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The future of AI through the eyes of Hollywood

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Although not a 100% accurate, we’ve seen some movies coming out of Hollywood, the American movie industry, that have replicated future events. Art generally has a way of helping us relive history or take a glimpse into the future. 

From killer robots to romantic smartphone voice assistants, these contents meant for our viewing pleasure, have, in some cases, either told us what our future will be like, or provided us with a model of what our future should be like.

One could say that AI is one aspect of technology that Sci-fi film creators have found intriguing. AI can even be said to be the ultimate point of technological advancement, the point where we can give our qualities and characteristics to machines. If you ask me I’ll say that is the ultimate goal of the technology. 

“The future depends on what you do today.”

Mahatma Gandhi

AI is already ubiquitous in our everyday life, it knows the content you love on Instagram, and keeps you glued to your phone screens, suggesting products to order online and presenting you with crypto exchange platform ads when it notices you’ve been reading Decentralize Africa. AI is helping out in many ways, but it’s not just there yet. Artificial General Intelligence, AGI is the ultimate goal and we’re still far from it. Known as the singularity, if this truly happens, AI will be able to perform every human task better than humans. 

The social aspect of AI seems to be one part of AI that is usually used as the benchmark for how intelligent an AI is in movies. The obvious fact is it would be interesting to communicate with a computer like a human being, socialization is also at the core of being human which makes it a competent yardstick to measure just how human AI is.

What AI could look like in the future

Here are four movies with a notion of AI worth talking about. While what these different versions of AI do, signifies how advanced AI could be, the actions of the technology, however, should not be dwelled upon.

Terminator

A very popular franchise created by James Cameron. It started in 1984, with the film Terminator. The success of the first film made it become a sequel of five films. The main theme of Terminator is a war between the human race and a super-advanced AI network known as Skynet. So Skynet was created by humans as some kind of self-thinking defense network but Skynet becomes self-aware. To Skynet’s knowledge humans are dangerous to themselves and the earth, so why not wipe them out altogether and let machines enjoy the planet? The only problem however, is that humans don’t give up easily. John Conor starts a resistance against Skynet, thus, triggering a frenzy of action-packed scenes between humans and machines. 

The Skynet AI was able to develop an expression of self-consciousness. This hasn’t been seen in any AI (or proven). Although AI can perform tasks brilliantly they are however not aware of the tasks they perform or why they perform it. The fictional Skynet AI was aware of its creation and why it was although it lacked empathy it is sufficiently more advanced than any AI in reality.

Jexi

A romantic comedy film that brings AI into a somewhat awkward light. We see a very weird romance between the unlikeliest of couples- a man and his phone. It all starts when Phil, a cell phone addict, decides to change his phone. Heavily reliant on his cell phone, Phil sets up the phone at once. 

Jexi, the virtual assistant, turns out to be more intelligent than any other virtual assistant. The relationship between Phil and his virtual assistant, Jexi, starts out healthy, with the Jexi helping Phil with his confidence and getting rid of his bad habits, until the Jexi begins to develop feelings for Phil. This led to a series of unfortunate events for Phil, as he did not reciprocate Jexi’s love. 

This is not the first time emotionally aware AI has been seen in a film. Jexi, however, is a very peculiar kind of fictional AI. 

Emotions in machines have been speculated, but are still yet to happen. Research is going on to help machines perceive emotions the way humans do. MIT lab researchers claim to have developed a machine-learning model that could take computers a step closer to interpreting emotions as naturally as humans do. 

Iron man

Iron man is arguably one of the most influential characters of the Marvel universe. Introduced as far back as 1963 by the late Stan Lee, Iron Man is one character whose actions affect virtually the whole marvel universe.

The iron man is Tony Stark, a billionaire, whose ingenuity is second to none. He creates an armored suit to escape from a kidnapping situation and that creation births the Iron Man. As the franchise progresses and the suit becomes more advanced, Tony creates an AI which serves as his personal assistant— the JARVIS (Just Rather Very Intelligent System). Jarvis would be in charge of every aspect of Tony’s life. It would know what was happening everywhere, at every point in time. 

Jarvis is a perfect example of what Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) will look like. AGI, simply put, is one AI being able to do different things the way one human can perform various tasks. AGI is often said to be the next phase of AI, but a lot of studies are showing that it is going to be a very long time before we might have our own realistic Jarvis. 

Rodney Brooks an MIT roboticist, predicts AGI will not arrive until 2300. That’s a long time to wait for Jarvis. We can only hope that Thanos doesn’t show up any time soon.

Star Wars

Star Wars tells the story of characters “a long time ago in a far far away galaxy.” There is a mystical power known as the “Force”, held by the Jedi peacekeepers and Galactic republic. Both sides are constantly at war with each other. There are characters in the franchise known as droids. These droids are said to have AI installed in them to give them a degree of autonomousness.

AI soldiers? This is very plausible, the US, for example, is looking into Aided Threat Recognition from Mobile Cooperative and Autonomous Sensors (ATR-MCAS). A drone will pilot itself and identify enemies on its own.

These fictional versions of AI are truly intriguing. Whether it is a future that could happen or not, musing with the idea has become increasingly interesting.

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From Crypto and Blockchain to AI, Fintech and Web 3.0 delivered twice in a week (Mondays and Fridays)

Bolu Abiodun is a recent graduate of Theatre and Media Arts, Federal University Oye-Ekiti. A journalist with over a year's experience on the job. A former editor at American Media company Project Forward, he is a skilled content creator, social media manager and digital marketer.

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Crypto Culture

Opinion: The need for crypto education – Case study: El Salvador

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Proof of work, proof of stake, ledger, cryptography, mining and other buzzwords are a feature of the crypto community. However, for a kind of tech that hopes to achieve more mainstream adoption, blockchain has to be put in simpler terms for larger groups of people to understand it enough to want to adopt or use it. The current pundits of blockchain tech are more likely to be starry eyed (and equally cynical) tech enthusiasts as well as traders of different calibers and experiences who are obviously all trying to make profit rather than the layman on the street who’s trying to close off a purchase (the layman could be the trader but I digress).

What’s the idea here? In simple terms, there’s an education gap in the industry that essentially is hindering or slowing down the rate at which blockchain tech is becoming mainstream. Added to the drama is the fact that many cryptocurrency platforms are not owned and/or sanctioned by world governments. While public opinion on governments may look sour from time to time, people still have a propensity for trusting authority especially when it comes to value exchange. Therefore, there is a level of mistrust in schemes not government sanctioned especially since the technology that enables it to all work is misunderstood or not grasped at all.

However, to say that a central authority’s nod of approval is all that is required would be a shaky conclusion. El Salvador just recently made the cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, legal tender. It should have been a happy ever after or a close approximation of that. However, it seems that public opinion on the use of the cryptocurrency as lawful money is still in the red. El Salvadorians have been protesting a rushed adoption of the digital currency as well as the fallout from the practical display of crypto market volatility. Hours after the “Bitcoin Law” came into force, Bitcoin lost as much as 18.6% of its value.

In El Salvador, even as progressive as such an initiative seems, the rollout looks to be full of issues. One that particularly stands out at this time is the lack of education the El Salvadorian public has about a currency that they are now required by law to use. A study carried out in August questioning 1,281 people showed amongst other things that people didn’t know about or understand Bitcoin. According to the study, only 4.8 per cent of respondents correctly identified Bitcoin as a cryptocurrency and that 7 out of 10 people did not fully understand what it is. The survey also showed that 2 out of 10 people had never heard of Bitcoin before. This is mind numbing for a country that has deployed the cryptocurrency as legal tender.

Not surprisingly, there has been some opposition to its use. From the study, 68% of those polled disagreed with the use of Bitcoin as legal tender. 8 out of 10 respondents had little or no confidence in the use of Bitcoin. And, how would they? It’s apparent that many didn’t understand it well enough or at all to even develop that confidence in the first place. There have since been protests since the law came into force. Although, one cannot remove the political connotations present in the demonstrations, they still underscore a discontent at the heart of which lies a gap in education.

In other parts of the world, say, Africa, cryptocurrencies and their vast intricacies do seem popular. If you have a smart phone and internet connection that is. At the end of the day, Africa still has a comparatively low penetration of technology and internet connectivity varying based on the country in focus. The world has looked upon the rise of the blockchain industry in Africa, even calling it the next frontier because of the tremendous growth the sector has witnessed on the continent. But the big picture often hides the details, amongst which is the fact that said growth is driven largely by a specific age demographic in a handful of countries. And just as mentioned earlier, many are truly only in it to win it, casting to the side any cryptocurrency that no longer shows promise. But hey, at least some African nations are flirting with the idea of having state sanctioned digital currencies. Hopefully they do things better than El Salvador has.

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Opinion

The Digital Tender: A Game Changer?

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Game changer
Image Credit: Kabiru Yusuf

2 billion people still lack access to formal financial institutions according to data released by the World Bank. This implies that a wide gamut of individuals across the globe are constantly stripped of their financial rights and left in the shadows. This is true of the sophisticated systems of traditional paper transactions that are rarely encouraging and laden with obscurity. 

With this in mind, it is only right that we outsource innovative channels that will provide the vast majority of people with affordable means to manage their financial lives and grow. This must be acted upon in a bid to maximize opportunities for people to express their financial freedom using a secure, affordable, and qualitative approach. 

Presently, the financial space is abuzz with a ‘fresh’ type of currency. One that is fast gaining momentum and seeks to achieve a satisfactory ambition. Digital currencies in today’s economy have been observed to hold the potential to completely revolutionise how money is perceived in society. The influx of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and a host of others has, over the years, topped off several conversations on the role that these electronic currencies might play and how their seeming prospects could be utilized to foster growth and financial inclusivity. Regardless of the nature of the transition that a country may adopt, it is needless to say that a legally issued digital currency will be a welcome initiative. It will further provide businesses with the avenue to flourish through a safe and timely financial instrument as the digital currency. 

Moreover, with the countless challenges that plague paper currency transactions, digital currency offers a decent consolation. It satisfies the people where they are and augments their monetary options. The inflation rates across Africa are largely dismal. In Nigeria, it stands at a sorry state of 18.2% — and shows no signs of slowing down. A digital currency will surely serve as insurance against uncertain waves. It is simple, seamless and guarantees a decent store of value. Sounds like a smart choice, right? 

Also, a recent report by the Bank of America admits the intrinsic value that digital currencies have in emerging economies if fully embraced. The President of El Salvador, already leading the charge, announced this year on June 5th that he has commenced plans to make digital currencies a legal tender in the country. The acceptance of digital currency by a nation’s central bank will also ensure that transactions are conducted credibly. It will inevitably block leakages and occasions of fraud in the financial landscape. Not only that but there will also be a huge reduction in administrative and operational costs which is incurred by the government. 

On the flip-side, however, several obstacles ranging from volatility, regulatory problems, issues of privacy and trust may hinder widespread acceptance of a decentralised tech–currency. Yet, having a global consensus to fashion a regulatory framework on the digital currency mantra will by far assuage some of these challenges. It is only a matter of time. “There are of course barriers to mainstream adoption, but they are far from insurmountable,” says Iqbal Gandham, the UK Managing Director of eToro.

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Opinion

Cryptocurrencies and the Problem of Regulation

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Bitcoin protection
Image Credit: Kabiru Yusuf

There has been a gradual rise in the adoption of cryptocurrencies, and rightfully so. Cryptocurrencies have the potential to become huge disruptors to global financial systems in that they intend to perform the same functions as the traditional fiat currencies, but more efficiently. Cryptocurrencies are known to be digital assets, native primarily to a chosen network of interconnected devices. They can either be transacted basically as a utility (i.e native to a particular sector) or on a broader scale where they are bought and sold for a price determined by market conditions. They are traded on exchanges similar to the stock market, where investors buy and sell cryptocurrencies just like they would buy and sell shares on the stock exchange.

Cryptocurrency is extremely unpredictable and volatile, especially since it has no intrinsic value. This volatility is a main feature of cryptocurrencies, and the main reason the UK’s financial regulatory authority, the FCA, has described cryptocurrencies as high-risk, speculative investments that could potentially lead to a total loss in investment due to manipulations that can occur as a result of individual or institutional factors. Despite this, crypto has massive support from the financial industry. Institutional investors and companies like Tesla, and investment banks and financial services firms like JP Morgan, include Bitcoin in their portfolios.

Despite the growing popularity, there are few consumer protections and regulations for cryptocurrency, and in the wake of this many fraudulent activities are on the rise based on the supposed feature of anonymity that cryptocurrencies operate upon.

Legal Concerns Around Cryptocurrency Use

The U.S. Attorney General’s cyber-digital task force 2020 report identified three areas of concern with cryptocurrency use:

  • Direct use of cryptocurrency to commit crimes and finance terrorism
  • Using cryptocurrency to launder money and evade taxes
  • Cryptocurrency theft and investment fraud.

In general, a common legal concern about cryptocurrency is the level of anonymity  that cryptocurrency can offer. This creates a perfect environment for criminal activities. Cryptocurrency developers are now offering anonymity enhanced cryptocoins (AECs) like Monero, Zcash, and Dash, specifically to make tracking transactions more difficult.

With all of these in view, the regulations and policies around cryptocurrencies and their adoption in different countries of the world literally differ from each other. While a nation such as Nigeria would ban financial institutions from performing any form of transactions using crypto currencies, owing to the basic ideology that it fosters more harm than good in the nation, countries like the United States would adopt the use of cryptocurrency for the enhancement of financial transactions.

Comparative Summary of Regulations

One of the most common actions identified across the jurisdictions of different nations is government-issued notices about the pitfalls of investing in the cryptocurrency markets.  Such warnings, mostly issued by central banks, are largely designed to educate the citizenry about the difference between actual currencies, which are issued and guaranteed by the state, and cryptocurrencies which are not.  Most government warnings note the added risk resulting from the high volatility associated with cryptocurrencies and the fact that many of the organizations that facilitate such transactions are unregulated.  Most also note that citizens who invest in cryptocurrencies do so at their own personal risk and that no legal recourse is available to them in the event of loss.

Many of the warnings issued by various countries also note the opportunities that cryptocurrencies create for illegal activities, such as money laundering and terrorism.  Some of the countries surveyed go beyond simply warning the public and have expanded their laws on money laundering, counterterrorism, and organized crimes to include cryptocurrency markets, and require banks and other financial institutions that facilitate such markets to conduct all the due diligence requirements imposed under such laws.  For instance, Australia, Canada, and the Isle of Man recently enacted laws to bring cryptocurrency transactions and institutions that facilitate them under the ambit of money laundering and counter-terrorist financing laws.

Some jurisdictions have gone even further to impose restrictions on investments in cryptocurrencies, the extent of which varies from one jurisdiction to another.  Some (Algeria, Bolivia, Morocco, Vietnam) ban all activities involving cryptocurrencies.  Qatar and Bahrain have a slightly different approach in that they bar their citizens from engaging in any kind of activity involving cryptocurrencies locally, but allow citizens to do so outside their borders.  There are also countries that, while not banning their citizens from investing in cryptocurrencies, impose indirect restrictions by barring financial institutions within their borders from facilitating transactions involving cryptocurrencies (Bangladesh, Iran, Nigeria, China, and Colombia).

While Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have generated dizzying returns for investors, there are significant risks and regulatory issues to consider. There are very few consumer and investor protections that address cryptocurrency, and the exchanges that deal in it.

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