The Strange Attractor

Bridging Worlds: Technology's Impact on Society with Physicist-Turned-Entrepreneur Aqeel Akber

March 04, 2024 Co-Labs Australia Season 1 Episode 8
The Strange Attractor
Bridging Worlds: Technology's Impact on Society with Physicist-Turned-Entrepreneur Aqeel Akber
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

We recently reconnected with Aqeel Akber, a nuclear physicist turned entrepreneur and co-founder of AI and Data consultancy Thaum. 15 minutes into our catch-up at Market Lane over a batch brew, we decided to jump behind the mic for an impromptu exploration into the heart of technology's impact on society.

It's not every day that you meet a kindred spirit at Burning Seed, but when you do, you're in for a dialogue that dances from the poetic ebb and flow of whale migrations to the gritty pragmatics of AI's rapid evolution. Our discussion traverses the realms of quantum and nuclear physics, machine learning, and the ethics of innovation, offering a fresh lens through which to view the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

You might wonder how whale tracking and scientific innovation find common ground with machine learning intricacies, but it's all part of the curious mind of Aqeel Akber. The WhalePod project exemplifies the ingenuity that springs from the fusion of disciplines. We share the backstory of this intriguing endeavour, its impact on our understanding of the ocean's largest inhabitants, and the broader environmental consequences. Meanwhile, we tackle the uncertainties of data and the implications of imperfect models, diving into the ever-evolving world of artificial intelligence with a critical yet hopeful eye toward its potential to reshape our collective futures.

To wrap up our epic exchange, we contemplate the human elements at the heart of technological progress—diversity, creativity, love, and connection. As we discuss the role of diverse backgrounds in innovation and how AI could bridge cultural divides, it becomes clear that our digital age holds the promise of uniting us in ways we've yet to grasp fully. Join us for an episode that challenges conventions, inspires a reimagining of value and perception, and, ultimately, redefines the essence of human purpose in a world increasingly shaped by the tools we create.

We look forward to seeing what Aqeel manages to manifest in his next venture as they continue on their mission of 'making the ethical decision, the economic one' using cleverness and invention.

Want to know more? Keep up with Aqeel's latest movements on LinkedIn.

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Samuel Wines:

Hello and welcome to the Strange Attractor, an experimental podcast from Colabs, a transdisciplinary innovation hub and biotechnology co-working lab based in Melbourne, Australia. I'm your co-host, sam Wines, and alongside my co-founder, andrew Gray, we'll delve deep into the intersection of biology, technology and society through the lens of complexity and systems thinking. Join us on a journey of discovery as we explore how transdisciplinary innovation, informed by life's regenerative patterns and processes, could help us catalyze the transition towards a thriving future for people and the planet. Hello and welcome to another episode of the Strange Attractor.

Samuel Wines:

So this was a really impromptu podcast actually, so there was no preparation or anything that went into it, so I apologise if it seems a little bit less cool, calm and collected. It was just a really fun conversation that I got into with someone, but that someone being Aqeel Akber from Canberra. So I met them at Burning Seed it would have been five years ago and in that time, we've both been on our own journeys and they set up a successful start-up, exited and are now looking to explore interesting other possibilities, which, in their words, would be to create as much confusion as possible as a means of bringing us all closer together, which I think is kind of beautiful. So, yeah, I hope you enjoy this impromptu episode of The Strange Attractor with Aqeel Akber. Awesome. Well, this is a surprise. I wasn't expecting us to end up in front of microphones. We were just coming back from having a coffee and this conversation is really good. And you were saying you'd never recorded a podcast before. No, no, no.

Samuel Wines:

Ah Well, just hearing you tell that story about how you, I guess I don't want to ruin the story but here, because obviously we're going to lean into this but it was just so fascinating because so much of the points that you said and that you'd made resonated quite a lot with the story and the journey that Andrew and myself have had. And it's been five years since we met at Burning Seed, of all places, and it sounds like so much has changed since then. But then I kind of love how much is still the same but it's the same. But after the change, like there are things that we've both co-learned at the same time in different areas and you're like, oh, that interrelates.

Aqeel Akber:

What is the word like emergent, evolution or convergent.

Samuel Wines:

It was emergent evolution, right Divergent, and then now, convergent, it makes sense that it's the same things.

Aqeel Akber:

that resonates with you. It's about trying to do good with technology. Like you're a biologist, I'm a scientist, a physicist, and we have this entrepreneurial spirit. What can we do? And just trying to go for it. And it's the same path.

Samuel Wines:

Yeah, actually that was something that I really found quite beautiful that you said before just about, I guess, your vision statement for what you do in life and also what you did with your first business.

Aqeel Akber:

Making the ethical decision the economic one, like we can't really fight out right now that economics and capitalism is where it's at. So what can we do within it? And I actually don't really see having just had my shares brought back in my exit really thinking about what capitalism is. In many ways I was much more idealistic when I was young. It's at least allowed me to be able to kind of move up in a socioeconomic class with my parents from poverty, and so it's got some benefits there. But no matter what, we're always going to be exporting our poverty down. But it's also democratized, this idea of now people can become an aristocrat in a way. So it's an odd thing that I believe that invention and science is the only thing that allows us to really get that real arbitrage of being able to make something that can make the ethical decision the economic one, because that's where it's like. Now there's something new that can change.

Samuel Wines:

So, on that note, could you give everyone a bit of a backstory about who you are, how you've got to, where you got to and obviously even before that? So you were trying to finish off your PhD in quantum physics, nuclear physics, so that's the tear up, right, if we're looking at a scale perspective, everything is quantum.

Aqeel Akber:

I guess I like to study the nucleus. I thought it was very interesting. It was the first time when I did my nuclear physics course and undergrad that they had a slide up and the color of the nucleons actually mattered. And I'm like I like colors. That's cool.

Samuel Wines:

So surely there was like what is it that pulled you into the nucleus?

Aqeel Akber:

I guess. Okay, so a part of it could be my dad. I can't discount that he is also a nuclear physicist environmental nuclear physicist but I actually studied IT straight out of high school and then I found that really boring. I fell asleep during the information systems lecture. I was just describing a table and I just went into physics because it was sufficiently hard. That's actually kind of the thing. What brought me to nuclear physics sufficiently hard. I think there's something in doing the hard thing. There's always going to be something interesting there.

Aqeel Akber:

But dropped my PhD to found form five years ago, which is in AI, consulting at the time, moving now into ideas of robotics as well and data science, just being able to apply the same sort of problem-solving skills and thinking. You know how I got to where I was and where I am. I guess my name is Akil Akbar, my pronouns are they and them Should mention that. When I said all my stuff follow your excitement, and that's all I kind of did. I didn't expect to go on this path and I just kept doing that. It made sense to move into using AI and also I really believe in applied science a lot more.

Aqeel Akber:

Like gosh. I remember when I joined my PhD, when saying I'm a nuclear physicist basically became a pickup line. It was just like it's not right, it's not why you're here. I didn't think anyone goes into science for that, and academia was quite, and is still a bit, quite, toxic with gender issues, as well as just being overworked and what's expected. So I wanted to make a better place for that, or great people, to do great things with them, and yeah, that was it. It's a journey.

Samuel Wines:

Nice. So you were saying a lot of the work that you were doing was, obviously it was curiosity led that led you to these places. But then, once you're in that context, it was almost challenge led innovation. Right, you were saying that in a way, you guys, for fun, we started doing hackathons until you realized that you could also get paid to do hackathons for the government.

Aqeel Akber:

Absolutely. It was hilarious, so procrastinating from our PhDs, doing hackathons, having a lot of fun with it. Then people wanted to pay us money or hire us and we just thought maybe we should start a company that might be something here, because we really believed in trying to really be more impactful than we believed other companies that would hire us could be, and we also believed in making a good space. Thorn is still around. I'll talk about in the past tense because I'm no longer like a shareholder there. That's really the idea.

Samuel Wines:

And with Thorn. So you're a consulting group that looked at, because this is the thing right, you're all trained physicists or maybe not anymore, but the original co-founding crew were all physicists, and so there must be something with that way of looking at the world which provided you with a benefit when bringing that to problem solving, I assume.

Aqeel Akber:

Yeah, xkcdcom forward slash 797. I have memorized this URL because it is the easiest way to describe to people. It's essentially a comic that shows a physicist that came up to somebody else who's got some other problem in another field and it's like can't you just solve this with simple model that I just came up with and then add these additional variables that I just thought of then, and it's easy, right? Why does your field have a journal anyway? That sort of arrogance, in a way, is it, gets you the good enough to be able to make a better decision, because there's low lying fruit in the fact that people don't do anything at all.

Aqeel Akber:

So if you can provide something simpler, a simple solution, then show that it's easy. They're just amazed. So I think, though, as a physicist for me particularly I'm an experimental physicist, I guess the way that my dad taught me to play like I think education is such an important thing. I'm a researcher at heart and I always will be, and you see the world differently as a physicist. You definitely see the world differently. It's so beautiful, like everything is made up of these nucleons. It's amazing, and I love that. It's something that you can apply, that thinking and thought to things as high and as abstract as business. That's, I think, really the key, if I can do it with nucleons which are femtometer scale and have ideas in my head and paint a picture in my head. I did a collaboration with a street artist once to paint what was in the nucleus and my research.

Aqeel Akber:

that was fun. If I can do that, I can understand the confluence of things that come together in larger systems, in organizations and for doing business itself. So I think that's the way of it.

Samuel Wines:

Yeah, Like that resonates with me as someone who's, I guess you could say like self-taught in complexity, science and systems theory, is that you realize that there is a pattern that connects all the way through from the microscale to the mesoscale to the macroscale and there are certain things that we'll repeat at multiple different scales and as you tend to go up that stack you have emergence of things that's a newer, novel, that might not have appeared at the stack below.

Samuel Wines:

But fundamentally there are these processes and patterns and principles which you can see that relate to the whole and the parts, and once you can begin to see that, it allows you, kind of like you know, once you play all this, like the scales on a piano or on a guitar and you can suddenly now play any song that you hear, it's like once you can see those, all those different scales of how you can make sense of the world, you can start to play more freely with that.

Samuel Wines:

So when you enter into a problem space, you can be like, oh, this could go like this and this could be here, and suddenly you can bring this wider boundary perspective outside of a single, I guess, domain or discipline. So, even though you're saying like, I hear you saying physicist, I hear you saying transdisciplinary thinker, or, you know, intersectional innovation, like all of these other words that could be kind of used that to me speak more true to, I guess, what I imagine you would be doing. But I'm curious to know if that's sort of something that lands or resonates with you.

Aqeel Akber:

Absolutely, and I love that you use the word play, because I am a strong believer that when I am hiring staff, I try to see whether they can play. And whenever I'm actually meeting people, I see whether they can play with whatever it is in their field and their domain expertise, because then I know that they have mastered it. So if you master it pretty much anything to the point of play, then you're comfortable with understanding that even the.

Aqeel Akber:

Thing that you studied so far, that might be so rigid and so niche is malleable and you can do it yourself and it's kind of like. You know you're mentioning the models and how kind of like can like the scales right and then you can play. You know, I'm also a believer in like. No model might be fully true. There may be a pattern. It might not be real like it's, but it's good enough, it's working.

Samuel Wines:

That's not the territory, sort of thing.

Aqeel Akber:

So you can play with your understanding and perception of how it connects together as well. So, in form, we just believe to make a space for people to be able to think like that and interdisciplinary, like applied sort of technologies as well as people, is very much key to what we do, like I, one of my major projects that I worked on was developing Whale Pod, which is a system to automatically detect whales at sea using AI. I should say I'm not trained in AI formally or computing formally, it's just it's the skill you can pick up, and I built a system that I had to build my own camera system because nothing could actually detect a whale at the range and speed that we needed. I used my physics knowledge there. I built a prototyping of all of that. So I used my tinkering knowledge and all that sort of stuff as well in engineering. It was actually really fascinating.

Aqeel Akber:

The nobody built and solved this problem because there was one key point where they just couldn't fit a lens onto a camera. They said that they're not compatible and it spent two weeks being like why can't I just put it on? Why can't I just do it?

Samuel Wines:

Surely there's an adapter or something.

Aqeel Akber:

Well, they just told me it's not compatible and I'm like why it doesn't make sense. You can use a lens on any sensor. Like for me as a physicist doing the arrogance thing. It's like I just drew ray diagrams bending them to a sensor. I'm like it has to work. It doesn't matter 3D.

Samuel Wines:

print me one right now. Just make it happen.

Aqeel Akber:

So it turned out. It actually was just that you couldn't fit it physically and because there was very much you're buying from, because we built WhalePod with commercial off-the-shelf parts, which I think is quite useful in this economy, then the engineers and people selling it to you they just are reading what's in the book. They only know their domain, which engineering is great for reproducibility and process, but they didn't know that you can actually just fit it somewhere else and it will just work. They don't know the physics of it. So that was fun. I just like dropping several thousands, tens of thousands of dollars on my hunch that you know what. I think it's going to work and it then actually working. But it also required some putting this lens very expensive lens in a lathe and then shaving off half a mil or something like that. And lucky at the research called physics, we have some incredible, incredible sort of technicians there that worry what to do that.

Samuel Wines:

Yeah, I can't believe you just literally lay. So you just pretty much sandpapered, like in. This is obviously a terrible descriptor of it. I'm straw money. You literally sandpapered the lens to make it fit. You're like, no, it'll fit, you just change the shape and get it in there it was just the threading.

Aqeel Akber:

The threading it just hit the camera housing before being able to fit it in. Otherwise, like it's just, I drew and I was not like backing myself up. I guess I was backing myself up. I eventually backed myself up but I made sure I didn't. I drew my ray diagrams. I'm like it has to work. It's just simple, it's just physics, they're just photons. It just has to work. There's nothing else here and I just kept thinking about it. What other things could be like here, what other second order effects and stuff like that? Because second order effects always matter.

Samuel Wines:

And then thought of her for that matter as well.

Aqeel Akber:

So I left.

Samuel Wines:

I made sure that I wasn't just jumping in on impulse, but that wasn't just getting random notifications I think by this time into doing this podcast that I'd know to put do not disturb on. But sometimes I just get way too excited to jump into a conversation.

Aqeel Akber:

You know the funny thing, I guess going to interdisciplinary effects as well. I think that that's something as in business you have to be, and when I was making whale pod, it's awesome. I actually know a ridiculous amount of things about whale migrations around Australia. Now, it's an odd thing. I never thought I would.

Aqeel Akber:

And it was wonderful, waking up every day just being like save the whale, save the world, Save the whale, save the world. Just great. And having so much of that in my life. I didn't expect to be a whale scientist, and so I speak to so many whale scientists.

Samuel Wines:

I'm sure there's plenty of people who'd be so envious of that position. I know my partner, emmy. She is an absolute whale fan. She absolutely loves whales, and knowing that she could potentially find your device to track where the whales are, just so that she could see them, would make her so happy. But yeah, I mean, whales are fascinating and you say, save the whale, save the world. But I know you're probably saying that as a bit of like a it's a good catchphrase. But it's actually like when you look at the biological pump that whales do with, like circulating nutrients through, I guess, the habitable zone of the I don't know what that top layer is called of the ocean anymore I forgot pretty much where the light can penetrate through. It's pretty much where they hang out. They're actually like essential for helping move carbon through that system. So yeah, you're not too far off when you say that.

Aqeel Akber:

I remember reading that paper.

Samuel Wines:

Oh, do you know what the title of the?

Aqeel Akber:

paper was, I don't remember, but I think it was published in nature even, and it's about how the whales, when they die, they actually bury the carbon and stuff like that. The whale scientists that I spoke to during that time were a bit skeptical of that idea, I guess. Yeah, it's always hard, you know, I think in science we are so desperate to be like. This is the answer.

Aqeel Akber:

Or maybe I think in Western science particularly and we're not comfortable with accepting that. It's heuristic in some way instead of saying smoking on, this is always the solution, it's part of the puzzle. Like, if you think about it, yes, there are a lot of carbon and they're dropping down to the bottom of the ocean. It's very incarbon and you know, if you think about the fact that ecosystems survive and anything that it sounds like a healthy ecosystem. So plus is the bar test, the pub test, in a way, for me.

Aqeel Akber:

So about how much it could capture and drop it down. I am not sure. The reason why I actually looked into this so much is because I wanted to see whether I could use that as a point for pushing commercialization of how much carbon we're actually saving Like carbon credit, actually getting measurements and stuff like this. So much, like you know, I guess, quantifiable measurement that's needed, I guess, to push things economically.

Samuel Wines:

But, as you said, like with that I mean qualitatively it's just nice to have them around, like it's like don't get me wrong.

Samuel Wines:

Like it's great, like quantitative is essential and fundamental, but like even just thinking about what you're saying then and then baking in like Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and all these other things there was, like you're never going to fully know something, 110% as a fact, and like if you want to track a particle's spin, you can't tell its location, and it's like that same pattern kind of plays out even just with measuring data with other things. It's like you could there's infinite amount of data you can take from something, but it's figuring out. What are the main like three or four variables that will give you like 95% accuracy in 97% of the situations, knowing it's not perfect, and then how can we use that?

Samuel Wines:

to be able to create enough of a map of the territory to make sense with it and that's like modeling generally when I won.

Aqeel Akber:

And I think a thing that you learn a lot from physics, especially as an experimental physicist, is you choose a model, but you know where it's good to and you know where it's not good to, and I think a lot of people they don't know they're modeling well enough.

Aqeel Akber:

Maybe they don't know their unknown unknowns which I don't really like that term. It's quite possible to know your unknowns and know where it's gonna end, and I guess this kind of tells me. I guess a bit of the kind of scientists that I am as well I remember going through my undergrad and thinking about going through my time of my religion and thinking about creation and things like that are very so many scientists and physicists, I guess, especially young men. They're just militantly atheists, they're just militant about everything.

Samuel Wines:

I can relate to that, as when you're like 17, 18, you're like this is the way, science is the way I've never been that way.

Aqeel Akber:

I've never been that way. For me, it's just like, actually, and I think it's my dad teaching me in science being a scientist is a humble servant of society, and it's just like you have your mind open a bit.

Aqeel Akber:

So I just thought about the fact okay, why are people fighting over this whole thing? It's kind of silly. Then I thought okay, if I could build a time machine to go back before time existed and see this creation point? That's the only way you can know with certainty. Otherwise people are gonna keep arguing. But that, fundamentally, is a paradox that cannot be solved, because if you build something within this universe and try to go outside of it, it won't exist Simply. And that's sort of what I mean by being able to understand where something breaks or ends, but still being able to use the idea. And that's what I mean by the whale paper Even though you might not be fully complete, you can still use the idea. That's so critical, I think, for us moving forward, and it'll be really interesting the day that we accept machines can make mistakes and machines actually don't give you the answer exactly.

Samuel Wines:

Well, isn't that? Pretty much all AI models are 100% wrong all the time, but they're 95% accurate. Oh gosh, they're always slightly, because you have mentioned that you're doing AI consulting, but that's not far off the truth, right?

Aqeel Akber:

When you say wrong, what do you mean? Hmm.

Samuel Wines:

Let's say they might give you a result based off the data set that they're pulling from, but not all the data in that set is what we might call accurate. Yeah, and then that will cause it to hallucinate, or maybe the way in which you've framed a question or the context window that you provided it. Yeah. All of these things, all the data you've trained on yourself, or if it's like there's so many different things that can shape how it will provide information. Yeah.

Aqeel Akber:

I guess I can talk about machine learning a bit. So yeah, you know, whenever I say AI, I really mean machine learning. I don't think we're anywhere near artificial intelligence, like nowhere near it, or yeah, nowhere near it. I was thinking about this actually today when I went for my morning walk.

Aqeel Akber:

In machine learning there is, or just any sort of modeling, classification, regression, and then there's these new models of generative sort of AI really, really cool stuff. Classification and regression. Classification is like you see clusters within data. That's a supervised learning thing. You statistically fit a model to that to be able to give you a prediction Regression. You then put a decision threshold in that to say, now, this is the line it could be. You can then use that to make some sort of conclusions. That again is something that you kind of bacon yourself with your data and what you're labeling Generative sort of things. These are really interesting.

Aqeel Akber:

It blows my mind that it's only been what six, seven years with machine learning getting accessible, deep learning getting accessible or actually possible With I think it was the creation of the NVIDIA 1080 Ti was powerful enough and cheap enough, and then a few years after that we got generative adversarial networks. That's the deep fakes. You go to thispersantosonexistcom, that thing. That blows my mind that that was such a short period of time ago Crazy. But that's when you're just training something against something that can classify very well. That's how they'd make GANs. You had one that could be like this is a face. I am classifying a face. This is a human. This is a human. And you get one that starts with pure random noise and then you're slowly tweaking it to be able to do gradient descent, trying to fit your model, to be able to make something that just spits out and that will trick the thing that's really good at seeing a face. And then if we think about transformers or I guess GPT or any sort of generative model, they're just predicting the next word.

Samuel Wines:

They're word optimization. That's what Ben and Justin say all the time is like it's literally just. All it's doing is finding the next word that makes the most sense in the context of the previous other words.

Aqeel Akber:

Yeah.

Samuel Wines:

Based on your input. That's right.

Aqeel Akber:

And it's purely statistical. I guess the clear thing that I want to make here is that all of these things are just statistical models. They're just algorithms, that's all they are. It's just like any other model and I guess that we've used. If you will fit a straight line to data, that's the same sort of deal. I you know tongue in cheek. Think of it as you have polynomial fitting with a billion variables. Yes.

Aqeel Akber:

Then you can describe any sort of functional act is the idea, and that's deep learning and AI, but it's still just fitting our model and it has its flaws. Particularly, I believe deep learning explicitly can only interpolate. It can't really extrapolate. That's, I think, a very key thing to remember, well, and that's. These are the sorts of things where it's like, if you actually know your model, then you at least you can use them in a way, that is, with eyes open, and that's something that I was very passionate and we very much passionate about our form. That's a scientist within us. You don't do things blindly. That's so important. I think we're talking earlier about how the things that you know could save us are also the things that can kill us, absolutely yeah.

Aqeel Akber:

And that is a key thing. Like, if you think about it, they can only interpolate and not extrapolate. Don't use these as oracles. Don't use it to be able to try to understand things that are outside of its scope, or, if you do, be wary.

Samuel Wines:

Just acknowledge those, as you were saying before. Acknowledge where the boundaries are. You can still play with them, they're not fixed but just being aware of these things, having the self awareness and then also the systemic awareness to know where this model might not map onto the territory anymore and when you might need to use another heuristic or where you might need to create something totally new, because actually this intersection hasn't been explored thoroughly enough. Exactly, I love the fact that you're an experimental physicist working in applied technology and innovation. Something about that, almost oxymoron, makes me really happy and I'd love to know what your take on that is why? Because a lot of the time you normally hear it's like someone's either X or they're Y right and you're sort of sitting in this super position where you're like actually there's a lot of really useful stuff from here that I can take over and apply in the real world.

Aqeel Akber:

Experimental physics and experimental nuclear physics. I'm a big. I love precision and measurement. I think whenever we have a new measurement of things, we actually discover a whole heap of new things, which makes new technology. That, I think, is just so key. You uncover a thing and discover something, and then you can make cool things. I believe in the cycle of engineering science altogether. There's this triangle for data science. I've forgotten who mentioned it data, information, knowledge, wisdom. There's this triangle and that's kind of like your understanding. You start with just raw noise and data and then you have information, turn them into knowledge, wisdom. The way that I interpret this.

Samuel Wines:

Sounds very Bateson-esque. You know Gregory Bateson. I feel like he'd say something like that.

Aqeel Akber:

I have no idea. See, I guess I kind of just grab what kind of works with me and I just keep running with it. I'm not so big on names, maybe that's why I've never done a podcast. I'm just continuously using what I can where I think it was useful, which is totally fine by me. So the data part the way that I interpret this my interpretation of all this data.

Aqeel Akber:

For me, raw noise, raw measurements, unintelligible noise measurements, information You've now put it into a format that you can start to use. Knowledge means that now it's in a language that a human can understand. Wisdom is insights and wisdom to be able to do that. If I think about from a scientist perspective, experimental, physicist perspective, you are applying your knowledge to be able to get ideas from your information, your measurement, and then the wisdom is the thought of how to explain that in mathematics it's actually connecting the theory, so that kind of completes that loop, I believe.

Aqeel Akber:

For me personally, it's something. I personally believe that there's another thing on top of that which is vision, and that, I think, is something where you're transcending wisdom altogether and really just kind of dreaming of it up. We don't have enough people that are brave enough to do that or to say that I think that's a cultural thing at the moment.

Aqeel Akber:

And if we then think about another thing that I thought about, that kind of sits horizontally to this thing Once you have knowledge, you can start being productive, so you can produce things, which is very cool, and I think of these, like okay, I can now have knowledge, I can make these little blocks. And then I think of, okay, when I get that wisdom, then I can start to create things. I can start putting these blocks on top of each other, making buildings, and only when you're standing on top of all those buildings can you get that overlooking view of the city, and that's when you get vision. And I think the next thing, if I think about the horizontal, that's invention, and that's, though, to be able to invent a new thing or measure a new thing, or you start to see something again.

Aqeel Akber:

It's that's the discovery part, I guess, of science, where you're doing blue sky sort of things or invention sort of things in any way, but the idea is there's just one thing you eventually need to close the loop and go back up again and you have to produce the thing and apply it. That's so close relationship of science and engineering and even just like deep science stuff in your technicians in your lab and everything like it's. It's all just. At the end of the day, it has to exist so you observe nature to be able to actually do something with it. I saw there was a documentary about AI or something like that, and there was a scientist. Scientist that mentioned something very cool, which was if you think about humans, we are our technology. Absolutely, we're wearing clothes. Couldn't agree more with this.

Samuel Wines:

Yeah, I am. There's something. And another thing on top of that. I feel like you really enjoy this. I'll try and find a way to weave it in.

Samuel Wines:

But yeah, the tech, the technology we create, it's like ontological design. We create technology and the technology we make then shapes our patterns of behavior and thinking. So the tools we make shape us, which then it's recursive, because then next iteration of things we create are based on the things that we just had. So you also end up in lock, evolutionary lockstep, with your technology, which is it's fascinating to think about that. But you know we can obviously always change it. But once you bake that technology into the infrastructure layer, the feedback loops for change away longer, and then, as soon as it gets embedded in culture and worldview, good luck.

Samuel Wines:

Like you know that that can take a long time unless you can have something, except prime example being economics worked really well for a while, you know, and then that just became like the be able to end all, and then we're like hang on, no, infinite growth on a finite planet doesn't work.

Samuel Wines:

But you know, science was only trendy oh, it's still still obviously trendy now, but you know it was the real voice of reason, let's say, up until social physics appeared, which is what they originally called economics, before switching it to economics, because they're like hey, everyone loves physics, let's just take that title and run with it to make this shit sound legit, even though it isn't. But yeah, look. So it worked really well for a short amount of time, but it's just not really viable in its current form anymore. You know, the maps no longer map onto the territory and we need some people to stand up and, and you know, processing all the data, the information and the knowledge and the wisdom, looking up with the vision and be like I know that there is, there is a better future. That's not just possible but preferable, that we can, that we can manifest, you know, but it's it's gonna like, from my perspective, it's going to take multiple ways of knowing the science and the engineering. All these things are valid, but we also, you know, we need, like, intuition.

Samuel Wines:

Like and I feel like you look at Einstein, you look at Tesla all of these scientific greats were very intuitive, you know, a lot of the time they'd be playing an instrument and something would come to them, or that they'd be thinking about something in the bathtub and like perceiving, like I know Einstein would say, like he would stand in the arrow of time and then off to the side and then look at it from different angles and then that was how he would come up with his ideas through him, like thinking, but embodying himself in the vision, to be able to perceive how these things might happen in a way which you can only make happen in your mind, because you could never perceive that thought experiment in reality.

Samuel Wines:

And I find that stuff for me is so fascinating and beautiful because that speaks to, I guess, the artistic and the and that side of thinking which a lot of the time, as scientists you're, I guess, either trained to pretend it, you know you don't think like that, like it's a very left brain, reductionist, mechanistic, linear thinking, except for maybe those in the, in the physics field, where you actually see things as systems. But yeah, I feel like that to me is something that I find super fascinating and obviously beautiful, but I think that also ties into, like your latest venture and project that you're currently looking at exploring.

Aqeel Akber:

Yeah, I guess I'm a bit unsabotical. I know what I need to do. I want to get back into business. I believe that the thing that kind of got me with the one that got me to where I am, I think it's funny I say I've never had a real job in my life.

Aqeel Akber:

I really haven't, somehow neither really somehow, yeah, I got into starting my own company, having all these stuff, and I just know my next steps is to kind of focus on this idea of I'm applying this process and mindset in every way I think possible and I really want to be able to create human-centric experiences, and I genuinely don't know much more than that yet. Everything you mentioned there I love, and I had to write notes on what I wanted to say. It was so good.

Samuel Wines:

Please. Well, I'd love to hear what these notes are. Oh my goodness.

Aqeel Akber:

Well, it's just things that came up that I wanted to mention, because it's you mentioned intuition, right, like to me, I think we all have different languages in our minds, maybe in a way, Different forms of mental ease, so to speak. For me.

Aqeel Akber:

I think of that as just intuition, as vision in a way, maybe it's the if you're not a visual thing or I don't know, vision is vision Like it's kind of arbitrary? You're dreaming of something and I think that's the thing that came up. The second point here is that these are like mantras. I have so many mantras in my life and I just pick them up and I keep them. That's the reason why I know that triangle is data, information, knowledge, wisdom, because I added vision on top of that. Now that's a mantra. We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams. I wonder who. There's a poet who wrote that.

Samuel Wines:

Sounds like Rilke or something like that.

Aqeel Akber:

He's doing a lot of things.

Samuel Wines:

Is it actually? I have no idea, no no no.

Aqeel Akber:

It shouldn't be hard to find. It was in Willy Wonka and I love it. He's just like we are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams.

Samuel Wines:

It wasn't. Actually I can't. I'm trying to figure out, see if I can find this real time, but I'm just taking away from the actual conversation, so I'm going to stop.

Aqeel Akber:

I think I guess, as a non-binary person as well bravery encourage is something that's so important and I think we need to have that same sort of intellectual bravery and just kind of go for it. There's so much of from what I'm experiencing, that people are just looking for permission to do something and to actually go out there and try it. It's the same with coming up with that new idea, like a radical idea that Einstein had. It's wild, but just to kind of think of it from a different perspective, to actually stop and have a look and think how, about time to be able to do that and ask a question, I guess, yeah, that's the new idea. Philosophy, dsq, studio, dot, star, question mark, studio that's what it's going to be. Something's going to happen. Watch the space. The other thing that came up for me when you were mentioning these things about economics. Another mantra I picked up was gosh. When I started my PhD, I was really into Twitter and How's that going for you?

Aqeel Akber:

No, I quit Twitter as soon as Trump got elected.

Aqeel Akber:

It was just too much and there was hashtag my one science tweet. There was an evolutionary biologist that mentioned something that I love it is evolution is amoral, culture serves the genome and for humanity to survive we must transcend and that middle part, culture serves the genome. I use that all the time. I really believe in that and I like this perspective of thinking of things. You know, the world is progressing forward and it's progressing forward amorally in how it does. It just continues. Time marches on right. Culture serves the genome In culture. That's, I guess, how you can have self-selecting sort of environments that all of a sudden they end up with, or men, or something like that right.

Aqeel Akber:

It serves within it and it will continue to get stronger within it. And that it keeps creating reinforcing feedback loops that maintain that sort of homeostatic thing and if that's not the genuine state of the world outside of that context, and then, for humanity to survive, we must transcend and I really love this part, because that's being brave enough to step out, I guess, of the Beatredeition way and apply ourselves as amazing human beings. Look at what we've done. It's wild.

Samuel Wines:

It's pretty gnarly. I have this thought multiple times a week. It's wild.

Aqeel Akber:

Yeah, the fact like going back to.

Samuel Wines:

We made rock's talk, the fact that we can even do this like we're talking on microphones.

Aqeel Akber:

It's crazy. And to think that humans are our technology, we are nature. Therefore, technology is nature in a way.

Samuel Wines:

Yes, this is even actually quite a lot of indigenous thinkers share this sentiment, which I know can be. It sort of feels like a weird pill to swallow as well, but technically this is all natural. Even the unnatural things that we have done. It's all a part of the process of nature and this is just our version of like a beaver's dam, but instead it's like with satellites navigating Earth.

Aqeel Akber:

Yeah, so the crap that we get to, I guess, as humans, now, I guess for whatever beings we are and evolutionary beings, is that culture serves the genome, if we get stuck in that middle part and we forget our human spirit that brought us here, the fact that we're music makers and dreamers of dreams.

Samuel Wines:

And that we're also not just Because I love that. You've said human a lot and I am going to politely dance with this.

Aqeel Akber:

Yes.

Samuel Wines:

And I would say it's also acknowledging ourselves within our ecological context. That I think is fundamental. So it's like, yes, we need human-centered approach, but that doesn't mean that we're not also centering the biosphere as a whole or the ecological systems within which we are a part of and depend upon, for the Like. They are the foundation of our entire being and what allows us to even have all of this marvellous and magnificent piece of technology and tools and things. It's like it's built off this foundation of life, creating conditions conducive to life, which we've shared and had a chat about before.

Aqeel Akber:

Yeah, there's also another, I guess, formative thing that happened got me into poetry first of all was this slam poet Oatski, which talks about leopard, geckos and the horseshoe crab or something like that, and he mentions like we need to expand the idea of what we are to animals, to more things. We are part of this ecosystem, we are nature technology, everything, we're all connected in that way, if we are now stuck in this loop where we've hit this super organism state where we can control our sort of genome, now normal evolution is kind of a bit different.

Aqeel Akber:

It's no longer Darwinian evolution. Then we get stuck in these cycles almost like an addiction, in a way, where you're just within your one thing, and Weisam Baum, which was the father of AI, more or less one of them made. He's the person that actually made the first chatbot, eliza.

Samuel Wines:

Oh my gosh. I actually think I remember this from like the early 2000s.

Aqeel Akber:

Oh, this was like I don't know, it was like 50s.

Samuel Wines:

No, there was a chatbot back then. Oh, absolutely.

Aqeel Akber:

And you know when he made it, he was in the department of Stanford. I believe computer science and sociology were combined together. This was so new.

Aqeel Akber:

I guess he wrote a book Computer Power and Human Reason, and Weisam Baum became somewhat anti-AI towards the end, and this book was also edited by Tramski as well. It was wonderful. He mentions the fact that he got terrified when he made Eliza, which then you put in a simple script and then it kind of acts in a way, and the simple script they made was called Doctor, which acted like a psychoanalyst. That simply reflects back what you say to it.

Aqeel Akber:

That was the most basic and simple natural language processing. And then he saw his assistant. At the time they started conversing with this very basic chatbot so much that they hid the screen when he came out and he got terrified how quickly we attached to something that was just a simple information loop, and he goes in this book as well. The reason why I bought the book first of all was this chapter called Something of the Compulsive Programmer, and this is where he talks about the programmer that is just sitting there with the compiler on the computer just typing away, hacking away, and this gets so into it and that coding thing and they get that error and they just keep going and they're doing it and doing it, and doing it and doing it, and then that's actually.

Aqeel Akber:

You're in a small, closed ecosystem. It's like your echo chamber in a way. You're never actually bringing in anything new. That's like cultures of the genome that's still staying in your Petri dish. You really need to be able to come out of that and transcend that to kind of really bring in new knowledge. How is this important for AI? We think about generative AI right now, and if we're going to start making more and more content that is made by it and then train stuff of that content again. We're not really bringing anything new in there. We're not really doing our human thing.

Samuel Wines:

We need to be pattern breaking to then get back into pattern making outside of the, I guess, yeah, otherwise it's completely stuck and just self referencing and self feeding back and what it amplifies might not be the best thing for humanity at large. I mean, just look at like so many and this is another fascinating thing is like we're so good at doing all the like the minute reductionist things right, and that's got us to where we've got to now with everything. But where we fail catastrophically almost, is collective coordination. And I feel like what could be beautiful about AI is if it is in service to life, helping humanity get over.

Samuel Wines:

Because obviously you know, yeah, we're real good up to like the Dunbar number level of people 150, we're good at organizing, but as soon as you're getting into like nation states and everything else, it's like gets a little bit confusing.

Samuel Wines:

You kind of don't know everyone and you can have room for bad actors to just like absolutely exploit perverse incentives in a social system. But I feel like there could be something here with AI that allows us to have almost like the town hall conversation again where everyone can contribute, and that we can have this collective wisdom emerge that is in service of the whole like I think about this so much. But then I also acknowledge that you know there's still people who will happily like throw litter on the ground or do things that I might find questionable, and I was like maybe the collective intelligence might not shine through. I don't know, but I think part of me is just very romantic about this whole concept of that surely we have everything we need if we all came together, or had a had a, had a tool or a tech that could allow for coherence at scale.

Aqeel Akber:

Yeah, gpt-4 is amazing at translation and Urdu is the language of Pakistan. So in Pakistani descent, born in Darwin, it's almost a dying language now because of the Western influence and culture and education. Unfortunately there has been destroyed. So it's now captured very, very well in GPT. You can use GPT to make Urdu. That is probably better than, unfortunately, what the average Urdu speaker in Pakistan would be able to create and the literacy there. So it is able to capture that stuff Right.

Aqeel Akber:

It's like it's a snapshot of then and you're able to query it. And the way you're thinking about GPT, this is a good insight. It is all AI, all machine learning is a compression algorithm. You are trying to. It gives it information and you're trying to represent it in the smallest, most compressed way possible and then you need to decompress it when you run it at inference and then you have an output. It's a lossy compression algorithm so it is going to be not the perfect reconstruction.

Aqeel Akber:

So you can then think of GPT as a compressed database of all of the information that then decompresses in a way, and the way that it compresses the information is that it tries to be able to understand our language, the semantics, the pragmatics of Urdu or grammar, and decompresses it in a way that kind of makes sense. So it does have a lot of what looks like reasoning capability for us. It is useful for us. It's not I can't say it's intelligent, because it doesn't do what we do as humans, which is we try to explain things. It's a statistical model that gives you the most likely thing. It won't know that the ISO standard book is better than something else. Yeah, you're training it.

Samuel Wines:

Absolutely.

Aqeel Akber:

Whereas we think of that and this comes through, like if we think about the whale thing or the paradoxes or everything else, or where you start to think that even like with economics, you know that we should really think about it. Never take anything with gospel and just be like okay, it works, but it's also kind of broken. We can do that and that's something.

Samuel Wines:

If we forget that, that's the problem of being in the culture serves the genome Exactly and that's kind of where we're stuck Now.

Aqeel Akber:

We just need to expand who we are Like. We need to expand we are part of nature and the ecosystem of it. We have to act in a way that is different.

Samuel Wines:

I love that you use that word expand. And I think we need to because fundamentally, when I look at this problem and a lot of my thinking is influenced by Fritschof Kapra, who is a systems theorist, but he was trained as a high energy particle physicist, so again it's these physicists popping up everywhere telling us about biology and sociology and ecology but I have so much time for it. But he frames it in a very similar way and I think, ah yeah, it's just fascinating seeing I'm just catching all these things in my mind and I'm trying to figure out what's the next best place to bounce around to.

Aqeel Akber:

But See, I guess that's kind of saying that we as an intelligence aren't statistical models, because we don't know what the next best thing is. We think about it, what we actually want to be insightful, very different from GPT.

Samuel Wines:

Yeah, it's, I don't know. I feel like there's so much that we can do. If we realize that, as you said before, if we realize the inherent boundaries of this thing, it's fabulous at getting things done or helping you get started with things, whether or not it can actually help you radically reshape and retool democracy, who knows? I remember my train of thought. I can loop back to this. Sorry, I'm a very non-linear thinker, which makes it horrible sometimes for conversations, but long-form podcast that works, because you can come back 15 minutes later and be like that's what it was. His primary way of thinking is, he says fundamentally, where we are right now is it's like with the poly crisis or the meta crisis that we're currently facing, all these multiple interconnected problems manifesting across social and ecological sort of areas. All of these are Actually, if you look at the generator function of it, I love that generator function Very physics.

Samuel Wines:

If you look at the generator function of it, it's our perception, or what he would call our crisis of perception. So seeing the world as separate, fragmented, self-other, all of this sort of way of perceiving reality that's actually no longer fit for purpose, no longer actually makes sense in a globally interconnected world, and that what we need to be fundamentally doing is radically reimagining our theories of value. So, rather than just monetary value as being the primary thing that we optimize, we maximize for rather than optimizing for the system as a whole and acknowledging there's inherent value to spirituality, to just leaving nature the way it might be, to like.

Samuel Wines:

There's things like social value. There's, I think, eight forms of value. That's really, from Roland and the Lendular, I think, really interesting framework to look at. But the value is something that we need to radically reimagine. And also just how we look at the world and acknowledging that this Looking at things isolated is fantastic, but still being able to then put that back into the context of the whole.

Samuel Wines:

And I do worry that so much of our thinking is getting more and more and more narrow. With all the tools and technology like TikTok and Instagram and tweets, how do you put embed context into 120 characters? You know what I mean. Like all of these things that we've created have stopped our capacity to think bigger and think long term and be able to stand on the top of that building and use that vision, and I am worried about that and how we can try and bring people back into dialogue and conversation and deep thought, and I'd be super curious to know if you have any practices that you do or anything to help you, I guess, ground yourself in that visionary state, mm poetry.

Aqeel Akber:

You know how do you get something in 120 characters? Poetry. Mm. Like I only started writing the whispers that I had in my head when I was 30. I just never felt like it was a thing that I could do be creative. I wasn't allowed to, and I was just like you know what's good.

Samuel Wines:

Scientists are creative. It's an undervalued creative class.

Aqeel Akber:

It was very much. I think it was really university. Going to university here I was really I could really see the westernization of science versus what I was taught science from my dad, I guess, and if I think about the Arab golden age of science, religion, art and science or all the same thing, it's just a way of us explaining what we're seeing, perception, that idea. You take into account as much as possible that we are biasing that result. We have to know that and I think you can. That's how I keep myself grounded, at least with it all.

Samuel Wines:

When.

Aqeel Akber:

I observe something, or if I try to fix a technical problem or something broken in the computer or machine or I come up with anything else. It's funny, I tell my technical stuff. I just did an empathy and I knew what it's doing. I just, yeah, I just try to understand the system by putting myself there and really understanding it. This idea of otherness, so my personal mission in life is actually great. I actually came up with this shortly after we met. Really yeah.

Aqeel Akber:

Oh, and it is something that I used as like this is what I'm going. I really believe this like a sort of mission. It is to decrease otherness while simultaneously increasing individual safety. That's what I, personally. I wake up it's actually on my alarm clock, that's what it says, so I see it every morning on my phone.

Aqeel Akber:

If I try to do both of those things simultaneously, the dialectical pressure I hope is hopefully just going to actually bring us to a place of understanding each other better.

Aqeel Akber:

Because to decrease otherness is you can do it the null solution.

Aqeel Akber:

If you do it by itself, you make everyone the same, make everything the same, and to increase individual safety is just you make everyone individual. So I think of Western rationalism and positivism and individualism coming from the beautiful ontology of English being such a wonderful language and being able to very, very precisely describe things. It's very nice that ability for it, but it kind of shows us how we think and it doesn't allow that expansiveness of well, it can allow that expansiveness of expanding who and knowing who we are, but the easy solution is to just maybe just say, oh, it's this thing, go into one bucket and oh, it's this thing, and not thinking that it might be some pressure in between that really lets you know what's going on, and pull those two triggers. And how is this all related? I guess you need to have this mindset. I find I need to have this mindset for me to be able to be a good researcher and scientist as well as a business person and a good human being, or Gil?

Samuel Wines:

I think you can't. Yeah, all of them interrelate. It's like if you're a good, yeah, there are patterns and processes that you need to be a good individual and a good business person and a good scientist, and I think they're just patterns of being which are preferable in any state.

Aqeel Akber:

Yeah, yeah, for sure. Oh gosh, I was so sleepy once and I was like talking to one of my friends with voice notes and I said something really smart. I don't remember what. It was Sleepy, yet profound. Yeah. Yeah, it's more like I give myself permission to be profound. That's really what it comes down to.

Aqeel Akber:

And it was like I think it was, like ego is the biggest drain on intelligence. I genuinely believe that, like ego If you are a person that has some sort of ego, maybe in a workplace or something I think it was in that context, or somebody in a workplace and they I guess we're egotistical with their idea. And this happens in science, all the time my model is this 100%. That's the biggest drain on intelligence.

Samuel Wines:

I could not agree more, because it's essentially closing off the potential to be wrong to begin with, but also closing off the potential of other perspectives, and I think that the moment anyone does that, whether it's in their personal life or business or in science, you're closing yourself off to the potential opportunities or abundance that might be in the place where you least want to go and look, which is usually the place you need to go to to be able to find those things. So, no, I can. I can resonate with that being.

Aqeel Akber:

So another matter of mine with diversity comes strength. I use that in line with the culture serves the genome, and it's a biological thing to guess as well.

Samuel Wines:

Absolutely. Well, it's one of the fundamental tenants of, I guess, like regenerative thinking, I guess you could say, or even just ecosystems as a whole, right, so the biodiversity of an ecosystem, that builds a sense of resilience. So with diversity breeds resilience is like a catchphrase, I think Jeanine Benius. She sort of says from bio mimicry, but it is exactly that. And when you have an abundance of organisms that overlap and there's actually, you know, because, like in human systems, we don't want there to be any waste, you know we have to be as efficient as possible. So we don't want overlap or multiple different things doing the same process. But in biology and in nature that's great, Because if you have redundancy, say, something comes along and wipes out one organism, you've got three others doing the same sort of thing you then don't have a foundational break in the, let's say, like the, the trophic cascade or something else that's happening in that ecosystem. Then you don't have ecosystem collapse. Whereas if you're removing all of this diversity, which we're doing in spades at the moment, which is horrifying, I think honestly, I think biodiversity loss is more of a problem than climate change. We just don't acknowledge it or talk about it. But yeah, so biodiversity breeding, resilience. I totally agree with that statement. It's one of the foundational sort of pillars or diversity breeding.

Samuel Wines:

Resilience is one of the foundational pillars, I guess, of how we approach everything that we do here and why we're always trying to encourage and bring in multiple people from multiple worldviews, multiple perspectives, why we call it transdisciplinary innovation rather than like deep tech, biotech or what have you, because as soon as you put a boundary around that, it can make other people feel like, oh, I can't, that's not me, I can't, I can't come there, Whereas if you call it something like transdisciplinary, they're a bit confused, Like what the hell? What does that? Even I don't even know what that means, Right, but then that also means someone can lean in and go okay, well, you know, if they know they're Latin, they're like okay, cool, I get, I get that Right. But if they don't, they're like what do you mean by that? You know, and then you're questioning and curious and you're probing and yeah, I think that is foundational and I feel like that even might align a little bit with what you say like part of your mission in life.

Samuel Wines:

Another mission in life is how do we make people as confused as possible?

Aqeel Akber:

Yeah, maximize confusion, yeah.

Aqeel Akber:

Like it's a useful way for me to decrease otherness while simultaneously increasing individual safety by maximizing their confusion and making them feel safe, because I guess, if I can be dressed up in a dress with my makeup and then wear executive presence and know all this sort of stuff, it maximizes confusion but then also provides I use my mind and my words to be able to and empathy to be able to provide that safety and security, because usually our response to something other unfortunately people can be violent towards it. I believe we should always be curious that's maybe just me, who I am, but we can also just be like oh my God, it's something different, it is shocking.

Samuel Wines:

And I think that honestly I know that you want to go, I really want to hear where this goes, but I do feel like that that is a. It's a. It's a fragmentary, momentary thing baked into our minds from when we were more tribal, of like, okay, is this friend or foe, is this other or part of the tribe? And you can actually learn to acknowledge that. But it can just dissipate really quickly and you can build new neural pathways where it's like like other and lean into it out of curiosity rather than like other is bad straight away.

Samuel Wines:

And I feel like I'm lucky that I grew up with quite a, I guess, a diverse upbringing and background. And you know my uncle was, my uncles were obviously gay. So I mean I grew up knowing that things could not be always like it's not bound by this nuclear sort of family approach, like my mum was the main bringer of the masculine energy and like our household as well. So I knew that gender stereotypes weren't necessarily a thing and I think even those two prompts were enough for me to realise that the world has a beautiful abundance of different ways in which people can manifest and that that was actually like the most interesting places a lot of the time is is is in the margins, in the space between the places where things fall between the cracks, because they don't. They don't fit the standard narrative, they can't be box ticked.

Samuel Wines:

And and I guess that's why how this place even emerged is because we're trying to fill the space between to support those who might not fit the standard narrative, because that's where we feel like a lot of the exciting stuff is the interlapping over over, like the overlapping ecosystem is like an ecotone, is where you get the most diversity of life and it's like we think, with innovation, the overlapping of multiple disciplines and ways of looking at the world will naturally be where the most innovation can kind of begin to emerge.

Aqeel Akber:

Absolutely, and you can just gain benefits from another discipline so quickly, like another discipline probably has solved the problem in a different way. And actually you know this is going to that, bringing together things with AI, sort of deal common sort of knowledge base. It's like a universal translator in a way.

Samuel Wines:

It's going to be wild for that sort of stuff. Yeah, suddenly, now English doesn't have to be the dominant language, which I think will be really fascinating for diversity of thought.

Aqeel Akber:

With Computer vision. There is in the Google Pixel phones the early ones they had this idea of super resolution. You know, actually, something I learned recently we've always been doing zoom enhanced, like basically with phones and color cameras, because the Bayer filter actually reduces the resolution by a factor of four. And then we combine it together and we just zoom enhance it to the full resolution. Super resolutions are really interesting field. It's very interesting. They, with the pixels, they use a technique that is used in astrophysics quite often to be able to sharpen images and get super resolution. They just have different names.

Aqeel Akber:

Yeah, but just have different names, that and that is foundational. That's like. You know, that's the ontology right? Yes, that's the otherness I guess of it. That's the, that's the thing where, like, I want to try bridge that as much as possible, bridge that otherness, like that's the idea, I guess, the vision of my new company.

Aqeel Akber:

I guess, in many ways, which is why I got the studio part at the end of it, to kind of have the techie thing at the front and have this artsy thing at the end of it where it can kind of combine there. That's if you I try to be as First and as many topics as possible so that I can speak people's languages and that's how you can kind of give them a bit more trust and comfort.

Samuel Wines:

I again another point that I can really resonate with, which it's fascinating how many overlapping, interrelated, I guess, thought patterns that we have, but from very disparate and different backgrounds and ways of approaching this context. And like a metaphor I use a lot to explain when this sort of stuff happens, this confluence or this convergence it's like we are both different rivers that are tributaries to the same river system.

Samuel Wines:

You know, and we've had our own journey through the landscape, but inevitably we join up as we come out towards the ocean and it feels like so much of your and I love this because, like, I'm pretty generic, like white dude, with all of the privilege that comes with that, as well as pretty privilege, which is another thing that doesn't get talked about a lot. You know that's great and that's informed who I am as a being, but that is what I am right. But then hearing your story and your background and knowing the differences, but then seeing how the mind has arrived at similar sort of patterns that I feel are fundamental, which is I just anytime I see that I find that so fascinating and exciting because it feels more real when there's that intersubjective, like intersubjectively we've kind of validating a perspective and like triangulating on something that feels real around a basin of attraction.

Samuel Wines:

We're like, yeah, this is pulling me in.

Aqeel Akber:

And I'm going to be really brave here, really brave here, and make a statement and call on this. I personally, I think that, like, love is the protocol of human connection.

Aqeel Akber:

And if you look at all philosophy, poets and stuff for a long time, what are they all concluding? And the things that matter is connection and love. At the end of the day, that's kind of what it all kind of goes down to Like. I feel my mission is to decrease otherness and increase individual safety, but my purpose as a life form, as a human being, is to love. That is it. And if we both as like human life forms and what are we here for as biological things, to grow or something like that we're much more complicated than a bacterium. We're not just like eating and growing. We have this complex thought process that involves other people. It involves knowing things around us and connecting with them. Like love is a protocol of human connection. Anything that is connecting me with something else is a loving act. That's the way I think of it. What if that's just our purpose and that's why we kind of are going from the same place and do the same place?

Samuel Wines:

I love that there's a couple of us here in the space who we've falling around like a. It's a, a wide boundary of what is it I'm trying to think of. I completely screwed up the words, but essentially it's that exact same sentiment around like a circumference of care, a really wide circumference of care, and that it's like being in service to life Because you love it. Because here's the thing, right, like people can hear the stats you know 95 of all ocean kelp forests in Australia are gone. Or you know there's eight football fields of Forests cleared in Queensland every couple of seconds. Like you hear all these things but Do you feel them? Yeah, you know, and I think that we're not.

Samuel Wines:

There's another good quote here, I'm sure somewhere that you would. You would know this. I definitely. I can't remember a word for word, but like the premise is kind of like we're not going to change or we're not going to do things unless we feel the thing and that and that feeling and that empathy, like you were saying before, and that connectedness, that is what will then give us the impulse to change and do things. That might not serve us as an individual in the short term, but serve us as an individual and a collective in the long term.

Samuel Wines:

So I do feel like there is something really powerful about the, the love and the empathy and the connection to others that, as you sort of said as well, with self-reflective consciousness, that's something that is just turned up to the nth degree with with, like you, social animals, like primates and. I would. I would also say other animals as well. I think that love is probably something that goes way down the stack in terms of, like complex living organisms. Um, but yeah, it is fascinating, it's.

Aqeel Akber:

I like to say crying is a sign of strength hmm, because, um, we've kept it evolutionarily First of all, so we can always use that argument. But it's odd saying I like saying that because it makes us we can't see as far. I don't know. It gets stuffed so we can't smell as well. You know, like in many, many ways where like physically weaker, but it is showing that To other people and signaling to other people that, hey, I'm feeling something. Before we had language.

Aqeel Akber:

Mm-hmm before we had language, there was that intuition. So we're very intuitive and like, if we let ourselves understand that intuition a bit more, we could probably do a bit better. And that's kind of what I'm really hoping for to get us out of this little rut that we got. I think that, um, social media Is more damaging Than the nuclear bomb.

Samuel Wines:

Mm-hmm, I don't disagree, as someone who built a living off it Prior to doing all of this. I yes, it's a. It's a strange, strange place to be it's done.

Aqeel Akber:

So much harm and now we have people stuck in this information loop getting the information from it and creating information on it. No input, it really lacks. Everything seems to lack quality now.

Samuel Wines:

Ah but there are still beautiful elements to it. The thing is is like if only there was just a way and my friend I can instantly hear my mate in the background here saying starter reports he's created this thing where you could, um, essentially Validate data sources and everything and you can put it on a blockchain and an immutable ledger and you could be able to track the provenance of who said what and how and bake it all in with an ai so that everything everywhere could be tracked and you'd see perverse incentives or like, and I think that would be a really valuable tool.

Samuel Wines:

Like, but I, but I do think that social media it can be inherently good as well, like, but it's just that so much crap out there. Yeah, it could be a beautiful tool like. I follow quite a lot of people who do amazing things and it's very inspiring.

Aqeel Akber:

But again, echo chamber and it's only a thin slither, yeah, of the rest of it so I feel that people I had hope in social media before cobit lockdown. Like I had hope, I'm going to use this to be able to like Use the advertising algorithm for good. No, I thought that's really keen on doing. I thought we could genuinely do something but, then the amount of garbage that just started going on there and it's just like gone, gone, gone. Advertising is just emptiness and my hope my hope is is that in the same way that we cry?

Aqeel Akber:

And that's an intuition thing within us. My hope is that we will connect to things with more quality if we are exposed to it. That's my hope. I don't know because, like, otherwise, education is gone. Like because we Don't. It's so people don't believe that the world can be malleable. They're not moving away from the. The computers are screened so much they're getting everything from one place. I'm really concerned about that, uh, so yeah.

Samuel Wines:

No, I I really resonate with that, with that sentiment. I I do feel like because it is sad, right, because the early ages of the internet kind of promised this decentralized networks, you know sort of thing which is self governed and self regulated.

Samuel Wines:

I know we've got to get you out of here very shortly, so we'll wrap up very soon, but it is. Yeah, it is one of those things I feel like we could have. We could have done so well. And then you know, again, perverse incentives come in and then it's baked in where, like, eyes on site is what keeps us there. So then it's a race at the bottom of the brainstem. You're limbically hijacked people and get them like either excited or enraged, and then that makes them more likely to click on something or buy something or watch something, and you can see how all of these really simple AI algorithms Really simple, just like keep eyeballs on on on the screen, right, and you could do that and then be like, oh well, I'm not a bad person because it's just a simple thing, but looking at the consequences of it, it's like well, should someone accept responsibility for an algorithm if they're the ones deploying it?

Samuel Wines:

and it's then creating these collective coordination failures, or destabilizing democracy as we know it like.

Aqeel Akber:

Yeah, I like to say often is that Everyone just needs to chill, like everyone, every, all of us need to just chill, and I felt that Before COVID as well, there was very much the manic memes of AI memes, and I rode that ride to be able to get the company off the ground. People are crazy about it, but I was just like this is clearly people aren't chill, like if you know deeper within it, you're like you know how you can then use it. I think you know even, like if we're in our workflow, if we're trying to work so fast and hard and we burn out.

Aqeel Akber:

Then we have to stop again. We always kind of go at this average velocity. So if we all kind of just realize that our average velocity with humanity is actually kind of slow and actually maybe that gives us the time to be able to think a bit more, we need it.

Samuel Wines:

That's how that's our superpower is. Do you have any protocols for slow Me? Yeah, what are your personal protocols to make space?

Aqeel Akber:

I, I believe in like working to only 50 percent. I use the other 50 percent to be able to manage myself, I guess, almost constantly. Wow, I, that's. I use 50 percent of my mental capacity. I wouldn't give more than that to any external thing. I will use that, that's my thing, that I can kind of use for everything else, to be creative, to be able to do my personal things or flex it out elsewhere. It's necessary, I believe, to let that tick in and maintain the brain.

Samuel Wines:

Yeah, I know I. I really resonate with that, because that also then allows you to have more powerful insights and to contribute more productively In that 50 percent window, rather than trying to work 200 percent in 100 percent window and then doing it really badly. You're sort of saying I'm going to show up and when I do it's going to be qualitatively Time that I spend on this, because I've had the space to just be yeah, to ponder. I know that rick rubin does something like that. It spends like an hour or two hours a day just like Sitting yeah that's every morning.

Aqeel Akber:

I like to have about at least two hours of me time when I wake up. Where? I just do whatever I want. Just usually I'm just quiet, I just kind of move my body however I want. I'm not really exercising or something. That's very much a meeting, yeah, and spending a lot of time just looking at clouds. I love that. I. I think I don't know how people live without it. Honestly, I don't know I can relate to that.

Samuel Wines:

I'm a big part of the the cloud appreciation society.

Aqeel Akber:

My inner voice is really interesting. I I think I'm a great person to have a conversation with, so I just have conversations with myself. It's great.

Samuel Wines:

Did you know that? Um, we pass up time differently when we look at clouds versus something like a computer screen in front of us.

Samuel Wines:

That really said, perceptually we pass time in larger chunks when we look at clouds which probably also helps with diffuse mode thinking and everything like that because there's there's more time, like you know. Say, if it's like a one, two, three, four, there's more time within that, whereas if you're here on the computer and doing minute tasks, it's like one and two and three, which I just find fascinating because I feel like I can stare at clouds and it'll be like an hour and a half and then like what, what just happened? Where'd the time go?

Aqeel Akber:

I can do the same on a computer screen as well, like just reading and reading and reading and doing information. I think that comes also to like the compulsive program of thing. You just kind of get into it, get into again to it, but you have to make sure that you slow down. Hmm, take that time. Good design is, I believe, in quality. That's really it, and I think quality just takes time.

Samuel Wines:

Oh, I love that. And, speaking of time, I know that you have to leave soon, so do we want to wrap it here? Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Aqeel Akber:

I just follow your excitement.

Samuel Wines:

I love that. Yeah, follow your excitement, and If people wanted to keep up to date with what you're doing, where might they be able to find you?

Aqeel Akber:

LinkedIn oh.

Samuel Wines:

Yeah, so I know.

Aqeel Akber:

I know, I know, go rid of all my social media and everything. I guess Going into the corporate space and that's what a ways. But I think now Going solo, I think I'm gonna actually be a bit more brave there as well. I want to be a bit more brave because I think that the world is totally ready for this.

Samuel Wines:

I agree I think.

Aqeel Akber:

I think 2024 is going to be a fascinating year, like climate change is going to get really real and people are not Going to be able to ignore it, I feel like a lot of patriarchal things will get really pushed when, now that women are really getting into professional positions, which is awesome.

Aqeel Akber:

So there's going to be extreme lash back to that, but also that you're going to be there, so something awesome is going to happen there, and and just the emptiness of information right now, I think will be caught. I think all of this is just so ripe and ready right now, which is part of the reason why I kind of wanted to Move away from thumb and actually kind of have myself time to be able to do something a bit riskier.

Samuel Wines:

I, I love that and I look forward to watching this Adventure. Technically would be, what you're called a venture is a risky business. Oh yeah, look thing right.

Aqeel Akber:

So my business, whatever, I'm just doing things that are to exist in this world. Right, like, yeah, we're just. I'm just a life form. I'm a squishy piece of meat with electricity running through it. That's just, that's all we are. Right.

Samuel Wines:

Mm-hmm, and also good at poetry.

Aqeel Akber:

Yeah, it's important.

Samuel Wines:

Yeah, I'll take that out as a quote Anyway, I um, I could obviously keep here, keep you here chatting for forever, but I better let you go and Thanks so much for joining us and I look forward to the next conversation, whether it's on a podcast or just in person, because it's um, it's very beautiful every time we catch up and have a chat.

Aqeel Akber:

So thank you so much. Beauty is very important. Yes, I agree.

Samuel Wines:

All right, see you later. Thank you for taking the time to listen to this conversation. We hope you found it fascinating, insightful and lightning, or interesting, or all or none of the above. We have a collection of conversations coming up still to round out the end of season one with a few more of our members, and then we'll be deep diving into biomaterials, um for like food, fiber and fuels, and we'll be exploring that for all of season two. So if that's something that interests you or there's anyone in the biomaterials space, either in Australia or abroad, that you would like us to have a chat with, let us know and yeah, we'll see if we can make it happen. Thanks again for tuning into another episode of the Strange Attractor.

Transdisciplinary Exploration of Technology and Society
Physics and Interdisciplinary Problem Solving
Whale Tracking and Scientific Innovation
Exploring the Uncertainties of Data
Exploring Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
Mantras, Intuition, and Intellectual Bravery
Exploring Nature, Technology, and AI
Radical Reimagining of Value and Perception
Embracing Diversity and Innovation
Love, Connection, and Human Purpose