SAIMC


From the office of the CEO: To AI or not to AI – that is the question

June 2024 SAIMC


Johan Maartens.

South Africa boasts one of Africa’s largest economies, and has one of the world’s most diverse and profitable agricultural sectors. It’s also home to abundant mineral reserves, ranging from diamonds and gold to iron ore and coal, and has highly developed manufacturing and tourism industries. Meanwhile, the Daily Investor reports that our 30-year GDP growth is half that of Zimbabwe and Botswana. Trading Economics reports that South Africa’s growth rate was 1,2 % in December 2023, with Zimbabwe at 4,5%. At the time of writing this newsletter, the results of the 2024 election are not yet available. How will the results change things for our industry?

Botswana has just announced that it is fast-tracking its Starlink licence after initially declining the application. Why would South Africa prevent Starlink licences? This is most probably to gain access to more money for the ‘crib’, pretending that it is part of the existing government’s ‘special operation’ (BEE), and waging war against its own country’s economy.

People’s perceptions can control countries. It is easy to sway public opinion, as is evident in the Israel-Palestine debate, the Russia-Ukraine war, and the China-South Korea question. Each one of these has its staunch supporters, convinced that they have the truth and nothing but the truth, even though very few of them have ever seen the conflict zones, and they know absolutely nothing about it except what they read in the media and hear from their friends, who supposedly know what is going on.

Now we can start to understand what artificial intelligence is capable of. Here is a supposedly unbiased platform giving a new perspective of the ’truth’. NewsGPT recently announced, “Revolutionary AI presidential candidate, AIbraham Lincoln launches 2028 campaign”. It further went on to state, “In a groundbreaking move, AIbraham Lincoln, the world’s first AI presidential candidate, has announced its bid for the 2028 US election. Branded as Abe2.0, this revolutionary candidate promises a new era of fairness, transparency and unbiased decision making in American politics. AIbraham Lincoln is designed to listen to every voter, making decisions based on American values and constitutional principles. Utilising cutting-edge AI technology, it ensures policies reflect the true will of the people”.

This news comes from an unbiased AI platform; therefore it has to be the truth – or is it? The unwary will rush off and inform everybody that America will soon have its own AI president, not noticing the Share the Truth and Fake News buttons on the righthand side of the article.

Imagine your medical practitioner is an AI device. Every symptom or illness you have ever had is recorded. Every trend in your body is tracked and analysed. Your body functions are measured and analysed, giving you advance notice and prescribing the latest treatments for whatever lies ahead. We have a Discovery Health Vitality membership. The annual checkups make a huge difference, assisting us to make the correct life choices to prevent future issues. An AI medical practitioner will be so much better.

Medical practitioners are often limited to the advice that they can give. Many of them can only provide medication, and then only based on an on-the-spot examination. Rarely do you find a medical practitioner who is also able to give you exercises for pains in your lower back, or food choices for your high blood pressure.

The SAIMC has recently received a certificate from the Engineering Council of South Africa, accepting it as the Society for Automation, Instrumentation, Mechatronics and Computer Engineering. Mechatronics includes mechatronic devices, factory automation, and process automation. Our next step is to formalise the Computer Engineering section of the SAIMC. North-West University has a Computer Engineering department with Professor Henri Marais as the head of the department.

I have great news: North-West University and Polytech Africa have joined the SAIMC as Didactic members. They join Tshwane University of Technology and Nelson Mandela University as Didactic institutions that are considered leaders in the field of automation education. Being recognised by the industry as leaders in education is vastly different from the grading that some education institutions give themselves based on the number of lecturers per student or the number of doctorates. Industry is more interested in education institutions adopting programmes to deliver ‘products’ that industry can use, either as entrepreneurs or as employees. It is far better to measure their performance by what happens to graduates after they graduate, rather than the amount of certificates issued.

We also have new National Members who have joined the SAIMC as leaders in the automation industry: Siemens, Jendamark, Nidec, Tandm and Teltonika.

May this new era in South Africa also be a new era in our industry where artificial intelligence is here to stay and human intelligence is not always that evident.

Yours in Automation

Johan Maartens


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