker To Worry About?
IN responding to the above poser, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Co-founder of Zummit Africa, Jonathan Enudeme, decided not to sound monosyllabic.
Zummit Africa is an organisation committed to democratising artificial intelligence in Africa, either through training individuals or equipping organisations with the AI tools that will transform their businesses.
According to the chief executive: “The new era of AI underscores the need for a combination of technical and soft skills. Workers will have to focus on skills that emphasise human strengths such as critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and creativity. No matter how good an AI system is, it cannot collaborate better with humans. Working collaboratively will always give us an edge over any technology, not just AI. We need to embrace a growth mindset, be adaptable, and commit to continuous learning.”
On how beneficial the revolution that the artificial intelligence system is bringing to the future of work, he said: “To my knowledge, it is very beneficial. I believe there is always a way to do things easier and faster, AI is the way presently. As for how it will affect the future of work, I will like to use an analogy. There is a crude way of farming- farming with hoes and cutlasses. It will take a whole village to cultivate a very large farmland. But if farm mechanisation is adopted, a large expanse of farmlands can be cultivated with fewer people. What then happens to the people who have been working with crude tools? Now they have more harvest to manage. We need to accept technology and find a way to make it serve us. It will lead to even more opportunities… I think there are a lot more possibilities yet to be uncovered, but of course, it will plateau at some point. I have no clue when that point will be. All I am doing right now is to help businesses to start leveraging on the technology as in the case of businesses in other continents.
Because of the massive opportunities and risks presented by AI systems, there are fears that it could bring to life, the science-fiction disaster scenario of a machine outsmarting its inventor. Are these fears founded or not?
Enudeme responded: “I will not say the fear is totally unfounded. Humans are behind the development of any technology and it’s in our control. Just like there is a good and bad side to everything, it is the same with AI. We just need to use the good side of it as much as possible. There are a lot of talks on responsible and ethical AI going on in the industry. Just last month, there was a coalition of AI giants – Google, Openai, Microsoft, and Anthropic who all came together to ensure safe and responsible AI. Prior to now, Google had stopped the development of ‘Deep fakes’ on their coding platform called Google Colab. Deep fakes is an AI that is designed to look and talk like a real person, however, it’s not real, People use this technology to deceive a great number of people for marketing purposes and other wicked vices.”
The Future of Life Institute, a foreign-based NGO not long ago, called for a six-month “pause” in the creation of the most advanced forms of artificial intelligence. So, are there chances that AI could go haywire?
He responded: “A large number of industry leaders voted that it be paused while a larger number was against the pause. Many companies are building their large AI systems with generative capabilities and the competition is steep. My concern is whether there will be uniformity in the output from these large language models, and in the case where there are conflicting results, which do we choose? For instance, if Google Bard says 2 + 2 is 4 and ChatGPT says it’s 5, other models give different answers, which do we pick? There has to be a standard otherwise there will be a lot of problems.
“Still on ethics and building responsible AI systems; here is a question. A self-driving car is heading to a destination, a child jumps into the road.
Either the car runs into the child, or it runs into a car with a passenger. What should that car do?”
The Zummit Africa co-founder continued: “At Zummit Africa, we understand that there are a lot of grey areas around AI, organisations are not sure where to start their AI adoption from, or the solution they need. We want to carry that burden. So, we are offering free POC projects for organisations. If the solution aligns with their company vision and they can see the positive effect the solution will have on the organisation, we can enter into a contractual agreement to build the solution in scale. We have a very experienced team that has built AI products serving millions of users. To benefit from this opportunity we are available to meet with the company to discuss.
As part of our offering to society, we train individuals in AI skills, and equip them with the knowledge and expertise to develop innovative AI-driven solutions. These solutions can drive economic growth by creating new businesses, products, and services. State governments can foster an environment of innovation, attracting investments from AI-driven industries and startups, ultimately boosting local economies and job creation. This was the formula adopted by the Chinese to foster innovation in their provinces. Can there be a nationwide innovative competition where states with the best innovations solving real problems in the state get funding from the Federal Government? This is an approach that can accelerate the adoption of AI. Zummit Africa’s model of hands-on training and intensive internship can scale AI adoption across states.”
Asked if there are ways that artificial intelligence can help in the fight against an insurgency that is ravaging the country, he responded in the affirmative, adding: “I and my team worked on an AI solution for an airport to monitor languages. The intent behind this was to curtail bomb attacks, which were prominently carried out by abandoning bombs in bags in high-traffic areas like airports or bus terminals necessitating that every bag be monitored. Also, the moment someone goes far away from their bags, the camera detects it and proper checks can be made to ensure safety. This is just one innovative solution. Custom use cases like these can be deployed, as well as, other innovative solutions based on local data.”
Nigeria Light Years Ahead Of Public Sector Implementation
WITH a massive infrastructure deficit, the successful deployment of AI in public offices in a way that could facilitate effective service delivery may remain a challenge in the country.
Chibuike Goodnews, the Co-Founder and CEO of Dochase Ads agreed when he said: “AI in Nigeria is largely being implemented in the private sector for now; I am not aware of any implementation of AI in the public sector. It will take a few more years to see public sector deployments. Some factors need to be in place for AI use cases including digitalisation, connectivity of different aspects of the public office, data modelling, data accuracy, and simulations. The present situation in the public sector is still a long way to go before we start to see such. But Nigeria is a nation that leapfrogs developments, anything can happen, we can jump processes and do a Nigerian version.
Nigerian start-ups are leveraging AI systems to enhance their performances, maximise efficiency and profits. In which areas can older outfits key into this without rocking their boats?
Goodnews stressed that: “AI is not limited to startups alone, quite all right, AI requires digital transformation, but big businesses also have better funding and resources to implement AI effectively. The early lead we see from the startups could be because they have fewer bureaucracies and can implement quickly like Dochase. However, older businesses can key into AI to improve their processes, customer services, cost optimisation, and lots more. AI can help a bank to know the credit score of a potential borrower, and the possibility of the customer to pay back loans. This will reduce the number of bad loans and the time spent on credit analysis. It can help to know which customers will eventually buy a product from the leads. Older businesses often struggle with the quality of customer service, customer engagement, and cross-selling. AI will integrate a customer value management (CVM) that will engage the customers with the right information, mails, SMS, and product recommendation at each stage of their buying circle. Such moves can increase revenue by about 80% at lower costs.”
Without a rulebook in place, rogue AI systems could cause catastrophe in especially the financial sector, just as existing AI systems are already raising dire concerns regarding intellectual property rights, privacy, and bias. What options are available to the government, which tends to ban any and everything that it is slightly in doubt of?
“Every good thing has the possibility of abuse. Just like medications, AI can be abused if not regulated. For authorities and regulations, they do not need to regulate from outside. They should either bring in practitioners into the governance or train their staff to understand the current dynamics. But I will recommend bringing in practitioners into the decision-making. The outright ban can kill fantastic innovations and you cannot assume all innovations are rogue. So, best to take a careful approach that makes ethical players set the rules that will get a better environment for everyone.
“Nigeria stands to benefit a lot from AI in many ways. The globalisation of work has made it possible for people to work from anywhere; we have relatively lower pay bands. Nigeria can therefore become a major supplier of talent and the human element of AI. They can compete with India and China. From being a talent supplier, Nigeria can also grow to have technology transfer if she harnesses the synergies in this. AI can be deployed in the government and private sector to improve efficiency, reduce wastage and fight corruption. There are many things to benefit from both locally and internationally… Government is not a good businessman everywhere. So, it should just create a conducive environment, building technology hubs, give access to the Internet, power and leading bilateral deals that improve technology”
Are there ways that artificial intelligence can help in the fight against insurgency? Goodnews a director at Astravest, a savings and investment platform for Africa said: “Sure. If we block rogue financial transactions, the insurgency will be less profitable. The underlying factor in this crime is economic. If there are AI models to monitor and analyse flows of communications, keywords in conversations, and technological touch-points, we can trace the root of crime and act proactively instead of reactively with regard to crime and insurgency.”
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