Like every other tech buzzword, Artificial intelligence or AI as it is more popularly called, has dominated the tech blogs, conferences, funding news and government policy circles. The reasons (for this domination) differ depending on who is talking about AI.

To the venture capitalists (or VCs as they are known) AI seems to be the next green field to pour funds into. The search for the next unicorn becomes a propelling force behind this.

To businesses, the need to be in tandem with an ever-changing landscape, cut costs and stay profitable has led to the gradual leaning and adoption of AI in packaging, transportation, agriculture, health, and construction.

Movies and entertainment are not left out as AI-themed movies and games attract consumers’ attention.

To policymakers, AI is increasingly becoming the next monster to be killed before it becomes too late. This haste to regulate or frustrate the growth and adoption of AI is mostly stemmed from misunderstanding and most times, outright ignorance of the workings, benefits, and pitfalls of AI.

Growth

There are reasons for the appreciable growth of artificial intelligence. One is the growth in Machine and Deep Learning. This is the use of data to solve complex and somewhat complicated problems. Most of these problems are deemed incomprehensible to conventional programming languages. To truly participate and enjoy this growth, funding for a better and enhanced understanding of AI becomes pertinent.

Another growth motivator to AI has been the rising cost of doing business. Businesses are increasingly creating, funding or acquiring companies that are delving into AI. The need to have a healthy account sheet that is in the black becomes a major driver to the adoption of AI. Coupled with this, is efficiency and the changing nature of work, computing, change in patterns of consumption, outsourcing, ethical production of goods and unionizing workers have all changed the nature of work.

In China, as more people climb out of poverty, they demand better wages for their efforts and time. Businesses, in turn, are either forced to meet these new demands or look elsewhere for cheaper sources of labour.

Opportunities

Despite the opportunities it would hopefully bring, AI has been viewed from afar more as a negative than a positive force. Policymakers, citizens, as well ethicists are cautious to encourage its adoption. AI would, in the long run, force down the cost of production of many goods and services. If properly harnessed, with the right laws, incentives, and policies, this may lead to an increase in productivity.

To policymakers, this serves as a window of opportunity to unlearn previously held knowledge about technology and learn the incoming one. It avails the opportunity to initiate progressive and sound policies covering, but not limited to, the gig economy, robotic taxation and not overlooking the ethical and legal considerations of these policies.

In spite of this, the steady incursion of AI provides an opportunity for a total retooling of our workforce. The reason is not beyond grasp as it will usher job functions, which in turn will demand an upgrade on available skillsets or a total overhaul.

On a macroeconomic level, the impact of AI could spur a rise in our research funding for the future.

For the proactive employers of labour, it provides an opportunity for a thorough audit of long-held business processes and procedures. In essence, AI has jolted managers and owners of factors of production to have honest re-evaluations of their processes of production.

Threats

Recently, the application of AI has found its way into the bedroom. Sex dolls are now gradually being explored as a medium of sexual satisfaction. This may not sit well with many, as humans are animals of habit with centuries-old conventional means of satisfying their sexual urges. It would not stop at these urges; rather, it would spill over into every facet of human existence and relations.

This is not surprising to a business person. Technology, including AI, will always find ways to increase its adoption. After all, technology is associated with growth which is a testament to its adoption. This confirms the fear that AI will be a veritable threat to legacy industries.

As a form of creative destruction, its victims are yet to be fully ascertained but considering Nigeria’s rising and majorly unskilled population, casualty figures are expected to spike at least in the interim. This means job losses and a dislocation of the economic and dependency structures.

The Future

One certainty is that human population will continue on its current upward trajectory. This group is not evenly spread. This signifies that the impact of AI may not be felt across board. Regardless of this flicker of hope, preparation is key.

Tech enthusiasts, in their bid to find the next unicorn, are encouraged to apply ethics while on this search. The backers of these startups too, are not left out in the adherence to ethical standards.

For the policymakers, the rising population of its citizens should be an ever-ringing alarm on the need to act on the rise and adoption of these new technologies. And it does not stop there, the current holders of today’s jobs should not despair at the coming of the new technology. Some of today’s technologies too were feared and doubted before they were finally adopted.

Written by: Chinedu Okoro

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