The problem is Aristotle. Wait, don’t laugh. I’m serious. The old chap has forced into our collective consciousness, through the circular concept of his “eudaimonia”, the notion that happiness must be the ultimate aim of all that is worthwhile. That’s nonsense.

There are many pursuits that are their own ultimate ends, and many of these pursuits are worthy in their own right.

Happiness must be sought in its own lane. The notion that happiness is some pot of gold at the end of the arc is bunk. Happiness is a compartment. And life has many compartments.

Once you understand this everything becomes clear. You learn to apportion pieces of your life properly. You learn to spare some time on happiness every now and then, but you move on, tending to the many plants in that vast garden of self discovery. You come to understand that happiness is seasoning. Not some grand clue to human purpose. Not some hidden gem that once you discover everything falls into place, and the true path illuminated, all that really matter lining up like doric columns towards the true dome of self-actualisation, every extraneous want and need having fallen by the wayside.

This is a lie. Happiness is one thing among many that makes humankind complete. Spend some time on it. Harvest some of it. Every now and then. It will, however, never satiate your total being. However much you prize and honour it by screening all that you do according to the degree something promises to yield happiness at the end of the arc. Happiness is overrated.

The critical flaw at the heart of all visions of the “future of work” in which artificial intelligence makes most professions obsolete and drives billions out of work may be summed up in the phrase, “internal anachronism”.
This concept is best illustrated by a major defect of most science fiction movies.
Take Luc Besson’s Valerian, for instance. A civilisation that has learnt to travel across hyperdimensional space still uses staccato-firing weapons and relies on natural zoological species to replicate physical objects.
In the Wachowski Brothers’ Jupiter Ascending, a civilisation that has conquered the light barrier still uses wolverine DNA to promote aggression in its soldiery, whilst, wait for it, growing feathery wings on their backs for air mobility.
The problem stems from the difficulty of true multidisciplinary thinking. To project well into the future, one needs to understand a vast array of disciplines, scientific and humanities-based, and deeply grasp how findings in one field impact and grow atop developments in other fields ensuring some degree of harmony in technological advancement.
That is how come cooking in microwave ovens and talking to other people using wireless devices appear like starkly divergent cultural realities and yet provide a common defining hallmark of the late twentieth century. In fact, only a span of five years (1967 to 1972) separated the commercialisation of both technologies to the point where household ubiquity was only a matter of time.
The principle at play here is that a civilisation that has mastered electromagnetic radiation would apply it to remarkably diverse aspects of their culture, triggering powerful trends in multiple areas of research and application. Indeed, “microwave sterilisation” in the food sciences (which takes preservation of food to a whole new level) seem very removed from the nodes used in the Internet of Things, until we start seeing wireless sensors in microwaves, as is the case with the Tovala smart oven. Smart ovens, like Tovala, should eventually enable anyone to translate virtually any recipe into an adequate meal within a very short period of time.
The interplay of wireless technologies in this manner thus mean that at a certain point in the near future, the impact of wireless on our nutritional lives will not be limited to food-ordering apps. It is very likely that in a world where sensor technology has advanced to a point where it is truly ubiquitous, food ordering apps would be obsolete and “smart cooking” would become a better reflection of the “proper harmony across the state of relevant technologies”. If that is the case, then showing a food ordering app being used in a city completely swathed in driverless car infrastructure would constitute a case of “internal anachronism”.
I deliberately chose a very subtle example to illustrate the nuances. A much easier example would be an intelligent ambulance driving a person to an emergency theater rather than implementing the stabilisation and recovery techniques in situ.
If the long preamble has served its purpose of explaining the essence of the idea, then it should be easy to see how it applies to the dystopic visions of the future of work.
Simply put, the kind of general, human level, intelligence expected of computers in the next couple of years can only happen if there is an acceleration of a vast multitude of fields, both because AI at such an advanced state should dramatically boost research in every other field and also because to solve some of the complex problems confronting AI today would require advancement in a wide range of adjacent and not-so-adjacent fields, from networks to smart materials to micropower engineering.
The impact on our economy would be transformational to the point of opening up whole new frontiers in subsea habitation, space outposts, urban greening, species restoration, subterranean complexes etc etc. It is not simply that “new industries” will create new types of jobs. It is also that existing industries will grapple with scale issues of unimaginable proportions that cannot be automated a priori until the social, economic and technological interests have aligned enough to allow automation.
And to the extent that many of these new opportunities would first require human investment decisions, political clearance, and economic reconfiguration to take off, the employment cycle would follow the pattern of high human uptake followed by a productivity plateau and thereafter automation to improve returns on investment. Though the cycles would grow shorter, the new waves of “employment expansion” will also come faster and more intensely, even as the growth in human populations slow (a universal phenomenon of industrialisation).
A distorted understanding of how inter-disciplinary cross-fertilisation powers the growth of technological capacity, and how economic and cultural cycles interweave with waves of structural change, greatly underplays the power of “new frontier” exploration to open up new opportunities for humans to engage productively with the construction of new societies, even when the forces of change seem uncontrollable.
If you think that this is a far-off vision, then you get the point. Human-replacement level AI is a far-off vision too, because its emergence presupposes the vision I have described above. The same forces that can undermine, frustrate or drag that “massive scale” vision are the very ones that shall slow down the impact of human-replacement level AI and encourage instead many intermediate steps of human-complementary AI.

Building anything of consequence in Ghana, and by extension Africa, if you are an African, requires immense patience.

If the Brew Butler-Kweku Awotwi promoted 350MW Cenpower power plant is commissioned this year in Tema, Ghana (I note that both the mid-2017 and end-2017 timelines were missed, so the official Q2 2018 timeline may also be optimistic), it would have taken 11 years since the consortium was given its wholesale license to commence operations, and four years after it announced that it has finally succeeded in raising the money needed to build the plant. Raising the money alone took more than 10 years.

Cenpower, the first licensed fully private IPP in Ghana would be coming on stream a full 8 years after Sunon Asogli, the other contender for that distinction. Total development time was fifteen years, if counting from the company’s incorporation year, and more if counting from idea inception.

In the course of that time, the project scale was downsized by 50MW, the price tag ballooned from $300 million to $450 million and then to $900 million, as multiple investor rounds brought cash in tranches and backers cashed out and in, adding layers of cost. The EPC contract itself was tendered in 2010, but serious construction started sometime in 2015 after Parliamentary ratification of certain government concessions in 2012.

The “Ghana ownership” component is now about 21%, with founder’s equity whittled down to about 10%.

That’s what it takes to build a billion dollar behemoth in Ghana: 20 years and the boldness and sense to be willing to trade a 90% stake in your dream for realistic success.