Artificial Intelligence:  Friend or foe?  

“Advancement in AI technology has come to stay and it is becoming an essential tool for problem-solving and decision-making.

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Artificial Intelligence:  Friend or foe?  By Jessica Dogo

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been around since the 1950s, but its recent boom has caused exciting wave of interest, as it becomes more accessible to the public with increasing roles in man’s daily activities.

Created at a Dartmouth Conference of 1956, AI started as a field study by scientists.

It was research project in the U.S., where a group of researchers first coined the term “artificial intelligence”.

The conference set out to exam some main themes in fields of research during the period, including neural networks, the theory of computability, creativity and natural language processing and recognition.

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The researchers envisioned creating machines that could simulate human intelligence.

Over the years, researchers have focused on developing foundational concepts and techniques in AI.

Alan Turing introduced the idea of machine intelligence. He also proposed the Turing Test, which tests a machine’s ability to exhibit behaviours similar to those of humans.

In spite of early enthusiasm, AI research faced significant challenges and limitations.

High expectations of AI capabilities were not met early enough, and its research funding decreased, leading to what became known as the “AI Winter”.

Eventually, researchers explored “connectionism”, in which multiple connections between nodes (equivalent to brain cells) form a massive interactive network where many processes take place simultaneously.

This later became the basis for neural networks.

In recent years AI has evolved rapidly and is being integrated into various industries, including healthcare, finance, and autonomous vehicles.

AI-powered assistants and intelligent chatbots have also become prevalent as customer service technologies.

Virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Assistant have gained widespread adoption, enabling users to perform tasks, retrieve information, and interact with other devices through voice command.

But there have been concerns that AI will one day drive many out of jobs thereby exacerbating poverty worldwide.

However, experts think otherwise. They consider it a force for good.

“Advancement in AI technology has come to stay and it is becoming an essential tool for problem-solving and decision-making.

” AI, as of today, is at the heart of many technologies, including smart devices and voice assistants such as Siri on Apple devices”, Tinuola Popoola, a System Analyst and Cyber Safety Advocate, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

Popoola said rather, AI not only brings about changes in how work was done but disrupting how people live and how problems were solved.

“AI is not only bringing about changes in how we work, it is disrupting how we live and how problems are solved.

“Artificial intelligence refers to the general ability of computers to emulate human thought and perform tasks in real-world environments.

“AI mimics the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind.

“Simply, AI feeds on the information provided, which is used to influence the world,” she said.

She said that computer programmers and software developers enable computers to analyse data and solve problems by creating artificial intelligence systems.

She said companies were incorporating techniques such as natural language processing and computer vision which is the ability for computers to use human language and interpret images to automate tasks.

It is also used to accelerate decision-making, and enable customer conversations with chatbots.

Mr Jide Awe, a Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy Advisor and Founder, Jidaw.com, said that AI had the potential to be a powerful tool for Nigeria to tackle insecurity and other development challenges.

According to Awe, when used purposefully and responsibly, AI will enable innovativeness and effectiveness.

“AI can process large volumes of data from various sources, such as social media, sensors, and satellite imagery, to detect patterns and anomalies.

“This enables the identification of areas at risk of crime and the potential indication of security threats or crises.

“Such AI systems will alert security personnel and facilitate prompt responses to threats and incidents.

“AI’s capability to enhance the analysis of network traffic patterns enables it to quickly identify unusual activities, which in turn assists in promptly detecting and responding to cyber threats.

“The speed, accuracy, and adaptability of AI contribute to more effective threat detection and mitigation in today’s complex digital landscape,” he said.

He said AI could also be used in disaster management to develop early warning systems for natural disasters, such as floods and droughts.

According to him, the ability of AI to analyse data from multiple sources can help governments and organisations plan ahead and respond proactively to situations.

“Chatbots, virtual assistants and other tools can also be used in the response and coordination of relief efforts in the aftermath of disasters.

“In the healthcare system AI can be employed to develop more sophisticated and powerful diagnostic tools and treatments for diseases.

“It can help in the tracking and monitoring of disease outbreaks by analysing healthcare and other pertinent data.

“AI can also improve communication, logistics, organisational efficiency, and patient care quality in the health sector’’, he said.

He said it could also be used to improve educational outcomes through the development of personalised learning tools and learning support for students.

“It can also be deployed to automate administrative tasks and improve efficiency in educational institutions,” Awe said.

A former Executive Vice-Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, said Africa can overcome challenges of poverty, food security, healthcare and others by adopting and deploying AI.

According to Danbatta, AI has the potential to provide solutions to major challenges faced by African countries.

He spoke at the 11th Digital Africa Conference and Exhibition with the theme: “Artificial Intelligence and Africa,” in Abuja.

“AI-powered solutions have the potential to address some of Africa’s most pressing challenges, such as limited access to healthcare, food security, financial inclusion, and infrastructure development,” he said.

News Agency of Nigeria.