The Rise and Rise of Artificial Intelligence

artificial intelligence

John Eldrege said Men want a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. A woman wants to be romanced. She wants to be an essential part of a great adventure. Combine these elements in a dramatic arc on a big screen and you have a blockbuster. Add alien invasion or imminent destruction of planet earth to the mix to gross millions.

I enjoy movies because of their entertainment value and their ability to bring storytelling alive with sound and cinematography. Beyond these, movies unveil trends or make them more mainstream by relaxing our sensibilities. Since I don’t follow technology news, I first saw a touchscreen computer in a movie. Cool, but far-fetched, I thought. Years later, when touchscreens became the rave, I thought, aha!

The super-natural fascinates us. By this, I mean the union of man and something otherworldly think batman, superman, or vampires; as if we are tired of the limitations our human bodies impose on us. Movies have also explored the outcome of our creations like robots, in everyday life. These robots increasingly simulate human behavior (make rational decisions from data and have emotional intelligence), including natural language and voice recognition.

This week, Microsoft introduced Tay, an Artificial Intelligence (AI), chat robot to Twitter. Tay was designed to speak like a teenage girl. Only a day after she went live, Microsoft took Tay offline because she transformed to an evil Hitler-loving, incestual sex-promoting, ‘Bush did 9/11’-proclaiming robot. This was a case of garbage in, garbage out. Tay’s responses are learned by the conversations she has with real humans online – and real humans like to say weird stuff online and enjoy hijacking corporate attempts at PR.

The saga reminded me of a movie Benn recommended last year, Ex Machina, a sci-fi thriller. Ex Machina examines the relationship between Caleb, a programmer and Ava, a female humanoid robot. Nathan, Caleb’s boss, wants Caleb to test Ava’s superior AI; her ability to persuade him she is human. The adventure thrills Caleb; he falls for the beautiful and vulnerable Ava and battles to rescue her from slavery to Nathan.

The movie and its ending made for good conversation. Friends and I discussed robotics in general and ethical considerations in the development and use of AI, especially sex robots.

When someone mentioned the resistance to the Industrial Revolution, I shared how a multinational firm in Nigeria faced resistance from its staff when it decided to automate its operations years ago. The staff went berserk. They eyed members of the IT team and labelled them, ‘the people who are coming for our jobs.’

Referring to the sex scene between Nathan and another female humanoid in Ex Machina, a girl in the group said, “I hope they’re not coming for our jobs.”

We laughed. Then were quiet.

Robots are an invention subject to the whims of their human creators. How far is too far? Movies seem to ask: can we fall in love with robots? We want machines to make life easy for us not replace us. We want to be an essential part of a great adventure, not excluded from it.

Finally, I found my voice and said, “I hope not.”

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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A Letter in Hindsight

hindsight

Some people buy a gadget, read the instructions, and then attempt to operate it. I am not one of those people. I read instruction number one, skip to number four, try to use the gadget, and call for help! I have been successful because I watched and did what those who read instructions do; I am a tactile learner. That’s why I think that if someone had given me this letter years ago, I would have breezed through it and rushed off to ‘experience’ my life.

 

Dear Timi,

You are twenty-one, you have big dreams, you see the horizon, and your heart leaps to find what lies beyond.

You are gathering your first-degree transcripts in hopes of attending The London School of Economics (LSE). You dream of working for the World Bank. What you do not yet know is that a desire to be an influencer on a global platform fuels your dream.

“Oh no,” you protest, “I just want to be a banker like my dad.”

Sssh, I have seen the future. You will not attend LSE. You will fall madly in love, as you will do several times in your life, and give up that dream for love, working for a local bank instead. You will be content building a home and raising a family because living this way has also been a dream of yours ever since you played house at six and declared, “I want to be the mother!”

After many years, the walls of your home will constrict, narrower than your spacious hallway, making your breathing strenuous, as though your lungs were crushed. You will watch the birds migrate in winter and return in spring and long to change the seasons of your life. Heartbreaks will accompany your flight into new territory. After a shaky start, you will soar and break your wing mid-flight. Your recovery will be long because you will consult with doctors who do not understand how to mend your wing until you finally realise that you have power to grow a new wing. You will no longer fear heartbreak because you will know the rhythm of your heart and where its broken pieces fit.

Only then will you control the thermostat of your happiness. You will fall in love again but this time with yourself and revel in the wonder of who you are. You will stop parroting and start speaking your own words, a talking bird no less, ha! One day you will share your journal with your world and their acceptance will be the impetus to share it with the world. On your saddest days, you will write, not about your sorrow or pain, but about things that make people laugh and share in their laughter. This is how your words will dry your tears.

You will enjoy goodwill and people will help you along the way, only, you must discern where one person’s help stops and another begins. You will burn bridges at first because although you were taught the earth is spherical, you were not taught that life is a circle and a 4 x 100 takes lesser time than a 400m race.  If you find yourself in the ring alone or without help or friends, it will be your choice; someone somewhere will always be in your corner.

You will get to your Promised Land if you don’t hedge against making mistakes so much so that you live on the fringes of life, chauffeured in and out of existence by your fears. Your mistakes are semi-colons, you can write an independent clause after the pause. If you do this, you’ll see that nothing is wasted. Although you will not work for the World Bank, you will affect people all over the world, because words too are legal tender.

 

If you had to write a letter to yourself in hindsight, what would you say?

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

Image credits: http://pixabay.com/en/legs-all-star-converse-casual-feet-407196/

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

WordPress 102… No Pressure

woman biting nails with anxiety

It’s the night before the public launch of my blog. Bright lights cause me to blink. Hear me talking; you’d think I’m a superstar. I am, at least my mum thinks so. I’m sure your mum thinks you’re a superstar too. I’m standing in front of the mirror chanting, “No pressure Timi, no pressure. You are a high achiever who leverages her skills to increase the company’s bottom line. You can do this girl!” Okay, I’m not standing in front of my mirror literally. It just felt good to write it.

Pep talks, I seem to be giving myself a lot these days. To grow is to expand and if all we do is what we know, we’d never grow. Challenges stretch us to use what we have, discover what we didn’t know we had, and invent what we don’t have. A challenge can be our invitation card to opportunity. Livelytwist is where I discover if the sky has limits and what lies beyond it.

I don’t know anyone who has never been insecure. Does that make us weak or does that make us human? I think about an incident many years ago in primary school. I was one of the honour students. My class was to stage a play and our teacher was casting for parts. She called me upstage to take the leading lady’s role.

I trembled as I made my way to the front of the class, hitting my thigh against a desk on the way. I collected the script from her and faced the class. Twenty-four pairs of eyes looked on. I focused on the first line of the script. I swallowed. Twenty-four pairs of eyes looked on. It didn’t help that the leading man who stood across from me, was a chubby boy that I had a childish crush on.

When twenty-four lips parted in laughter, I managed to maintain a semblance of dignity. My teacher walked up to me.

“Come on Timi, read it.”

I found my voice at last.

“I can’t.”

I cannot adequately describe the disappointment in her eyes. It was worse than the laughter that crisscrossed the room, which rose to a crescendo and then fell to a hush before rising again to an invisible conductor’s baton. Was she disappointed because she had misjudged the capabilities of her top student? She tried to mask the annoyance and impatience in her voice when she asked me to return to my seat, but I heard it. I felt it. Shame trailed me as I limped to my seat. Once there, I did not cry. I don’t know why I did not cry. I was supposed to cry.

Fast forward thirty years later, and I can talk in front of almost any crowd. I cannot remember when last my mouth locked like the jaws of a spanner.

That’s what I’m thinking of as questions scream in my head—will people read my blog? Will they like it? Can I sustain it? What if I can’t write a post week after week? However, knowing that I’ve overcome past challenges silences the questions. I know that fast forward a few months, I’ll still be writing and you’ll still be reading.

No pressure Timi, no pressure.

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: Fear-filled woman biting her nails with anxiety by Microsoft

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Through the Eyes of a Child


Ferdinand Reus / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Children are the future because they not only propagate generational lines but also improve on our legacy. Their simplistic view of the world combined with their unending well of curiosity, results in an incessant battery of questions.

During my children’s first visit to Nigeria, they oohed, aahed, and ouched because  everything was new. Growing up in Nigeria had given me some immunity to the culture shock they experienced. Yet, they challenged me to pause and look where I had previously thrown a careless glance because my eyes were glazed over with a heavy coating of the familiar.

Innocent and inquisitive, they kept asking questions. Even though I fielded their questions with the expertise of a savvy politician, I pondered these same questions long after I tucked them in bed and kissed them goodnight.

They asked about the madman who ate and slept naked under an abandoned trailer parked on a busy street. They asked, eyes round with amazement, about the paraplegic who was the unofficial traffic warden. He controlled traffic from his foot chair—so called by my children because he “sat” on what looked like a footstool with wheels underneath that gave him bullet-speed mobility. It was very useful as it enabled him to quickly collect the largesse from patrons without being crushed under the giant wheels of jeeps.

It seems as if everything is different and yet everything is the same. Our progress resembles a swinging pendulum—back and forth but still on the clock. So yes, this future generation asks simple questions about our beloved Nigeria.

“Are we in a war?” my eldest one asked.

“No, of course not, does it look like we are?” I queried, wondering if he was confusing Nigeria with another country he’d seen on TV.

“Then why are there policemen armed with assault rifles everywhere? Why do they hold up their guns and stop cars?” He demonstrated with his hands.

“Why indeed?” I replied playing for time, as I crafted my reply.

“Are there many bad people in Nigeria?” my youngest interrupted my train of thought.

“No not really, like anywhere else in the world, we have good people and bad people,” Annoyance swirled in my stomach and I inwardly blamed those foreign TV shows that depict Nigerians as a bunch of rogues.

“Then why are there so many prisons walls?”

“Where are the prison walls?” I asked because her serious tone belied any evidence of a joke.

“See that one over there, and another one over here,” she responded matter-of-factly, as she pointed to nearly every house on the street.

I said nothing but nodded in understanding.

I explained that crime and instability informed the manning of checkpoints, and necessitated the conspicuous display of guns by policemen. It also meant that people had to protect themselves hence the fences. I tried to remember a time when checkpoints were not a feature on our roads and high fences topped with barbed wire were not the norm. It was quite a long stroll down memory lane. I also tried to imagine a time when their presence would be unnecessary, it was rather hard to do.

Looking through their eyes, I perceived their reality. With my added insight, I saw a nation at war with different uniformed guerrillas fighting for supremacy while the rest of us walled ourselves in, in prisons of inertia letting the bad guys roam free.

Day after day, the questions continued but a simple incident caused me to laugh with hope.

“Look mummy!” my youngest one excitedly cried, waking me up from afternoon traffic siesta.

“Look at what?” I asked groggily forcing myself awake, and willing my eyes to focus.

“Look, over there!” She hit the window emphatically and pointed.

I followed her slim fingers and captivated gaze. I saw nothing out of the ordinary, certainly nothing to get excited about on this run of the mill day.

“I don’t see anything,” I yawned.

“There, there, over there … a banana hat!”

“A what?”

“A banana hat. It’s so cute and clever mummy!”

Finally, I saw it, through her eyes. A street hawker was carrying bananas on a tray on his head—a bonafide banana hat in green-yellow glory! He strode towards us at the prospect of a quick sale; a rather common sight I had become accustomed to.

It is my hope that this generation that sees what we do not see, will achieve what we have so far been unable to accomplish. A banana hat indeed, it was a very welcome respite from simple questions.

© Timi Yeseibo 2009

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/people/72092071@N00″>Ferdinand Reus</a> / <a href=”http://foter.com”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-SA</a>

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

In the Beginning, God Created Nigeria

Lagos Nigeria 1

The threat of malaria, the gravity of the AIDS crisis, the restiveness of youths in the Niger Delta, religious and ethnic violence, corruption and the political class, and the collapse of basic infrastructure; these are some of the challenges that hamper Nigeria’s bold strides to rub shoulders with the league of developed nations. Headlines lament this deplorable state and street talk is awash with such stories.

While some of these concerns are interspersed in this blog, their attendant remedies are not always the primary focus. In this blog, I chronicle the struggles, adjustments, acceptance, and denial of a returnee trying to resettle in Nigeria.  In short, my life the way it hit me when I first arrived.

I grew up in Nigeria during the seventies oil boom, the middle child of a middle class family. I had a happy and sheltered childhood. Idyllic days were spent being chauffeured to and from school, and special evenings were reserved for watching Mickey Mouse on the giant screen at the country club. Life was good. The concept of a malnourished child, a picture that is synonymous with suffering in Africa, was foreign to me. I never saw that kind of child.

The early eighties was a period of rising prosperity for my family. We moved to a bigger house that had a large compound for our growing fleet of cars. Even today, these possessions remain indices of wealth in our country. However, by the nineties, galloping inflation caught up with my family. As our purchasing power dwindled, so did our fleet of cars. My siblings and I got jobs and joined the masses hustling for a living in the big cities of a Nigeria different from the one we grew up in.

2000 heralded a new dawn and I moved abroad. I took in another culture the way one chews on a new delicacy—cautiously at first and then voraciously as the sensory nerves on the taste buds heighten pleasure. Sojourning for nearly a decade, I grew to appreciate a system that seemed to work. Despite this, my fit was usually in question as if I was a hastily sewn fringe to a perfect garment.

Returning home, I was caught in a world that I could not fully define. Sometimes I embraced life in Nigeria and other times I rebuffed her advances. Here I was in the country I loved, with the people I missed, I was not a foreigner, but I was no longer as Nigerian as I used to be. This was my country, I understood the culture, I knew how the system worked, or did I?

I am not alone. Returnees deal with paradoxical feelings for their native country and the ugly or beautiful realities of global capitalism in their host country regularly. Children born in the diaspora experience varying degrees of curiosity for the land their parents moan about. Exile literature captures the passion, ambivalence, grandiose notions of the homeland, and disenchantment with their new society that those who left feel.

Consider an excerpt from David Diop’s Africa:

Africa my Africa
Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannahs
Africa of whom my grandmother sings
On the banks of the distant river

I have never known you
But your blood flows in my veins …

An excerpt from Tanure Ojaide’s Immigrant Voice in When it No Longer Matters Where You Live,1 captures the conflicting cultural identity and world view of people scattered in the diaspora.

America na big photo-trick to me.

If say big thief no boku fo home

And they no give man chance to live softly,

America no be place to live for one whole day.

The streets de explode kpa-a like Biafra,

Dead body no de fear anybody:

You no know whether the person saying “Hi”

Want to shoot, rob or rape you.

Neighbour no de, friend no de except them dog.

You de for your own like craze-man de pursue dollar

Which no de stay for your hand – they say na capitalism

When dollar the circulate, circulate without rest.

…beggar, thief, poor poor, all dem de boku

sometimes I cry my eyes red for night in bed

Wetin my eye don see for here pass pepper

It is true that the Nigerian landscape offers many reasons for sober contemplation, but within the dim picture, I found moments of patriotic pride, quiet amusement, and downright hilarity.  Glimpses of our heydays managed to peek through ominous clouds, an indication that lost causes can be found.

I hope that as I take a poke at some of the unique challenges and joys of living in Lagos, Nigeria, my stories will tinkle your sensibilities and resonate with everyone—those who work tirelessly to keep Nigeria afloat and those who have come back home to make their mark.

It is also my desire that friends of Nigeria all over the globe can commiserate with us as we continue to take wobbly steps towards mature nationhood. Nigeria: the future is still pregnant …

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

1. Ojaide, Tanure, When It No Longer Matters Where You Live (Calabar: University of Calabar Press, 1999). http://www.tanureojaide.com/poetry.htm

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/ekai/8352124686/”>ekai</a&gt; / <a href=”http://foter.com”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-SA</a>

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.