Prepare well for Intelligence or perish, warn data scientists
3 months ago, 7 Mar 17:19
Mercy Njeri is a health systems specialist. As a consultant in the field, she spends most of her time online researching on health. Having done that for the past five years, most search engines and social media platforms have studied her Internet behaviour and constantly push health content her way as opposed to other subjects. “It’s like we’ve become friends. They know what I like and will thus go ahead and prioritise that instead of giving me other things that I am not interested in.” Ms Njeri’s enhanced user experience is among the many benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This technology makes it possible for machines or computer systems to learn people’s interests or personalities based on their online activities such as what they search, like, share or comment on while using social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook or Twitter. The learning process mimics the human brain which becomes intelligent as it is exposed to knowledge or information about a particular person or topic of interest. Companies are using it to understand their clients (target population) so they can offer them services or products that suit their needs or match their interests. “We are just scratching the surface of AI. But it is clear that in the coming years this technology will control our lives in a big way. So we need to begin having a conversation about its potential benefits and downsides so we can be prepared for it as a country,” said Kathleen Siminyu, data scientist and AI expert at Africa’s Talking Limited. As the key drivers of AI, major tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft have begun assessing the complexities of AI early enough as they are aware that its use will largely depend on the buy-in it gets from people and inadvertently governments. Microsoft recently launched a new book titled The Future Computed: Artificial Intelligence and its role in Society which addresses accuracy, safety and security when using AI. Somet Kipchilat, technical evangelist for Africa Initiatives at Microsoft notes that because AI is driven by data and companies using AI need to invest in effective control measures to ensure people’s personal information is kept private and protected from theft or misuse. At a national level, tech specialists are calling on the government to pass the data protection law to guide use of data collected from citizens by companies and individuals. Mr Kipchilat says since machines develop artificial intelligence by learning from data made available to them, that information needs to be accurate to yield useful decisions. For instance, a company keen on understanding Kenya’s career patterns can develop a system or app which will use existing data to learn about the sector. As available data shows, that there are more men in leadership positions compared to women, the system may wrongly conclude that the male gender has superior leadership and managerial qualities. Using this ‘false’ intelligence, the system may make a decision to push job advertisements for senior management roles to sites ...
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