‘Scientific education rescued me from the ghetto,’ American rap star Will.i.am explains how he moved into tech

American rapper Will.i.am is encouraging children away from dreams of becoming a pop star (File Photo/AFP)
Updated 15 February 2018
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‘Scientific education rescued me from the ghetto,’ American rap star Will.i.am explains how he moved into tech

DUBAI: American rap music met UAE technology ambitions at the World Government Summit in Dubai when musician and entrepreneur Will.i.am talked of the need to “teach, inspire and mentor” young people to be ready for life in the digital age.

The singer, who is also founder and chief executive of Hollywood tech company i.am+, told a mainly youthful audience at the summit that education in the sciences had inspired him to get out of the ghetto where he was born in Los Angeles, California. His musical and business success enabled him to move his entire family and many friends away from their deprived origins.

“It cost a lot of money, but governments have more money, so they can do a lot more,” he said.

He said a scientific education was the key to self-improvement. “We cannot all be basketball players because there are lots of basketball players out there. But there is a shortage of engineers,” he said.

The 42-year-old star, who also financially backed the successful headphone business Beats, said that these days his “instrument is my computer. I’ve moved from rhythm to algorithm.”

He was in conversation with Omar Bin Sultan Al-Olama, UAE minister of artificial intelligence, who asked him what he had learned from the summit about access to technology and development, the theme of their session.

“We are at an intersection. We’ve never been here before. We mastered trains and planes and bikes. Now there are things out there that are stronger than us. But we’ve tamed lions and tigers in the past, so we can tame artificial intelligence,” he replied.

He added that the priority had to be augmented intelligence, not artificial intelligence. “Our smartphones are being used for dumbness and your date is not your own. Take control of your data. At this summit I did not see corporations, I saw people.”


Chinese scientist who gene-edited babies fired by university

Updated 21 January 2019
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Chinese scientist who gene-edited babies fired by university

  • Hundreds of Chinese and international scientists condemned He Jiankui
  • Chinese authorities also denounced He and issued a temporary halt to research activities involving the editing of human genes

SHENZHEN, China: A Chinese scientist responsible for what he said were the world’s first “gene-edited” babies evaded oversight and broke guidelines in a quest for fame and fortune, state media said on Monday, as the university where he worked announced his dismissal.
He Jiankui said in November that he used a gene-editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to alter the embryonic genes of twin girls born that month, sparking an international outcry about the ethics and safety of such research.
Hundreds of Chinese and international scientists condemned He and said any application of gene editing on human embryos for reproductive purposes was unethical.
Chinese authorities also denounced He and issued a temporary halt to research activities involving the editing of human genes.
He had “deliberately evaded oversight” with the intent of creating a gene-edited baby “for the purpose of reproduction,” according to the initial findings of an investigating team set up by the Health Commission of China in southern Guangdong province, Xinhua news agency reported.
He had raised funds himself and privately organized a team of people to carry out the procedure in order to “seek personal fame and profit,” Xinhua said, adding that he had forged ethical review papers in order to enlist volunteers for the procedure.
The safety and efficacy of the technologies He used are unreliable and creating gene-edited babies for reproduction is banned by national decree, the report said.
The Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in the city of Shenzhen, said in a statement on its website that He had been fired.
“Effective immediately, SUSTech will rescind the work contract with Dr. Jiankui He and terminate any of his teaching and research activities at SUSTech,” the statement said.
The university added the decision came after a preliminary investigation by the Guangdong Province Investigation Task Force.
Neither He nor a representative could be reached for comment on Monday.
He defended his actions at a conference in Hong Kong in November, saying that he was “proud” of what he had done and that gene editing would help protect the girls from being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
He’s announcement sparked a debate among Chinese legal scholars over which laws He had technically broken by carrying out the procedure, as well as whether he could be held criminally responsible or not.
Many scholars pointed to a 2003 guideline that bans altered human embryos from being implanted for the purpose of reproduction, and says altered embryos cannot be developed for more than 14 days.
The case files of those involved who are suspected of committing crimes had been sent to the ministry of public security, an unnamed spokesperson for the investigation team was quoted by Xinhua as saying.