An era of both peril and promise

Sunday Tribune, 1st April 2018 - The impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, an age of unprecedented advances, is under the spotlight at UKZN this week, writes A dire need to cultivate entrepreneurship and innovation in SA

IN GREEK mythology, a Cypriot sculptor, Pygmalion, carved a woman out of ivory. The statue was so beautiful and realistic that he fell in love with it, and prayed at the altar of Aphrodite for a bride who would be 'the living likeness of my ivory girl'.

When he re turned home, he kissed his ivory statue, and found that its lips felt warm. He kissed it again. The statue of Galatea came to life. Then there was the Greek god Hephaestus who, as a black smith for all gods, built automatons of metal to work for him. He also created - out of gold - mechanical hand - maidens that could talk.

An other Greek hero and slayer of monsters, Cadmus is said to have sown dragon teeth that turned into soldiers. Now, 2 500 years later, the concept of artificial servants, companions, workers, near indestructible soldiers and war machines is fast turning into a reality.

How this will be managed is among questions likely to arise at a Spark Innovation workshop being hosted at the University of Kwazulu-Natal (UKZN).

Imagine what rogue inventors could conjure using robotics and artificial intelligence, said deputy vice-chancellor of research, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath, who will be the keynote speaker.

Ramjugernath said exponential advances in innovative technology to day were as astounding as they were scary.

He shares the views of late British physicist Stephen Hawking who, in the years before his death, of ten warned of the possible consequences of artificial intelligence. 'Artificial intelligence will be the best or worst thing to happen to humanity. We don't yet know which,' said Hawking in a 2016 interview.

In Ramjugernath's view, the concept behind the original movie, The Terminator, is not that far-fetched. SOUTH Africa needs to up its game in the world of innovation and entrepreneurship, says UKZN deputy vice chancellor: research, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath.

In South Africa, he says, when people talk of entrepreneurs, they are often thinking too small-scale survival entrepreneurial activity. 'If we really want to see the significant economic growth and job creation that we are seeing in developing countries, we must have real innovation in medium and hi-tech entrepreneurship,' he said.

'In the US, they have done it extremely well, leading to a number of tech start-ups. We are trying to develop the same kind of mind set and culture here,' said Ramjugernath. 'That is what our Spark events are all about.'

News date: 2018-04-10


KRISP has been created by the coordinated effort of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the South African Medical Research Countil (SAMRC).

Location: K-RITH Tower Building
Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, UKZN
719 Umbilo Road, Durban, South Africa.
Director: Prof. Tulio de Oliveira