Sage FutureMakers Interview: Blessing
By Joanne Van Der Walt
My name is Blessing Jura. I’m 17 years old and today was my second day back at the Sage FutureMakers workshop in Pretoria. I live in Mamelodi and go to Lompec Secondary School. I know that Artificial Intelligence is teaching intelligence to machines, but that’s about as much as I knew before I came to this workshop.
I have always wanted to be an architect but now that I have attended these workshops, I think I’ve changed my mind. I’d like to be a program developer or data scientist and to start with, I’d like to use technology to help me solve an issue of my own. I have a cousin and his name is Takunda. He’s two years older than me and he is deaf. We grew up together — he is my best friend in the world and we always look out for each other. My problem is that I never learnt to use sign language, so our communication is very limited.
When Takunda was younger, we were at a family function and I was meant to be looking out for him. All the guests were inside and Takunda was outside. He got attacked and mauled by a stray dog. We never heard his screams because he was alone and when we did find him, he was making sounds that I did not understand. Maybe technology could have helped him alert us to what was happening to him. Takunda still walks with a limp to this day.
The second time I wish I could communicate with Takunda was when he had his first kiss. Everyone remembers their first kiss, and I wish I could have shared his excitement with him — all the butterflies and nervousness that comes with that moment… His girlfriend finally told me and eventually I could share that once-in-a-lifetime teenage moment with him. We still laugh today that it was his best kept secret!
I often wonder what it would be like to communicate with him easily and freely. What if we could ‘talk’ to each other, without having to learn a new language? What if technology was so smart that I could film Tekunda signing and as he signs, the AI tells me what he’s saying?
AI is more about being creative and less about being a computer geek.
If I could teach a machine or bot to use the camera to read sign language, and the speaker to dictate his words, it would open up a whole new world for me. My advice to other youngsters out there is this: AI is more about being creative and less about being a computer geek. I am excited for the future and hope that one day very soon, Tekunda and I will be able to shoot the breeze like two young teenage boys.
About Sage FutureMakers
Sage FutureMakers is an educational program, which aims to help young people prepare for jobs that don’t even exist yet by bringing together AI and creativity. Sage Foundation partnered with AI for Good to run a small pilot of the program across several UK schools in 2018. The role of AI for Good is to create the content to engage young people in AI, so they can apply their creativity, empathy, emotional intelligence, judgement, and reasoning skills to solve global challenges for humanity. We also teach them the ethics of code and human-centered design to educate the next generation of ethical and socially-minded technologists and make sure AI is used as a force for good. Sage Foundation uses a vast charity network to execute the program around the globe. This year we will roll it out in South Africa, US, France, and Spain and apply “train the trainer” model to bring it to more schools in each of these countries.
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