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Report on Nigeria ICT Festival 2015

Agbolade Omowole
By Agbolade Omowole
Ethical Technology

Posted: Jan 19, 2016

Mascot Information and Technology Solutions held the maiden edition of Nigeria ICT Fest on December 4, 2015 at Magrellos fast food, Festac Town, Lagos, and December 5, 2015 at Radisson Blu Anchorage hotel at No. 1A, Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, Victoria Island, Lagos, to bridge the technology gap between Nigeria and the developed world.

Two international speakers came in person to Nigeria for the event: Micah Redding, USA based software developer and IEET contributing writer, and Mira Kwak, South-Korea based artificial intelligence researcher. Top scientists and philosophers such as IEET Fellow Dr. Aubrey de Grey, IEET Executive Director Dr. James Hughes, IEET Fellow Dr. Ben Goertzel and IEET Fellow Dr. Natasha Vita-More spoke remotely via Skype at the event.

Micah Redding spoke on the first day, December 4 on the topic: “Christianity, Emerging Technologies, and the developing world — Nigeria’s role in humanity’s future.” He challenged the view that Christians are not supposed to be actively involved in society. He spoke about vertical and horizontal development. In his words, vertical development refers to developments that are revolutionary while horizontal developments refer to improvements on existing technologies. 

Mira Kwak, an artificial intelligence researcher from Seoul Korea spoke on day 2, December 5, 2015 on how to be a leading country by and in ICT. She talked about culture and how Nigerian culture could be portrayed positively to the international community.  In her words “advantages to latecomers in the developing world is that they can: grow faster than developed countries, avoid trial and error, achieve technological and industrial upgrading and redesign current technologies and solve current ICT problems.”

The organizers of Nigeria ICT Fest are a team of young people including Agbolade Omowole, Imolode Michael and Ayemhere Aidaghese. They believe that emerging and life-extending technologies can improve life expectancy in Nigeria. For instance, the average health span (life expectancy) in Nigeria is around 52 years, which is low, compared to the average life expectancy of 83 in Japan and 81 in Western Europe. Nigeria ICT Fest organizers feel there is need for awareness on increasing life expectancy in the country. To achieve this, top researchers in aging were in the line-up at the event.

Dr. Aubrey de Grey, a top UK based gerontologist and Chief Science Officer of SENS Foundation spoke on his research in regenerative medicine and aging – which he defines as the life-long accumulation of “damage” to the body that occurs as an intrinsic side-effect of the body’s normal operation.  Dr. Ilia Stambler, Israeli researcher on aging and Affiliate Scholar with the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies spoke remotely on the topic: “The tasks of longevity promotion: science, ethics and public policy.” He said that to extend healthy life, we need to ameliorate degenerative aging and given the benefits, longevity needs to be actively pursued.

Dr. James Hughes, Executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) spoke on techno progressivism.  Dr. Ben Goertzel spoke on Artificial General intelligence and how it differs from Artificial Intelligence which is narrowly focused to solve problems. In his presentation, he showed robots playing football and how iCog labs is helping to redefine education in Ethiopia – a developing country, by giving children a machine that teach them. One of the participants asked Dr. Ben what is being done to ensure that artificial intelligence (AI) doesn’t get out of hands and attack people or get hacked and remotely controlled to wreck havoc. Dr. Ben responded that we have car accidents because of the invention of car. AI will not be perfect.

Eray Ozkural, computer scientist from Turkey spoke via Skype. He talked about a post scarcity economy and singularity cranes. He says Nigeria has to manufacture her own chips if they ever wish to catch-up with the developed world.

Transhumanism and posthumanism was one of the topics at the event and was presented by Loredana Terec Vlad via Skype. She talked about transhumanism and the ethics surrounding its application. Loredana is a researcher at Lumen Research Center in Humanistic and Social Sciences who also sponsor in publication of Nigeria ICT Fest presentations in a special edition of their journal. The partnership will help in shaping the image of Nigeria by the developed world. Hank Pellissier, managing director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), sent in his speech titled “How the American public views Nigeria and Africans.”

Nigerian speakers at the event include Olaleye Dada, a sport journalist and presenter, Abiodun Mabadeje, a motivational speaker and businessman, and Kehinde Ajose, award winning journalist. Mr. Abiodun Mabadeje presented his slide on how Information and Communications Technology can aid human capital development. Panelists at the event were: Mr. Godwin Anyebe, Odia Patricia, and Kehinde Ajose.

IEET Affiliate Scholar Rick Searle spoke on the topic Algorithmic Governance (via Skype) which he defined as the use of software to provide services that have traditionally been the responsibility of public officials and Bryce Lynch, an information security researcher and practitioner, Skyped in to talk on active threats against financial institutions and potential impacts.

In the words of Agbolade Omowole, “we are about to witness a technology explosion and it is important for countries of the world to grow together to ensure that these technologies are affordable and available to everyone regardless of geographical regions and size of bank account” He says he look sforward to a time where Nigerians will be among the top scientists in the world.

Agbolade Omowole is an ace technology researcher and human capital development expert. He lives in Nigeria.
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