Ugochukwu Nkwocha

By Ugochukwu Nkwocha

What is Artificial Intelligence?

I’m sure you’ve heard the word Artificial Intelligence or AI for short being thrown around a lot recently. In this blog post I’ll try to simplify what AI means so that non-techies can get the general idea.

If something is Artificial then it means it has a natural version of it. Humans possess Natural Intelligence where Intelligence can be defined as the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations or to apply knowledge.

Prior to recent times, computers had to be explicitly programmed to do specific tasks. If they are required to do anything outside of what they’ve been programmed to do they will throw up an error message. Like we say Garbage In Garbage Out.

However, this is no longer the case as new computer systems are being created that learn as humans learn. They can respond to situations outside of what they were originally programmed to do.

How does learning occur? Let’s take a new born baby for instance. How does it learn? By observing the world around it using its senses and through experience. Every second the baby’s eyes and other senses are absorbing tons of data from its surroundings at a tremendous rate. So the baby keeps seeing a picture of a dog or dogs in a book, even though it hasn’t seen a real dog, the day it sees one it immediately recognizes it as a dog.

This is possible because the baby has been trained to recognize a dog using different pictures of dogs. The same way computer systems are being developed that can be trained. They learn and improve themselves over time using data, lots of it.

Applications of Artificial Intelligence

How many of us use Netflix? Netflix is a movie streaming platform that allows you to subscribe and watch movies. As you watch movies on Netflix, it uses artificial intelligence to learn what types of movies you like and suggests more of them to you.

It learns from others that watch similar movies and suggests to you. The same thing happens when you shop on Amazon. It uses artificial intelligence to suggest other items for you to buy based on your shopping patterns and what similar people like you have bought.

We use smartphones everyday but have no idea that AI agents run on our phones. Google Assistant and Siri are examples of AI agents on our android and iPhones. Simply say “OK Google” and ask it any question. You can even just ask “How are you?” and it will respond. You can say “OK Google, I’m hungry” and It will suggest nearby restaurants for you.

All these are applications of AI today. They use natural language processing algorithms to understand whatever you say sometimes even when you use slangs.

Today AI systems like IBM Watson can diagnose cancer faster than any human. AI systems are used in agriculture to detect diseases in crops even before they become apparent to the human eye.

Uber is using AI systems to set its taxi fares based on the users profile. Riders moving from one high profile area to another high profile area may be deemed to be well-off and charged higher fares.

AI is the technology behind facial recognition and computer vision. 

People submittedHow many of us participated in the 10 years challenge? And the Face App challenge? millions of pictures to tech companies who use such things to gather massive amounts of data to train their AI systems.

How AI will impact our lives

AI has come to stay and it’s been said to be man’s greatest invention so far and it will direct how the world moves henceforth. AI systems are trained to do tasks that humans do at alarming speeds.

So it will affect various jobs and industries as businesses will harness its powers to reduce cost and become more efficient. 

It will create new jobs as well as eliminate many jobs.  Any jobs that are repetitive and routine will most likely be impacted by AI. 

To prepare for this we should be ready to reskill and upskill ourselves in order to remain relevant. This will involve learning both technical skills and human skills.

As computers start doing more and more of the jobs we’ve been doing, we must learn to become more human than ever because we cannot compete with software in terms of speed, accuracy and ability to work non-stop. Software will always beat us in those areas. This means we must tap into our humanity and deepen our competencies in attributes that only humans possess such as love, kindness, empathy, emotional intelligence, story-telling, imagination, communication etc These traits will become more sort after as machines are not able to do these. 

Technical skills we should learn include coding, robotic engineering, data analysis,  machine learning, big data etc. These are skills that are required now and in the future. 

A quote I love by Alvin Toffler

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that cannot read and write but those that cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.

This is the time to prepare yourself and your children especially because they are the ones that will be most impacted by these changes. Reach out to 9jacodekids if you need help in doing this.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

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