Artificial Intelligence and its Development in Africa

WHAT IS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE?

Artificial intelligence, or ‘AI’, is a field of computer science. AI systems can perform certain tasks by mimicking human intelligence.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Ordinary computers run using special sets of instructions, called algorithms, which are written by people. An algorithm tells the computer exactly how to respond in a given situation, so the computer can only do what it has been told to.

Artificial intelligence systems also use algorithms. But, after performing a task many times, the AI is able to work out new strategies based on what it has done before. It can also write new algorithms for itself. This means computers can learn (a process called “machine learning”), and improve the way they perform tasks without humans having to tell them how.

APPLICATION: DRIVERLESS CARS

Driving a car involves a lot of processes. Our eyes and ears constantly look for hazards around us, like pedestrians or other cars. We also have to make a lot of decisions very quickly, for example, when we should apply the brakes. If we make the wrong decision, we might have an accident.

Now imagine if the car did all of this work for you!

Researchers are developing cars that drive themselves. In order to be safe, these cars must drive in the same way that humans do. So, they are fitted with sensors that allow them to detect hazards, and artificial intelligence is used to control the driving. The AI needs to be able to think logically, make decisions, and learn from its past experiences – just like humans.

APPLICATION: MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS

In the future, AI could be used to diagnose diseases.

If a doctor thinks that someone is ill, they might scan a part of their body, then look at the resulting image for symptoms. Based on that image, they can diagnose them with a particular disease.

In the future, AI could do the same thing.

First, the AI must learn how to detect different diseases. This is done by showing the system large amounts of information about patients who have already been diagnosed by doctors. The AI looks for patterns in this data, until it knows which symptoms signify which disease. The AI can then use this knowledge to diagnose new patients on its own.

Sometimes, computers can detect things that we cannot see. In the future, AI could diagnose illnesses more accurately than our doctors can today!

AI IN AFRICA

Scientists across Africa are making exciting developments in the field of AI.

For example, Researchers at the iCog Lab in Ethiopia were a key part of an international AI collaboration. They helped to develop Sophia, a human-like robot. Sophia uses artificial intelligence to mimic human gestures and speech. She can hold simple conversations with real people, and is even a citizen of Saudi Arabia!

Google is also opening an AI research centre in Ghana, which is set to give the industry a huge boost.

ANTOINE LEVIE

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