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Artificial Intelligence is REAL!

1920 1280 Monirul Haque

I assume that you’ve heard of Sophia, the humanoid robot. Some of you might have seen social media memes about it, particularly following the mega ICT event, Digital World 2017, or watched video coverages on YouTube and online news channels. I came to know about this extraordinary creation by David Hanson from the ‘Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon’ on YouTube. Sophia was the guest in one of his episodes and, even though I am a regular viewer of this entertaining talk show, I was left amazed by this particular show having realized that the much discussed topic, Artificial Intelligence (AI), has advanced to create a functioning smart humanoid robot.

Sophia uses a computer program that is similar to ELIZA. The computer program ‘ELIZA’ was created at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1964. It is similar to ChatBot that was introduced by Facebook. Eliza simulated conversation by using a ‘pattern matching’ and substitution methodology that gave users an illusion of understanding on the part of the program.

As you now know about the mechanism behind the “Celebrity Humanoid robot Sophia”, what do you think about the attention it is getting? In my perspective, some group of people overstated its ability. According to the scientific community, Sophia is often presented in a way that theatrically overstates its level of general intelligence. Whereas Hanson, the creator, designed Sophia to be a suitable companion for the elderly at nursing homes, or to help crowds at large events or parks. But her most impressive feature is in her ability to express feelings topped with the witty sense of humor. Once in an interview, Sophia, primarily a machine, said, “My AI is designed around human values like wisdom, kindness, and compassion.”

So what makes Sophia marketable? The right answer would be the social skill generated by its core program. It must be noted that science and technology are taking longer strides to development than they had before. However, in the process of keeping pace with the technological advancements, we must be sure to integrate our morals and values with the aim to make the world a better place.

The core concept behind Sophia is AI. From SIRI of iPhone to self-driving cars, from Smart TV to Google map, AI is in full action! To be clear, AI is the big umbrella that encompasses terms like machine learning and deep learning. The benefits of AI surpasses the unimaginable risk. AI can have a huge contribution in the field of education, healthcare, security and development of a country. For instance, the modern education system needs to ensure an active learning environment that is both enjoyable and interactive. AI execution can help to create a personalized learning environment to match the varying capacities of students. By analyzing learner information, AI can generate groups particularly suited to a certain task, or groups that balance one learner’s weaknesses with another learner’s strengths. Moreover, Virtual Reality (VR)-assisted learning allows for educational support in authentic environments and extends the boundaries of the classroom. Realistic immersion in virtual environments can provide learners with a richer understanding of the material. Using gamification in learning system can motivate learners and help improve retention while making the learning experience fun.

When it comes to business and economy, leaders, CEO, and managers can make smarter decisions with the results and statistics generated using AI. Tracking growth, problem, and market research data with the power of AI technology.

Even though AI has significant threats, they are near to nil if used for the betterment of the human race.  In the context of Bangladesh, AI can bring concrete growth and prosperity. It is going to dictate the quality of life in the near future. From changing our lifestyle to better advanced healthcare system, AI will contribute to every major part of our life. According to the local newspaper, The Daily Star, ‘Some 47.6 million or 30 percent of the total 158.5 million people in Bangladesh are young (10-24 years), and it will be between 10 and 19 percent by 2050’. This means that Bangladesh needs to invest urgently in the human capital of its young people if it wants to reap the benefits of a large demographic dividend. Hence, for this majority to be competent in the future, young people should update their skills in technology so that they can adapt to the rapid transformations made by AI.

As a part of the young population of my country and an avid reader of science fiction, the prospects of AI in Digital Bangladesh excites me. It further rejuvenates my interest to think that I will be able to experience such a revolution.

Until then, like Spock (from Star Trek) would say, may the world “Live long and prosper”.

Breaking Barriers and Challenging Stereotypes

1632 1224 Monoshita Ayruani

Ever since I was young, I always considered myself as a person who got along with everyone. I enjoyed keeping myself busy with different kinds of activities, meeting new people, and having new experiences. Little did I realize that the world around me was not as big as I perceived it to be. Going to an English medium school, my life revolved mostly around friends from school, and I hardly ever had the opportunity to meet anyone from other education mediums in Bangladesh. I thought that there would be little that I would be able to connect with them on, even if our paths crossed, as it was difficult to think of much that we may have in common.

For example, in this day and age, when you think about Madrassa students, many preconceived notions come to mind, such as extreme conservatism and lack of tolerance for diverse views. Similarly, perhaps, English medium students are also subjected to certain stereotypes such as being too vain, or trying too hard to emulate Western values and culture. In reality, however, the fact that young people from different backgrounds don’t have many avenues to interact in society leads to such broad generalizations in their views about each other.

We must ask ourselves, does this bode well for Bangladesh? In a country where 52% of the population is less than the age of 25, our future will in large part be shaped by the next generation of young Bangladeshis. What would that future look like if young people with diverse perspectives cannot reconcile their differences? In truth, I would have never been prompted to even consider this issue had I not learned about the BBLTJ program at the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center. The BBLTJ, or the Building Bridges through Leadership Training Junior, is a month-long leadership training program that brings together students from diverse backgrounds. It features English, Bengali, and Madrassa medium students who come together in the classroom to explore their ownselves, and try to bridge their differences through team building, reflection, and service learning.

I applied to the program with a lot of trepidation, not knowing what to expect, but felt that the opportunity would at least push me out of my comfort zone. And I felt that without moving to the edge of your competencies, you cannot grow as an individual. The next few months that I spent at BYLC were truly memorable. I grew more than I could ever imagine in self-confidence and motivation, and felt that I could accomplish anything that I set my mind to. What inspired me in this journey were the friendships that I had forged with my fellow participants who came from all walks of life. Their leadership journeys and struggles to be the best versions of themselves inspired me to also live for a bigger purpose than just my own.

My preconceived notions about Bengali and Madrassa medium students were also shattered. I realized that we all really have the same aspirations in life – to do well for ourselves while making a positive impact in society through our work. Most importantly, however, I learned that when a group of diverse individuals come together as one, great things can happen.

One of my best experiences in the program was during the Leadership in Action phase. In this component of BBLT-J, we went out to underprivileged communities and tried to deliver a positive and sustainable intervention as a team. In this project, the diversity of our team led to approaching the problem at hand from a multitude of perspectives and added to the richness of our project. It helped reaffirm why diversity and building bridges is instrumental to creating positive change. Differences can often be translated into strength, if all the voices are given an equal chance to be heard.

I am sharing my thoughts with you today to also encourage you to step out of your comfort zones to meet other promising young men and women who share the same passion and drive for change in society, but do not necessarily hail from the same background as yourself. Based on my own experience, such interactions can often be transformative and seminal in your growth as a person.

The program that first provided me with that opportunity is taking applications for its latest batch of participants. The tenth  BBLTJ program has launched and the deadline is set for February 28. I encourage everyone to visit the website and apply.

Monoshita Ayruani, a graduate of BBLTJ 1, is an undergraduate student at the University of Liberal Arts, and Copywriter and contents strategist at WebAble. She is also the Co-founder of the blog Mad Koffee.

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