AI for artificial intellect: When the created become the creator

Saturday November 25 2023
AI concept

An Artificial Intelligence concept. PHOTO | STUTTERSHOCK


Once upon a time, there were people who were scared of electricity. For real. They would refuse to use electric cookers and avoid the clothing iron if they could.

At best, they made themselves tolerate electric bulbs because, even in 1980s Dar es Salaam, the charms of an indoor kerosene lamp were waning.

It wasn’t funny, but I just bemused by the lengths that they must have had to go to just to make it through a day.

As with every new technology, when electricity was invented, there were posters created to warn society of its dangers.

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Just like they warned men never to allow women to learn how to read.


Then one day, thanks to some jury-rigged 1990s wiring, I watched my cousin get an electric shock that required a brave one of us to disconnect her from the plug she was holding using a broomstick.

As we sat there comforting her, trying to figure out if the shock was severe enough to brave a 1990s hospital, I think something in my genetic memory said “en he, you see, eh? Now you see!”

Of course, I ignored it, I am a child of the advent of personal computing and the internet and electric cars.

But somewhere in the back of my soul every so often the voice would remind me: our grandmothers cooked over firewood in small dark rooms, trying the best they could to understand you and your strange language.

You are not so different from them. And I am not: genetically speaking apparently women are “closer” to their grandmothers than they are to their mothers.

Still, I have embraced gas cookers and tofu and found it easy to ignore this voice.

Until this year — until Artificial Intelligence made it to the forefront of the public’s consciousness. As it is, I am already tired.

Read: BUWEMBO: Why I think AI should be human right in Africa

Nothing new under the sun: Good guys get nowhere, leaders be leading us to perdition and technology always falls into the hands of profiteers who would rather see the world burn than acknowledge that the Age of Prosperity is here.

Oh, and look: There is war everywhere. But this AI thing? It made me pay attention.

I am happy to say I have come to the limits of my so-called intelligence. I “get” AI well enough for someone who is allergic to calculations and algorithms.

It’s not so hard really: We are creating it in our own image and, as so many stories of yore have forewarned us, our creations are in danger of being the vehicles of our salvation or destruction.

What I find most exciting about this moment in history, though, is the idea that the Created have become the Creators.

But where does Tanzania fit in all this? Must we exercise ourselves to the best of our abilities to join this brave, new world?

Maybe not. I have thoughts on that, next week, informed by an ancestral memory I do not always understand, but which rarely guides me wrong.