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June 2023

Should we feel excited or frightened by the idea of an AI model directing a robot?

I am a data science student and more than once I’ve wondered if I’m doing all this studying for nought, because GPT, the AI, can do what I do; well except stand in front of my bosses and do a presentation, until they can hire some robots. But for now, I remain relevant.

“If the AI can replace my work, then I don’t think I’m not doing a good job,” uttered one Alex Konrad, Forbes Senior Editor in an interview. Safe to say I live by these words now.

It is the age of AI. Albeit, AI has been there for a while, the likes of Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant, and Alexa, but not as much as what this year has brought us. We have OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Midjourney, Google’s Bard, Jasper, Stability, Bing AI, etc. Image generation from a prompt is incredibly brilliant, don’t you think? Coding capabilities, are also very impressive (but does it work? Sometimes, yeah).

Artificial Intelligence has many a definition, the crux of it being, “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence”. How does the computer learn? Through Machine Learning – it detects the patterns from training data and predicts and performs tasks without being manually or explicitly programmed. We have one more, Deep learning (done via neural networks) – a method in AI that teaches computers to process data in a way that is inspired by the human brain.

A frequently asked and debated question is, “Does the AI know what it’s doing? “.

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI and launched on November 30, 2022. In full it is Chat Generative Pre-Training Transformer. When you feed it a prompt, it gives a very coherent output, mostly true, might be false, might be completely made up. Why is this? Why does a supposedly intelligent machine lie? Does it know it’s lying? Most of the ‘experts’ (or insert equally semantic word here) say it doesn’t. This is because the output is merely a prediction of text based on the prompt you have given. ChatGPT was trained on a massive corpus of text data, around 570GB of datasets, including web pages, books, and other sources. It was born after running trillions of words for the equivalent of 300 years, through supercomputers processing in parallel for months. After all this, the computer made about 170 billion connections between all these words. Incomprehensible, isn’t it? Math is beautiful. So anytime you enter a prompt, ChatGPT calculates through all these connections to give you the most appropriate prediction of words that had the highest probability after all the back-end math was done. (Look into neural networks, it’s interesting to watch a machine be taught how to recognize handwritten numbers.) So yes, it is very possible that ChatGPT doesn’t know what you’re asking it, or what it’s replying to. It’s all math and predictions. However, this will change as we keep teaching AI to not just predict data but to understand and learn any intellectual task.

Is there a law to protect us against AI?

In April 2021, the European Commission proposed the first EU regulatory framework for AI. It says that AI systems that can be used in different applications are analyzed and classified according to the risks they pose to users. The different risk levels will mean more or less regulation. The first ever AI Act was created on the 8th of June, 2023 by the European Commission for the use of artificial intelligence in the European Union as part of its digital strategy. It contains different rules for different risk levels and Generative AI transparency requirements. This is a good start because there are several concerns about the data used to train the AI. For example, in February, Getty Images sued Stability AI, a smaller AI start-up, alleging it illegally used its photos to train its image-generating bot. ChatGPT maker OpenAI is facing a class action over how it used people’s data. We have people creating content via AI and passing it off as theirs, and this information might be false. There are many concerns over who is responsible if a human was to use AI for ‘wrong’.

Is AI sentient?

Can AI perceive or feel things? Current applications of AI, like language models (i.e., GPT and Google’s LaMDA), are not sentient. They are only trained to sound like they know what they are talking about – ‘they’ being AI collectively. Will we know if it ever became sentient? There is no consensus on accurately determining if an AI is conscious, given our current understanding of consciousness. Scary sounding, isn’t it? That’s because it is, but it is also very exciting.

The AI revolution is here, and a lot is about to change. Are we ready?

A particular type of enthusiasm fills the air as the sun sets over the Nairobi skyline. For many years, astronomy was considered a subject only for experts and astrophysics students. However, a rising number of Kenyans are becoming interested in the mysteries of the night sky.

The societal preconception that astronomy is a complex and foreign notion is being broken down, thanks to the efforts of various individuals and organizations. Amateur astronomy activities and exercises have been introduced, making it available to the public at large. These programs, which range from webinars to skywatching events, astronomy lecture nights to planetarium displays, are affordable, engaging, and open to anybody curious about space’s expanse.

But why this recent enthusiasm for astronomy? The answer is found in the fact that astronomy is one of the oldest natural sciences. Throughout history, several cultures employed astronomy for navigating, telling time, predicting the weather, farming, and even celebrating various holidays.

Organizations in Kenya have participated in efforts such as the NameExoWorlds campaign, which allows nations to name exoplanets in their local language. The Kenya Space Agency has collaborated with several groups to give information to amateur astronomers, institutions, and the general public, intending to increase student and citizen interest in STEM fields.

The Agency’s space club program teaches the next generation the necessity of Geo-STEAM (Geography, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) in supporting the space sector. And the efforts are bearing fruit. Kenyans are becoming innovative in their quest for astronomy, creating water-powered rockets and hosting public astronomy presentations on the capital’s streets.

TikTokers are creating content about the planetarium at the Traveling Telescope, where people go to learn about the universe with family, friends, or significant others. It is clear that astronomy is no longer a novel notion in Nairobi, and we can anticipate seeing more people dressed warmly and eagerly attending these activities in the future.

These efforts are not only aimed at unravelling the mysteries of the universe but also at connecting our Kenyan culture to space and astronomy. Astronomy is an excellent opportunity to bring people from all walks of life together and foster a greater respect for the universe. So, as the stars twinkle above, let us continue to gaze up and marvel at the cosmos’ beauty.

In a remarkable feat, Kenya continues to make waves in astronomy as it achieves yet another milestone in naming celestial bodies. Following last year’s successful participation in the NameExoWorlds campaign, Kenya has now secured its second exoplanet and host star with Kenyan names. The significance of this achievement lies not only in the recognition of Kenya’s cultural heritage but also in the country’s growing influence in the field of astronomy.

The team behind this accomplishment consisted of prominent individuals and institutions, including Penda Kujua, Leo Sky Africa, the Technical University of Kenya, the Kenya Space Agency, and the University of Nairobi. Together, they collaborated to come up with the approved name for the newly named exoplanet and its host star.

Astronomy has been embraced in Kenya

Previously, Kenya participated in the NameExoWorlds campaign, resulting in the naming of a star “Kalausi” and its accompanying exoplanet. The name “Kalausi,” meaning a strong whirlwind in the Dholuo language, carries the essence of Kenyan culture and has become a testament to the country’s rich linguistic diversity.

Building upon this success, the recent NameExoWorlds 2022 contest has now bestowed a Kenyan name upon a second exoplanet and its host star. Enaiposha, named after a large body of water like a lake or sea in the Maa language spoken in Kenya and Tanzania, is a fitting tribute to the captivating exoplanet GJ 1214 b. GJ 1214 b, known as a “sub-Neptune” due to its intermediate size between Earth and Neptune, has been extensively studied by scientists and continues to fascinate researchers around the globe.

Accompanying Enaiposha is the star GJ 1214, which hosts the planetary system. This celestial body, now bearing the name Orkaria, further highlights the cultural significance of the naming initiative. Orkaria adds depth and meaning to the exoplanetary system, connecting Kenya’s rich heritage to the wonders of the cosmos. The selection of Enaiposha and Orkaria as the second exoplanet and star to be given Kenyan names emphasizes the country’s growing prominence in the field of astronomy. It underscores Kenya’s commitment to expanding scientific knowledge and promoting public engagement in astronomical exploration.

Through the NameExoWorlds campaigns, the International Astronomical Union recognizes and celebrates the importance of cultural connections to the celestial realm. By incorporating indigenous languages and cultural themes, the initiative fosters a sense of inclusivity and encourages a global appreciation for the wonders of the universe.

With each named exoplanet and host star, Kenya’s presence on the international astronomical stage becomes more pronounced. These achievements inspire, fueling the curiosity and passion of current and future generations of astronomers and space enthusiasts in Kenya and beyond.