The new world order where technology drives development is challenging economies to innovation and new thinking. However, the high risks associated with emerging technologies and the devastating distortion they are capable of bringing to world peace is beginning to raise serious concerns, particularly among the emerging economies where the impacts are predicted to be felt the more. Artificial intelligence Artificial intelligence Just recently, the internet is experiencing a deafening buzz over a viral video considered to be a simulated version of a speech delivered by Nigeria’s Inspector General, IG, of Police, Ibrahim Idris, at an event in Kano State.
DOCTORED VIDEO The suspected doctored video portrays the IGP as incapable of reading a prepared speech as he struggles with every line, pronouncing each word twice. Although this has been dismissed as fake by the hierarchy of the Nigerian Police and other government officials, it however remains a wonder how the people who allegedly simulated the video were able to quickly do that, hit the internet and attracted an outrageous number of viewership within a few hours. While it may portray the country as having very strong generation of video editing techies, observers are saying that the outcome of their job does not benefit the country in any way. Again, the growth of social media platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp, Netflix, Twitter and skype among others, otherwise known as Over the top service providers, OTTs, have been hailed as giving Nigeria a strong footing on the global technology map.
DIVIDED OPINIONS However, their activities have also generated a heated argument which has divided opinions between the country’s telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC and telecom companies operating in the country. The regulator does not appear to agree with the argument of the operators which is coming from their umbrella body, the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators in Nigeria, ALTON, that the best way to protect them and their investments in the country would be to regulate the OTTs so that every telecom service provider must play on a level field. The regulator seems to favour the argument that regulating OTTs would unnecessarily reduce the freedom of users to access some free services from those who wish to deliver them at such arrangements. The commission is more convinced by this stand, considering that activities of OTTs, somehow, generate revenue for the licensed operators, since the data needed to access such services are purchased from the operators, directly. As much as these arguments appear not to have generated bad blood capable of impacting the sector negatively, it has, however, exposed the troubles associated with new technologies.
GLOBAL RISK REPORT A recent Global Risks Report by the World Economic Forum highlights 12 key areas of innovation and their inherent risks and benefits. Among the emerging technologies the report highlighted to have most negative consequences are artificial intelligence and robotics. Meanwhile, these are two technologies that are making their ways, heavily, into the economies of many nations, including the emerging ones like Nigeria. Artificial Intelligence technology is the development of computer systems that are able to perform tasks which normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages. Robotics also has similar direction since it involves programmable machines or robots which are usually able to carry out a series of actions autonomously, or semi-autonomously, through sensors and actuators. These technologies have above average benefits but there is also no doubt that their negative impacts will be dramatic. Artificial intelligence would usher innovations like self driving car technology which has been tipped as capable of eliminating about 90 percent of the approximately 1.3 million road fatalities each year in the world. Self driving cars also can reduce congestions, pollution and make the cities cleaner and safer. However, the report raised a lot of questions about how nations could cope with their devastating negative sides. Among key concerns is the question of whether this technology will deprive millions of their jobs. For example, if this robot chef becomes a common sight in cafes and restaurants all around the world, will millions of people currently working in the hospitality industry lose their jobs? Or in a world where machines are powered by artificial intelligence, how can humans be sure that the decisions they make are ethical? If a self-driving car has the choice to either crash into a person crossing the street, or crash into a wall injuring, or possibly killing, its passengers, how can it make that split-second decision; one that even humans struggle with?
TECH AND INNOVATION In a similar vein, founder and Chief Executive Officer of System Specs, John Obaro, discussing “Technology and Innovation” at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch annual law week, recently, expressed fear that the way legal services are increasingly being automated, will lead to a decline in the services provided by lawyers. He said: “Increasing automation of the legal industry promises to increase efficiency and save clients money, but could also cut jobs in the sector as the technology becomes responsible for tasks currently performed by humans. These are actually tasks, which at the moment, are largely the responsibility of flesh-and-blood lawyers”. But the report by the World Economic Forum advised countries to ensure that new technologies are developed alongside a system of good governance. It however noticed a dilemma in the complexity of governance where too much regulation could stifle the very innovation and benefit technology is trying to create, but inadequate regulation may also never give people enough trust to use new technologies.
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