INDUSTRY INSIDER SERIES VOLUME 3: Dr. Devin Singh, Gabriela Nicolescu, Akshay Kalle
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Dr. Devin Singh is the Physician Lead for Clinical AI & Data Science within the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine
Akshay Kalle serves as the Chief Technical Officer at Pathway Communications, an IT Solutions Provider, as well as the AI-based cardiac monitoring start-up Elastic Care.
Gabriela Nicolescu is CEO of Kyber Security, a company providing seamless security for AI software. She is also a full professor at Polytechnique Montreal.
HOW DID YOU START A CAREER IN BIG DATA / ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE?
DS: My career in big data & AI started out of necessity. As a Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physician at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), I see first-hand the unique challenges facing medicine and healthcare delivery in Canada. I was discussing this at my best friend’s wedding with his brother (CEO of an A.I. start-up in California) and as I described the problem I was trying to solve he said, “have you thought of building an algorithm to help with that?” I knew nothing about machine learning and artificial intelligence at the time but as I looked closer it was very clear that a new technology was emerging and a great opportunity existed to solve complex problems in medicine with big data and AI. I began to teach myself how to code via online courses and am formalizing that education with a Masters in Computer Science at U of T. In doing so, I have been able to build custom machine learning solutions for our hospital and I look forward to growing the field of clinical artificial intelligence and machine learning.
GN: I am an expert in embedded systems and cybersystems. The integration of AI in these systems is imminent and it is difficult to separate today embedded or cybersystems from AI. Since AI was predicted as the driver for these systems, I started to explore this direction. I look into efficient and secure implementations for AI on embedded systems and cybersystems, that are at the edge of IoT.
AK: I was first exposed to some cutting-edge stuff attending graduate school at Cornell University, when I took some courses in machine learning. I was always toying around with automation to make my life easier but being exposed to some amazing faculty and projects had me totally hooked. I then did a second graduate degree, this time in mathematics, at the University of Toronto, to deepen my skills. Much of what is modern ML and AI rely heavily on math and I knew then I needed more than the basics if I was going to be able to develop, or even practically use, anything even remotely advanced. After a stint with a friend applying ML to some interesting real-life problems, I dove into industry and never looked back. While a lot of what I do is technical, an increasing amount is concerned with matters of regulations, ethics and the law — areas that don’t have easy solutions. I continue to learn, every day.
PRACTICALLY EVERY INDUSTRY IS, OR WILL BE, IMPACTED BY AI. WHAT IS ONE OF THE MORE INTERESTING APPLICATIONS OF AI HAPPENING IN YOUR INDUSTRY/LINE OF WORK?
DS: At SickKids, our Emergency Department is one of the most active teams in the country investing in research, development, and integration of machine learning and AI tools into clinical practice. We currently use machine learning to assist with patient flow throughoutthe Emergency Department improving wait-times, resource utilization, and patient safety. Most exciting are the predictive models being developed for children and the potential for automating aspects of care in order to reduce practice variation and reduce medical error. One of the most interesting areas currently in early development are AI networks designed to leverage pediatric expertise at hospitals like SickKids and translate this knowledge to community providers by deploying models across the province/country. These models will learn in real-time and adapt to the unique populations they serve and help provide access to pediatric expertise in resources constrained areas. Together we can leverage machine learning and AI to improve the way we deliver healthcare to children across the world. Very exciting!
AK: Healthcare is being turned upside down not just by AI, but by automation, a marketplace model. Intelligence of varying levels, and deep AI, are being used with increasing breadth and depth to not just organize data, but to also find patterns to help detect, diagnose, prevent and come up with treatment plans. The healthcare industry is one that isn’t going away any time soon. And with growing and ageing populations, the amount of data and work that needs to be done requires force multipliers like intelligent automation. There are interesting things going on, but not all efforts have been successful. The reasons range from politics to quality of data, and most importantly, safety. But a large part still has to do with a gulf between the engineers who make systems and the people who use them. The most useful and successful applications I’ve seen employ a design thinking approach, with ethnography and psychology at its core. In a nutshell, empathy yields a higher chance of success. We’ve adopted this mindset at Elastic Care and have made some surprising decisions based on that approach, all with positive results.
ON THE OTHER HAND, AI ALSO HAS THE CAPACITY TO COMPLETELY DISRUPT ASPECTS OF EVERYDAY LIFE. WHICH APPLICATION(S) OF AI DO YOU THINK WILL BE MOST DISRUPTIVE TO THE AVERAGE PERSON?
GN: Smart cities including smart homes, hospitals, schools, transportation, etc. I hope that this infrastructure will help people to reduce their level of stress and to reduce also their fear of being less autonomous because of aging, illness or accidents. I hope also that this new type of infrastructure will reduce the amount of routine activities and give to people more time for creativity and activities helping to understands new dimensions of humanity surrounding.
AK: The areas most ripe for disruption, in my view, include healthcare, food and water (yes, water), genetics and chemistry. Everybody falls sick, requires safe and nutritious food and water, and can benefit greatly from better and more sustainable medicines (that are more than just antibiotic cocktails), and needs to safely and sustainably use the planet. Education and access to it is another major area that is already seeing a massive disruption. These are areas with an outlook of hundreds of years, and not the next fiscal quarter. AI can help with phage therapy, to discover and manufacture vaccines, to come up with compounds and automation that can clean our increasingly polluted waters, create substitutes for harmful plastics, and teach our children facts and not opinions.
While many people may say banking and commercial areas could use a hand, they tend to be focussed on what is a very narrow and globally affluent market that can afford smartphones and homes. We’re at a point where we can tackle planet-level goals.
FINAL THOUGHTS: WHAT IS CANADA’S COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE IN THE GLOBAL AI RACE?
GN: Canada has a talent pool of researchers, pioneers with prominence in scientific and community. They willing to collaborate with rising Canadian AI companies and they are supported by government and established companies.
AK: It’s about creating a pipeline – right from the start. Canada has been a leader in the AI space for a long time, but that’s the culmination of a lot of things that went right along the way. It’s not just because we have great universities and amazing professors. It’s also because we have safe cities and supporting economical and general societal norms and structures that enable any person to obtain and upgrade their skills and education without having to trade off their safety, health or the roof over their heads. There’s no point having 50 AI research centres if they cost an arm and a leg to attend or take 3 hours to travel to. It’s easy to take these aspects for granted, but a closer look at other countries along these lines really brings the advantages and privileges we have as Canadians into stark relief. In that sense, Canada’s competitive edge is really its identity and modus operandi…to do those things that are Canadian and live the values that define Canada.
DS: Canada’s competitive advantage in the Global AI race can be found amongst the diversity of people who call themselves Canadian. Our country’s cultural mosaic has fostered collaborative professional environments between diverse populations of people leading to the development of unique and creative applications of AI to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.