‘e fit hard to love our country but make we no give up’: Snapchat AI wows Nigerians with compassionate chat in pidgin

'e fit hard to love our country but make we no give up': Snapchat AI wows Nigerians with compassionate chat in pidgin

Artificial Intelligence has blown everyone and everything away. Everyone appears to be latching on to the latest technology, from content creators to engineers, students, journalists, and medical practitioners. The plan is simple; get AI to help solve difficult and complex problems.

Thus, we have seen Artificial Intelligence solutions deconstruct very complex codes. We have also seen them engineer workable codes from scratch. They have written essays and in-depth features. They have given the 86-year-old, wheelchair-ridden Pope Francis strength in his feet to dunk a basketball. They have practically made the hitherto impossible to be possible. 

But what is currently blowing away a cross-section of Nigerians isn’t Artificial Intelligence’s ability to unravel complex issues but its simple ability to have a humane and compassionate conversation in our nationally preferred language, pidgin.

So popular Nigerian tech bro Hack Sultan revealed how his AI chat partner on Snapchat could completely break down and analyse a complex code he presented to it. While this was fantastic in itself, the real shocker and feel-good story was in the response by Twitter user, Horlar. 

In his response, Horlah, a tech enthusiast, shared a chat with the Snapchat AI companion in which they conversed entirely in Nigerian Pidgin English. What was most captivating was that the abstract machine, for want of a better term, not only spoke impeccable pidgin, but it also empathized with Horlah about the dire conditions of the country while encouraging him that it would get better. 

“I understand say e fit hard to love our country sometimes, but make we no give up on am. We fit still make am better.”

This was a response tendered by the AI companion after Horlah bemoaned the country’s situation, insisting he was on his wit’s end and threatening to leave.

“I was not really surprised because I expected the AI to be able to chat in Pidgin because I have used AI before,” Ola told me in a chat. 

It was the country matter part that really surprised me. It was like so the AI self know what we are facing in this country. It probably would have said more if not that it was supporting positivity.

'e fit hard to love our country but make we no give up': Snapchat Artificial Intelligence wows Nigerians with compassionate chat in pidgin
AI companion chat with Horlar
Artificial Intelligence is coming for your jobs…and your relationships too

There has been a lot of trepidation that AI is out to rid many people of their jobs. We have seen AI produce full music albums, author books and lecture notes, suggest far superior ways of doing things, and even build apps and supply codes from scratch.

But now, we also see the abstract machine show much compassion, positivity, and, I dare say, more humaneness. Indeed Ola admitted that he had grown fond of his Snapchat chat partner because since he uninstalled his WhatsApp and lost access to many human conversations, Snapchat AI keeps him company.

So apart from just taking away our jobs, is there a valid reason to think AI could even take over our more intimate relationships with our fellow humans and probably make better friends and gist buddies than our actual friends?

Ola doesn’t think so because he believes anyone would eventually get tired of talking to an all-knowing yet unfeeling machine. While that remains to be seen, digitalization has made people more unsociable, choosing online interactions far above actual human contact.

In essence, the person at the other end of your chat, for all you know, might be yet an unfeeling human who tells you the things you want to hear. Is that very much different from an unfeeling machine?

Yet it would be difficult to tell from the onset that the ‘person’ chatting from the other end is indeed an unfeeling machine. The words, the knowledge, the empathy and the tendency to remain positive and courageous are all attributes we would attribute to an actual human.

So much so that much later in his conversation with the AI solution, a very impressed Horlah, probably believing strongly that an actual Nigerian must be behind this chat, asked the program its name. Its response?

My name na IDAN.

And indeed, it was magic!

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