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Oshiorenya Agabi

Opinion

The Saga of Agabi and the Bomb Smelling Chips

I hate the idea of robots. Have you ever watched any of those futuristic movies where robots run the show or co-inhabit with humans? Aside from the fact that it’s creepy and makes you wish Jesus could come sooner before we actually get there, there’s one aspect of it I am not able to ignore–Robots malfunction. In these movies, when the machines malfunction and ‘develop’ a mind of their own, it is always catastrophic for humans. Yet, the world seems to maintain their journey towards a ‘robotic’ world and a Nigerian has taken us miles closer by developing a chip that ‘smells’ bombs.

Nigerians are a brilliant lot. No, I do not need any statistics or data from the West to confirm that, but I have the way of life of a people to prove it. We’re a people who have lived in bad times but always found a way to laugh about it. While I agree with the school of thought that we should be doing more than laughing, the phenomena is a proof that we’re resilient. Over time, through some of our citizens at home and beyond, we’ve proven to be smart in the area of business, sports and education on a global level. So when I read about Oshiorenoya Agabi who invented the can-smell-bomb chip, it was nice to learn that we’re excelling in the Technology world too. Google and IBM have been in the game of making brain-like computers; an Evolution of Artificial intelligence that gives Computers a mind of their own, sort of. But, Agabi is the first to use live neurons for his computers. His company, Koniku, is the first and only company building chips with biological neurons. Don’t fret yet, he grew these neurons in his lab and wants to use them to replace the silicon chips currently used in Artificial Intelligence. Wow! Right?

So who is this chip for? There’s been a movement for the past years asking all Nigerians to return home. The authorities of this campaign believe that if all our brains came home and focused on Nation building that we would come out of this rot. This sounds fair enough and would have been easy if we’re not so selfish as humans. We want to make a name for ourselves and we can’t do that from the dark economy-beating corner of the Nigerian streets. To be recognized we have to be out there frolicking with the Westerners. Oshiorenya Agabi founded the world’s first neuro-computing company, Koniku, when he went for his Ph.D. in Computational Neuroscience at Imperial College in London. Now, Agabi reports that Boeing has signed on with a letter of intent to use his chip in chemical-detecting drones. Agabi says that one customer, a drone company, hopes the processors will prove superior in detecting methane leaks in oil refineries. Another aims to use the processors to model the effect certain drugs will have on a human brain. I wonder, is the Nigerian government one of the bodies that have reached out to him? Why are we not testing these robots in the northern parts of Nigeria? Where is Agabi’s patriotism?

Robots are creepy, but the more we use technology, the more sophisticated our problems, and therefore the increasing need for a non-feeling ‘being’ to solve these problems. Agabi’s robots might make some of us uncomfortable, but we need them in our Nigerian airports, offices, churches, everywhere. We need Agabi’s creepy. Let’s bring the chips home.

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