Artificial Intelligence; The Center Stage Of Life In The 21st Century.

Some time back, during my college days, one of my professors walked into class and asked what a computer was. Naively, we all laughed that he could ask of such a question to a senior class in the department like ours. As you could have already thought, we went ahead trying to add glamour to the simple definition of a computer. The intent being to confirm to him that we knew it better than he thought we did even giving examples and history of computers. We thumped our chests that we had achieved his objectives. To our surprise, he told us to show our smart phones and that we did faithfully. “That is the computer,” he remarked, giving us a whole new way of defining the world around us.

I started this article with the example above, to demystify what some of us think is something that exists in isolated places only. Artificial Intelligence (AI), simply means simulating intelligence behaviors in computers. In a more explanatory way, AI is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence such as visual-perception, speech recognition, decision making and translation between languages. With such a more defined definition, most of us can agree that artificial intelligence is all around us.

At the Fire Sight Chat last week, Lewis Munene was quick to ask, “Is automation the same as AI?” Robert Agolla quickly reiterated that not all automation are one and the same thing as AI. Agolla noted out that some of the automation is by simple systems that perhaps use a heat element to cut the circuit once heat is exceeded. They are more mechanical systems in working principle as opposed to intelligence system working principle. Historically, automation had been there from early years. Henry Ford in around 1905 shifted production into an assembly line, whereby parts were built in different lines and assembled at the end. Most of these processes were automated. This system not only minimized human effort but also increased efficiency in the line which meant a higher output.

AI began long ago in myths and classical philosophies attempting to explain the concept of human thinking. It could not be found formally up to until 1956 when the term “Artificial Intelligence” was coined at a conference at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, there was a more serious and plausible research approach in the field of AI at almost the same time the computer innovation was changing drastically. The chips built by Intel in those years through 1990’s to 2000’s were smaller with higher processing speeds and greater efficiency. The internet boom also saw a far serious research and increased investments in the technology sector. Ever since, AI has been at the center stage of solving most of the human problems.


Not just robotics

Most people think of robotics only when they hear of the word AI. It is very true that robotics use AI largely in there functionality, but besides them, there are a lot of other applications or rather forms of AI. AI has been largely used in medical diagnostics and drug delivery. Time back, a person took a pain killer which upon simulation in the blood system could travel the whole body system with the intent that it will reach the pained part. In modern medicine, AI is used in small medical systems the size of a tablet that once you swallow, they go through your system relaying real time images of your body state and if case be, release a drug at the precise location it is needed. It is being used in locating malignant cells and drug delivery to the affected areas. With greater research going into this field, human medicine is bound to change drastically in the coming years.

Think of a robotic system doing you a surgery. Doesn’t it sound cool? Well, researches in the field of medicine have already come up with robotic systems which can be used to carry out internal or simple surface surgeries. The robotic system is very precise in the operation, which minimizes the size of the cut or even other complications arising from human surgery. Soon women will be delivered by robots, dental surgeries, neurosurgery or even cardio vascular surgeries will be done by robotic systems. A whole new era of human medicine.

Disease sensing software

Recently while watching one of my favorite international channels, something caught my attention. Scientists had come up with an artificial nose. The field of biosensors in close relation with computer software will be sensing diseases right form HIV/AIDS, cancer or other ailments by a tinge of your sweat, saliva, urine or any body fluid. Once it senses the disease, with your medical history, the software can recommend drugs for you to take. With the simple machine, perhaps you will only need a USB to connect it to your phone and you are set to go.

Education and Technology

In education, with AI, people are doing remote leaning and even doing tests marked be software systems. Edx is one such system, is another platform that helps you learn about coding remotely with instructional real time help. Listening to Moon Express investor and former InfoSpace CEO Naveen Jain, , soon our kids will be able to say, “Mum, let me play some one more bit of this math game.” Simply well put, subjects which have seemed hard will be simulated in games form and our children will enjoy them greatly. Language translations are also being done by specially formulated algorithms. No problem if you wanted to translate this article into Arabic or even French. There is a machine which can largely do it and get majority of the translation right.

Space exploration is also taking a different approach. Despite machines being sent to the moon to explore the topography and existence of other forms of live, asteroids will soon be mined precious stones by use of AI technology. It is estimated that the minerals are worth 18 Quintillion dollars. Well, it doesn’t matter who gets there, it matters who gets there first.

Self-driven cars have already come to the market. Google and Tesla motors are intending to overhaul the motor vehicle industry with self-driving cars. They will need very minimal human effort or none at all to function. Well, it won’t be bad if after a long hectic day, your car welcomes you in and drops you at home.

Quantum computers.

As quantum computers take over the information and technology sectors as the most powerful machines on the planet, data analytics will completely change. Complex data analytics will be done within the shortest time ever. 3D printing will help research and spur creation of new materials, current architecture will change with the quantum computers. Quantum computers uses theoretical computation systems that make direct use of quantum-mechanical phenomena such as superposition and entanglement to perform operations on data. In other words, the computers use the power of atoms and molecules to process data and keep memory better than the silicon-based computers. In the next era of computing when quantum computers could have been built, the unimaginable will end up being reality.

In agriculture; irrigation, testing of viability of seeds and post-harvest management are being performed by AI. In as much as agriculture having not seen a lot of automation over the years, AI will altogether be helpful. We took a moment to think of a scenario where thousands of robots will be programmed to weed, till and even do the post planting practices. As machines, they don’t get tired, they are precise and efficient. That was an imagination.

AI is becoming the center stage of life. Recently researchers have come out strongly to discourage the dogma in people’s minds that AI will take all the jobs and people will have nothing to do. AI has come as a supplement to human effort and not a substitute.

In the book O to 1, the author Peter Thiel notes that one of the possibilities in the coming years is the burst of a war due to competition that could lead to human extinction. Elon Musk too noted a few days ago that AI could possibly be a means to human extinction. The conflict between human power and the power of machines especially AI could lead to a great crisis. We could spark massive wars in testing the strengths of AI war tools we could have built. Nevertheless, AI holds a lot of promise for the human race once used well. Don’t be surprised when we will have a tribunal for judging robotics in case any fault affects humans. Currently, it is projected that the world’s first trillionaire will be an AI investor. Another likelihood is the investor who will use AI to mine the asteroids. Whatever the case, that is how AI is becoming so critical in the 21st Century life.

Copyright @ 2017


Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Politics, Policy, Technology, Current Affairs, Opinion, Agriculture, Energy, Education, Entrepreneurship, Governance, International Emerging Issues, Society, and culture. For featuring, promotions or support write to us at
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