Watson AI Tasked With Improving Africa via "Project Lucy"

Watson AI Tasked With Improving Africa via "Project Lucy"

Watson creator IBM says the AI will be able to analyze large amounts of data and put it to use to find medical, economical and agricultural problems.

The Watson AI, perhaps most famous for winning a Jeopardy match against two human opponents in 2011, is soon going to be tackling a much more complicated topic - Africa. Watson developer IBM has announced "Project Lucy," named after the earliest known human descendant, which will use the AI's considerable processing power to gather data and develop solutions to the economic, agricultural and health problems plaguing several African nations.

"In the last decade, Africa has been a tremendous growth story, yet the continent's challenges, stemming from population growth, water scarcity, disease, low agricultural yield and other factors are impediments to inclusive economic growth," wrote Kamal Bhattacharya, director of IBM's Research - Africa team, on the Project Lucy website. "With the ability to learn from emerging patterns and discover new correlations, Watson's cognitive capabilities hold enormous potential in Africa - helping it to achieve in the next two decades what today's developed markets have achieved over two centuries."

Over at the BBC, Uyi Stewart, chief scientist of IBM's Research - Africa, said Watson will be able to crunch an enormous amount of data and provide information on topics including illness diagnoses and medical treatments. And if that isn't sci-fi enough, Stewart said that Watson will even be capable of answering questions posed to it. "It is also able to reason. One of its key functions is natural language processing," he said. African schools with poor computer resources will also be able to link into the cloud-based Watson system using smartphones or similar devices, Stewart said. The entire project is expected to take 10 years and cost about $100 million.

Its definitely nice to see IBM using Watson for more ambitious projects than being a quiz show contestant. What do you guys think of this development? Are there any other problems you think a Watson-style AI can help solve, or do we need more of a human touch to fix our world?

Soucre: IBM, BBC

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Skynet is coming online.

I wonder what solutions it'll come up with. I guess it depends on the AI's personality. Does a scanner see clearly or darkly? I hope, for everyone's sake, the scanners see clearly. Because if the scanner sees only darkly, the way I myself do, then we are cursed.

slightly modified quite to make my point that maybe we won't like the solution it comes up with. Maybe if it sees darkly, it will just decide that our best bet would be to give up on Africa.

GoddyofAus:
Skynet is coming online.

Did you see Watsons first logo? It was supposed to be satellites or something around a globe but it looked more like a bunch of MIRVs circling the world... It was even creepier than the NSAs "nothing beyond our reach" octopus logo.

Just wait, eventually the AI will come to the conclusion that Africa has been fucked up irreparably and recommend nuking the continent from orbit, or maybe take matters into its own hands and do the Skynet routine.

I wonder if it's first recommendation will be "International corporations need to stop being colonialist dicks, and national governments need to stop enabling said corporations."

GoddyofAus:
Skynet is coming online.

More like a Culture Mind.

dragonswarrior:
I wonder if it's first recommendation will be "International corporations need to stop being colonialist dicks, and national governments need to stop enabling said corporations."

Not likely. Really all a computer like this is going to be able to do is spot sociological trends and tell us what we already know.

Most of the plans for dealing with problems in places like Africa are valid, simple things like "hey, let's take some of the best and brightest from Africa and train them in western universities and alongside UN peacekeeprs so they can act as liasons and spread knowledge". The problem of course being when the people we do that with decide to simply use their newfound knowledge and training to depose the previous warlords, raid UN supplies, and then exploit UN policies more effectively to prevent retaliation by playing the legal/social/media game better than the previous warlords.

The problems in regions like that are so extreme because it's neither the sole result of external or internal forces but a combination of the two, combined with basic human nature. Not to mention the sense of independence that make certain groups actually prefer a brutal warlord of their own people, to a more civilized and progressive government set up by outsiders. Simply put when people are stubborn enough to welcome getting their face kicked in as opposed to accepting a helping hand there isn't anything anyone, or any computer, can really do.

For the most part I "Evil Therumancer" have long since came to the conclusion that the only way to really help the region is to pretty much demolish it en-masse and started again. That's sad, sick, and warped, but at the end of the day I think it's a case where the poison is simply so deep that it represents the quintessential "no win scenario" from it's current state. To do anything in the region you have to deal with the warlords, and prevent new Warlords from simply replacing the ones you stop. The current problems are caused by the indigenous cultures for a lot of reasons which is why almost inevitably anyone we train who comes from that culture and goes back to it, becomes part of the problem (exceptions do however exist). As much as we hate the idea of colonialism, really decimating the entire culture and population and guiding it's slow re-development from the ground up is the only viable way I can see to solve the problem. On a lot of levels this kind of cold blooded logic is what I'd expect a functional computer to come up with if it wasn't intentionally designed to immediately disregard such conclusions.

At one time I was actually fairly optimistic about Africa, an bought into the whole "evil European colonials are responsible for everything", and saw guys like Nelson Mandela as being what the region needed. The thing is that while we hype him in the media as having been a great man, and such a progressive influence, that's mostly because we made the guy. The dude was apparently just as big a monster as the Apartheid, having his own enforcers, death squads, and psychopathic little rampages. His wife was also an apparent piece of work. Albeit most criticisms over the years rapidly get quashed because it would make the people who put him in charge look bad. A lot of people won't agree with me, here and I'm not going to argue the point since it would get well off topic (this isn't about Mandela) I'm just saying what I think is true. To me it's another example of the world sucking, and how even the most potentially positive thing usually turns into a reeking pile when reality sets in.

At any rate, I wish the project luck, but honestly if I have to guess the computer will finally just display the words "Humanity must stop sucking" and then shut itself down. Either that or it will come up with something just as depressingly morbid as me (if it's not omitted) as which point we'll hear more cries of "OMG, Skynet!".

I would simply look at the suggestions it makes and treat them as such: advice. Possible solutions. It's nice to see the wonders of the digital age being used for the benefit of people outside the first world, but at the same time, if it says we should eat all the babies or set the poor on fire, we can simply says "Fuck that" and ignore it. Although I doubt anyone is going to dogmatically accept whatever the AI comes up with, so I don't think any harm will come from it.

And here I thought the problem in Africa was the warlords, child soldiers, diamond operations, and the ethnic/racial/religious genocides...

OT- Cool, I guess. My questions are what data will it compute that we don't already know and what conclusion will it make that we haven't already made? Kindda seems like a waste of resources to me.

This reeks of HYPE
They arn't capable of "fixing" Africa nor does it seem like they are trying.
Oh sure they might improve education and farming yields between genocides but that's about it.
Even if Watson Printed out a card with the solution to Africa on it, it wouldn't be some miracle solution thats causes warlords (Warlords get a lot of hate but corrupt police/officials are just as big of a problem) to set their harems free and hug their child soldiers.
Africa (more specifically South Africa) will have to fix itself because the simple inescapable fact is that it would take an inhuman amount of political power, intelligence, wealth, desire, patience, altruism and ruthlessness for some outside force to do it.

J Tyran:

GoddyofAus:
Skynet is coming online.

Did you see Watsons first logo? It was supposed to be satellites or something around a globe but it looked more like a bunch of MIRVs circling the world... It was even creepier than the NSAs "nothing beyond our reach" octopus logo.

the NSA's logo is something you would expect to see on the wall of a supervillian lair or a saturday moring cartoon

martyrdrebel27:
I wonder what solutions it'll come up with. I guess it depends on the AI's personality. Does a scanner see clearly or darkly? I hope, for everyone's sake, the scanners see clearly. Because if the scanner sees only darkly, the way I myself do, then we are cursed.

slightly modified quite to make my point that maybe we won't like the solution it comes up with. Maybe if it sees darkly, it will just decide that our best bet would be to give up on Africa.

Because the neither the plot of the book or the 2006 movie has anything to do with this, I only got the impression that you just worded your post that way just to name-drop "A Scanner Darkly" but no idea why - what's the connection between the article and the reference?

Apparently computers can do magic and will magic a way to turn a acontinent that is screwed over by its equatorial location and general fail-design of its mountain ranges and geographical features and is also home to way to many people that like to make more babies.

Breath, mine, consider it not held.

Supernova1138:
Just wait, eventually the AI will come to the conclusion that Africa has been fucked up irreparably and recommend nuking the continent from orbit, or maybe take matters into its own hands and do the Skynet routine.

Wouldn't the conclusion rather be another one? The situation in most African countries can be seen as a direct result of western consumerism. So wouldn't the conclusion be to bomb the rest of the world instead? ;-)

OT: I think this is a good idea, maybe humanity will listen to a rather neutral advisor.

Chimichanga:

martyrdrebel27:
I wonder what solutions it'll come up with. I guess it depends on the AI's personality. Does a scanner see clearly or darkly? I hope, for everyone's sake, the scanners see clearly. Because if the scanner sees only darkly, the way I myself do, then we are cursed.

slightly modified quite to make my point that maybe we won't like the solution it comes up with. Maybe if it sees darkly, it will just decide that our best bet would be to give up on Africa.

Because the neither the plot of the book or the 2006 movie has anything to do with this, I only got the impression that you just worded your post that way just to name-drop "A Scanner Darkly" but no idea why - what's the connection between the article and the reference?

it was a poorly conceptualized point, and indeed a reference to scanner darkly. The connection in my mind was the question of how the tech views the world. Although scanners aren't AI, I still see what point I was trying to make haha.

 

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