Wednesday, February 25, 2009
TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Kwabena Boahen on Artificial Intelligence, Monique Maddy on African Entrepreneurship
FM 88.5 Edmonton
6 PM Mountain Time
Although five centuries of economic and social exploitation have slowed African technological development, they haven’t stopped it, and that’s partly because people such as Dr. Kwabena Boahen continue to be fascinated by the possibilities of science and technology.
Boahen is a Ghanaian-American computer engineer working to create artificial intelligence by mimicking human brain functions inside machines.
He holds a PhD in Computation and Neural Systems from the California Institute of Technology, and has received numerous awards including the Sloan Fellowship for Theoretical Neurobiology from Cal-Tech, a Young Investigator Award from the US Office of Naval Research, and the US National Institute of Health Director’s Pioneer Award.
Boahen aims to decode how the properties of neurons, the brain’s communication network, allow consciousness to exist.
As an engineer, Boahen uses silicon integrated circuits to simulate neural computations, combining the perspectives of electronics and neurobiology. He led a team in the development of a silicon retina that may restore sight to the blind, and a self-organizing microchip that mimics the developing brain’s self-wiring.
Currently a researcher at Stanford, Boahen spoke at the Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference in June 2007 in Arusha, Tanzania. The video is here.
As the materially richest, and perhaps the most exploited continent on the planet, Africa requires extensive, broad-based economic development to meet the physical and social needs of the peoples of its 53 countries.
Many Western approaches are essentially charity: making givers feel like saviours, while undermining local attempts at economic development.
While there’s no doubt good intentions and compassion are involved in paying foreigners to work as engineers, doctors, technicians, construction workers and teachers across the Motherland, clearly local development is far better served by paying decent salaries to engineers, doctors, technicians, construction workers and teachers who are citizens so they can serve their fellow citizens in their home countries, staunch the brain drain, pay taxes into their own national coffers, and spend their consumer dollars, build businesses and develop unions at home.
International trade deals and regimes which undermine African economic development are the source of much of Africa’s misery. When Africans and others abroad develop trading relationships based on mutual profit, instead of exploitation or patronising misconceptions of African realities, Africa as a continent will progress.
One woman who lives by such principles is Liberian entrepreneur Monique Maddy. Educated in England and the US, she holds a Master’s Degree in Economics and Development Studies from the Johns Hopkins University, and an MBA from Harvard Business.
Maddy has worked for the United Nations Development Programme on development issues in Angola, the Central African Republic and Indonesia.
"She’s the founder of Adesemi Communications International, which “finance[s], build[s] and operate[s] low-cost wireless telecommunications services in developing and emerging market countries.
"Adesemi built the world’s first fully integrated wireless ‘virtual’ phone network, a platform consisting of public payphones, voicemail and pagers, and targeted at low-income consumers [which] received widespread recognition and extensive international press coverage for its innovation.”
Maddy is the author of Learning to Love Africa: My Journey from Africa to Harvard Business School and Back, published by HarperCollins, and an Executive Board Member of the Brick Project, an online global school initiative that promotes global awareness among secondary students.
In tonight’s presentation, Monique Maddy discusses corporate and philanthropic failures to advance African development, and contrasts them with the entrepreneurial heritage of the Mandinka, a people with extensive trade and finance networks across the continent.
Maddy also addresses the obstacles of corruption, inefficiency and bureaucracy she faced in her work as an entrepreneur.
Maddy spoke at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, on March 14, 2006. The video is here.