Time travel in a Tesla (video)

I have seen the future. There’s not much petrol in it.


Tesla Model S – all electric supercar

I’ve been following Tesla for a while since they started on the Tesla S journey. The goal was electric cars for the mass market, but they started off at the high end where the revenues and margins are much better; the end of the market where owners may have another car and be more forgiving of experiments that may go sideways; the end that supports pricey vehicles that may not have everyday applications. This was a smart move – and I was interested to see how it plays out over time. This is like smartphones – started with business folks and Blackberry, today is an essential part of life. Mass adoption changes everything. Continue reading

The naira is a kite and other stories…

After a year of rancour, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) finally gave in and abandoned the unrealistic peg at N197 to $1 that it had maintained was suitable and necessary. The whole of social media was ablaze with commentary. When I read through the (pretty robust) memo detailing the changes, I was impressed. No halfway house here. A full float of the currency and the introduction of naira settled non-deliverable futures (NSNDF) to curb speculation**. It was a little too good to be true. They seem to have covered everything. For a good coverage, check out Feyi Fawehinmi’s post – The Price Club: The New Nigerian Naira.

I probably should point out I’m absolutely convinced they didn’t cook that stuff up overnight. I’m sure they’d been working on this for a bit and didn’t have the liver to put it out there probably because… Yes men are afraid of their oga. The only weird bits were the insistence on maintaining the ban on the 41 items from the interbank market as well as blocking the banks from selling to the BDCs. The combination of these meant that part of the demand was shifted to the parallel market and we could continue to expect a significant spread between that and the interbank as the BDC operators would probably have to get their dollars from more expensive sources. Continue reading

What will we do when the robots take our jobs?

Artificial intelligence.

Some think it will boost humanity to heights previously unimagined. Others believe it will be our undoing. Either way, we can all agree it will change the way the world works even if we can’t even begin to describe the specifics of how those changes will look. One thing that does come up a lot is how it will change the world of work and that’s something we should take seriously because of the potential for wide scale social disruptions.


The future of jobs | Linked from Basic Income

I read an interesting article a couple of days ago from where I’ve linked the chart above. That chart describes work, split into four broad parts based on whether it requires manual labor or mental labor as well as whether it’s routine or non routine. As you can see, employment from anything routine has sort of flat lined over the years. This is because conventional machines run on code, a set of instructions on how to process inputs and provide some sort of outputs. So if you can codify the work, it’s probably been or is being replaced by robots and/or computers. Even China, once renowned for cheap labor fueled manufacturing is rapidly automating. News blobs like the one from this article repeated below, are only going to get more common.

Midea, a major appliance maker, is in the forefront of a full-blown charge by China’s manufacturing sector into robot-powered factory automation. Companies nationwide over the past five years have ramped up robotics in the face of labor woes, such as worker shortages and rising wages, and to cut their production costs. In the process, they’ve helped build a new market for Chinese robot manufacturers that are competing against multinational rivals.

So it seems like the last bastions of work are the non-routine manual works – think artisans, crafts work, etc. and non-routine cognitive tasks. While the former is generally not well paid, the cake as it were is in the latter, and we’ve tended to believe that we’ll always trump computers/robots in that regards. Until now.

For some years a new paradigm, machine learning, has been changing the game for artificial intelligence and it’s accelerating. One key example was the recent trouncing of a human being by AlphaGo, a computer, in the game of G0, which is so mathematically complicated that you have to play it not by brute force by some sort of feeling or heuristic, which is how humans proceed. Today it’s a game, tomorrow it’s probably your job. Such is the nature of progress. And that type of progress brings with it a lot of questions.


Today it’s a game, tomorrow it’s probably your job | Linked from engadget.com

What would we do given that we earn our living from working? If a robot can do it better without complaints, demands for a minimum wage, all day and everyday, will humans be able to compete? Perhaps in a future version of a mental sweat shop where cognitive power is exchanged for the lowest possible price? Dear Lord! Dreadful thoughts. And what about inequality? How will that play out? It’s easy to see that he who controls the technology is set up for life. And beyond. We can fully expect inequality to get even worse. And all those developing countries dreaming of a future manufacturing boom to provide employment (cough, Nigeria)? So the future looks like a place of mass unemployment and burgeoning inequality. Unless radical things happen.

One of the radical ideas is a universal basic income for all of humanity to account for the loss of opportunity, in other words a decoupling of income from jobs since there won’t be enough jobs to go around anyway. This would obviously be financed by those who control production and represents a kind of grand redistribution. A neo-socialism. It sort of makes sense – every human with enough income to live well, free to pursue whatever creative interest, while robots deal with the drudgery. Yeah… Given that socialism is a dirty word these days, I’m fairly confident it won’t pan out that way. But we do need such big thinking to get out of the mess that will almost certainly come.


Finally we can do what we really love! | Flickr – Chis JL

I’ve not provided any answers here. Because I don’t know. It wasn’t a mistake that the title is a question. Please, have a think as well. And let me know.


African kids shouldn’t study quantum physics


Image from tcdailyplanet.net | Flickr Creative Commons

Or things like that.

I had a particularly upsetting day for me during my stint in England in 2010. I was rounding up my studies in Industrial Systems and Management and had been invited for a cocktail by my sponsors. My thesis then was in the fairly esoteric field of ant colony optimisation algorithms and I was quite pleased with the initial results of my work. I think my supervisors and industrial sponsors were too! We were looking at novel schemes for algorithms that may one day be part of the backbone of so called self serving assets e.g. aircraft that are aware of their state and autonomously select and procure maintenance services for themselves as they fly all over the world. So pretty next gen stuff.

So I was in that place where I was flirting with the idea of research for the next couple of years. You know? A PhD from a prestigious university and everything. I was mulling the idea everyday, weighing the odds, exploring potential supervisors etc. In the middle of that period was this lunch/cocktail thing that came along and we were all just standing there that afternoon, chatting about everything and nothing in particular when this man asked me what my next plans were.

I spoke freely, told him about my current research and my thoughts of a potential PhD along those lines. He looked at me incredulously and said something like “but how is that relevant to Africa?” Hmm. The man has a point, doesn’t he? We can’t even figure out how to generate electricity for the continent and this one is talking about aircrafts that call the service centre to check themselves in. I can’t remember how I responded to that seemingly innocous question, but I was upset. Upset because the tone of his voice suggested that being from Africa automatically drew bounds around what I was allowed to explore – development, sustainability, you know the usual suspects.

He looked at me incredulously and said something like “but how is that relevant to Africa?” Hmm. The man has a point, doesn’t he? We can’t even figure out how to generate electricity for the continent and this one is talking about aircrafts that call the service centre to check themselves in.

That’s unfortunate. Completely against the spirit of the place we met and I daresay, against the spirit of education itself. I understand the spirit of the scholarships that we frequently get handed out in exchange for showing promise. The idea is to use the opportunity to develop skills, return home and make our countries better. I get that. But does that circumscribe the limits of our intellectual exploration or contribution to knowledge? My personal view of education, especially tertiary education is that the subject matter itself is not what counts (except in some particular cases) but the process of learning – I promise a post on that shortly. So I didn’t think he had a point. In fact he probably won’t have asked the same question of a self sponsored student. But oh well.

I didn’t do a PhD in the end. For a bunch of reasons that had nothing to do with the suggestion that it was out of scope for an African kid. But I wonder how many of those interactions go on daily. How many people who could probably make phenomenal contributions to different aspects of human endeavour get nudged away, because of where they come from, because of how they look, because of their sex, or their orientations? Folks, don’t let anyone; even those who have been tremendously beneficial, limit you. Do what you will, follow your curiosity. Live. Be.

Don’t stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing – Albert Einstein

Kini Big Deal?

A couple of days back I was reading Decoded, Jay Z’s autobiography and I got to this page below where he was talking about getting involved in Obama’s election – the first time round, those heady Yes! We Can! days.


The phrase that caught my attention the most is the same one that’s on the sideline

He (Obama) could, through sheer symbolism, regardless of any of his actual politics, change the lives of millions of black kids who saw something different to aspire to – Jay Z

That was a very good summation of my old Facebook note Kini Big Deal? from Nov’ 08 just after watching the inauguration. Two terms are almost over now and you can argue whether Obama passed or failed. But the message that he stood for, stands for remains true.

Original unedited post below.

I hardly slept yesterday.

The initial results that came in gave McCain a shaky lead and for all the bravado and unfazed enthusiasm that I usually displayed anytime Obama and the election came up, I was still aware that things could go wrong at the last moment. So I did not sleep until there was a comfortable lead as reported by my text updates. But why should this election even be my problem, it’s not a Nigerian election; Visas are not going to become easier; Obama’s probably not going to declare a special “Save Africa” initiative; and even if he did we all know where the bulk of the money might end up. So why did I care? Why am I so ecstatic?

During a discussion I once had with my friends, we discussed development, advancement and governance in Nigeria and Africa. Eventually we gravitated towards blacks in general. He gave excuses for the general backwardness of the black race; citing years of slavery, colonization, indoctrination, the whole shebang. I don’t like excuses, though I make them sometimes, so I was adamant we were responsible for our own destinies and that, had fortune reversed and we found ourselves superior, we probably would have done worse to the whites. The only thing I was not sure of is whether we’d have advanced as much as they have. He retorted, giving the example of a dog that had been restrained all its life. He postulated that even if the chains were removed, the dog would not venture beyond the limits that had been defined for it all its life. To my dear friend that was the problem with blacks, even though physically the shackles have been shed, the limitations remain in our minds.

And that’s why this is such a big deal for me. Obama challenged the system, the prejudices, the limits. One of my friend’s status update on Facebook read “free, free, free at last!” this morning. Another update read, “If the terminator can be governor and Obama president, then nothing is impossible unless you say it is!” And my, did they capture it? That’s the big deal. It was early last year I first heard about Barack Hussein Obama. I was informed he was one of the democratic aspirants. And that he was black. And young. And kinda inexperienced. I was tempted to scoff, but I didn’t and just decided to wait and see. Then I heard him talk and I was like, “good God!” Then I read that book, “The Audacity of Hope” and watched the democratic debate with Hillary Clinton in The University of Texas at Austin. By that time I was officially an Obamaniac. Like he admitted in his victory speech this morning, he was not the most likely contestant for the seat. But he started with nothing more than the unmitigated effrontery to dare to think that the time had come for a black family to live in the white house. For a black man to take charge of the destiny of the United States.

Now, this was something I was told many times by my neighbours that’s impossible. “How now?” “Forget the polls jo!” “Na lie, he no fit!” Well to the question, “can he?” Well, “yes he can!” I was reading my bible when someone crashed into my room. “Victory speech!!!” I dropped the bible. God forgive me. I watched the galvanized Americans, young and old, black and white. I saw the tears from Oprah and Reverend Jesse Jackson. I sat quietly through it all wondering if it was a dream. It’s a big deal because one man, a black junior senator from Illinois (elected 2005) decided he was going to run for the highest office against unbelievable odds and did it. Suddenly, those dreams that had started to mold in the far reaches of my mind find new life. Now, I’m not silly enough to think all of them will come true, but now I’d dare to hope that they just might. And I believe I’m not alone in this. So for all the people who this was a big deal for, who have found hope from these historic events, borrowing the closing lines of Obama, “where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can!”

And yes, we will!

To the top! Summiting Morne Blanc in Seychelles

The first time I visited the beautiful cluster of islands called Seychelles was in 2013 – for my honeymoon. I’d wanted an island getaway, not too far off, and wowsome. We were suitably impressed from the beginning, though the immigration and customs officers were a little too poke-nosey. Looking back though it was understandable that we got some scrutiny given that we had sufficient bags to stake out the island for years! The missus was relocating immediately after the wedding and we didn’t want to do another trip back to Nigeria just for the luggage, so we just brought everything along! Pretty sure the guys were convinced we were moving in…

Talking about moving in, who wouldn’t want to? The approach to the airport takes you over the stunning Eden Island development. Just check out this picture below I took from the plane. Aquamarine waters, red roofs, and docked catamarans? I was ready to move in right there and then!

Eden Island from the sky

The Eden Island development from the sky

When you escape to an island you expect to see a lot of beaches, stunning glorious beaches. That’s a given. And Seychelles doesn’t disappoint.

Noir - it's stunning, even when you bleed off the colour.

Noir – it’s stunning, even when you bleed off the colour.

The one thing I didn’t really think about until I saw them are the mountains. You see, I’ve always imagined islands as these flat pieces of gently undulating land terminating in beaches and then the sea. Imagine my surprise when just outside the airport all I can see is a giant mountain covered with a lush forest dominating the view – and it’s pretty much the same wherever you go on the islands. You either get a sea view, or a mountain view. Usually both. Continue reading

Some 30 odd years…


30 is an odd one…

Not because it is the first even number to start with an odd number (that occurred to me yesterday), but because I can’t quite decide what to do with it.

You see, when I reached the magical age of 10, that was easy to place. I was transitioning from single digits to double digits. I had now done a decade, I was not “just a kid” anymore. I’d soon become a teenager, and all that…

And what about 20? Easy. Gone are the teen days. Bye teenage years, hello young adulthood and the likes.

So what does 30 mean?

I’m still figuring it out. I’ve got a couple of days to go, so maybe I’ll have an epiphany. Or maybe I won’t. This 30 is an odd one.

Somethings are clear though, like increased responsibility and the fact that I now have co-travelers in my boat. Hello @eclectictope. Hello #tantan.


Also clear is the fact that by most standards I’m now fully an adult. Hence the beard! I can also look back at the 30 odd years and clearly see two pivotal things that shaped who I am today. Fellowship, and education. Continue reading