AI’s disruption and what needs to be done


By Aminullahi Aminu

I believe that any serious-minded nation ought to do something about this issue of constant self-reinvention that is needed for the job market of the future. Since certain skill set/jobs that exist in the job market of today will be rendered useless due to the disruptions that artificial intelligence (AI) comes with. Hence, it is incumbent upon nations to make efforts towards bridging the inevitable future skill gap. To this end, huge investments need to be made and we are all stakeholders!

In my view, deduced from Yuval’s explanation of the scenario, poor nations would be in more crises than rich nations. The latter will of course have the funds and access to the resources required for training and support of individuals during these transitions where people move and reinvent from one skill set to another. The revolution in AI will solve many long-standing, solution defying problems of the past and at the same time ushers in threats that could be catastrophic to the socio-economic activities of a nation. It is therefore a no-brainer to realise the utmost importance by governments to make AI a cornerstone in their policies.

Not just governments in power, but political parties aspiring to succeed any government, should be assessed among other things, based on the inclusion of AI in their manifestoes and how they fit into the future global economy that will be AI-driven. It will be worth it, as crazy as the idea may sound. A campaign, “AI Investment for the Future” for instance, should be adopted by the United Nations (UN) under its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) initiative with the aim of targeting the presumed imminent crises. This will go a long way, I believe, in alleviating the crises that are likely to occur should nations watch hand-folded by doing nothing.

Unfortunately, on any issue, no matter the magnitude of its importance or how pressing it may be, the plan developing nations generally adopt, Nigeria inclusive, is that of the short term where priorities are always misplaced. It is not surprising, even within an academic community/intellectual circle, to see scholars discarding with a wave of a hand any move towards making a futuristic plan on the simmering artificial intelligence or nanotechnology topic – tagging it laughable. I recently read an opinion column from one of the dailies where a state governor was criticised for appointing a commissioner for artificial intelligence. What people expected was that such a ministry, if at all needed, should have been incorporated under the ministry of education. This only portrays the crass ignorance of the topic even by the media to have shared such opinion without a counter opinion to enlighten and make people aware of AI’s indispensability for the future – a simple explanation in Yuval’s fashion would have sufficed; even if the governor’s intention of having a ministry of AI wasn’t genuine.

The all-encompassing nature of the future of AI should however qualify it to be a cornerstone of all government policies. Rather than tuck AI like some piece of triviality into a certain ministry and bundle it away, all ministries should be positioned and restructured to fully be functional in an AI-driven future economy. AI should be amongst the topics of discussion by fellow learned colleagues, the likes of Kperogi. I expect Kperogi and the likes of Femi Fani Kayode to indulge in discussions that currently dominate discourses being engaged “in the saner climes”.

The bitter truth is that we (developing nations) are not ready for the transition to AI and its adoption! And just like Yuval stated, citing example of the industrial revolution: “Those countries that were not ready (ready during the industrial revolution) were left behind and exploited.” As the prophet as he (Yuval) is, he ought to answer this pertinent question: “What is the fate of nations that are at the moment light years behind and are being exploited currently?” And in addition to the afore mentioned, we equate the fact that such “oppressed/self-oppressed” nations are not ready for AI revolution. So, what then become of these nations in question in an AI-driven global economy? Do we envision a reinvention of the slave era? My guess might be as good as Yuval’s.

It’s high time we all acted: government, private sector and individuals; all hands ought to be on deck. Government should make AI a key figure in all its policies. Because of AI’s enormous importance, our education system should make room by inculcating subjects/practices on AI adoption into its curricula to prepare and make students aware of the labour market for the future. We expect to see centres like National Artificial Intelligence Centre (NAIC) akin to National Mathematical Centres springing up. We expect to see competitions targeting AI projects, all these geared towards bridging the skill gap in the long run. The private sector on the other hand should adopt and provide platforms that will ensure a successful, hitch-free transition and adoption of AI. This can be achieved by making provisions for staff and even individuals alike, to undergo continuous trainings that will equip them with the much-needed skill set for the future. This initiative could be incorporated as part of the corporate social responsibility by the said private sector. We need to do away with trainings that make one take home a certificate rather than a skill. We are all stakeholders in this, and until we all key in, we may become the society that will be disrupted by the AI shift, and this will no doubt come with dire consequences.

-Mallam Aminullahi Aminu writes from Manchester, United Kingdom

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