Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’m the Chief Growth & Operations Officer at SalesChoice, an AI SaaS and Data Science services company in Toronto. Under this role, I have guided numerous businesses on their transformative AI journeys, having also trained 300+ professionals on AI and its enablement – a topic of several educational courses and a book series published with BPB, one of the world’s largest publishers. My career started in the Energy industry, thanks to an education in Biotechnology and a first stint at Accenture. I soon moved to Italy for a Masters in Marketing at Bocconi University, where I was awarded Excellence for a dissertation predicting the use of renewable energy as currency.
In the years since, I have worked with a diverse range of industries, including F&B in Dubai, hospitality in India, manufacturing in Italy, energy in the US, and more recently, healthcare, telecom, high-tech, and logistics in Canada. Recognized as an ‘Influential business leader to watch’ by the CEO of Time Magazine, and one of the ‘Top 10 pioneering business leaders’ by Mirror Review, I served on the board of the AI Directory and was part of the European AI Alliance that helped the ‘High-Level Expert Group’ advise the European Commission on its first AI policy. I now serve on the Advisory Board of the Customer Experience Program at the University of Richmond.
What would you do with $1 billion dollars?
There are quite a few avenues to invest $1 billion. One would be setting up food-and-water banks. However, from a sustainability perspective, I’d invest in setting up a network to enable using renewable energy as currency. Over a decade ago, my Master’s dissertation analyzed 200 years of industrial evolution to identify what the techno-economic drivers of our future society could be. The research was awarded Excellence for its prediction of a supply chain where the primary currency of transactions was locally generated renewable energy. The biggest stumbling blocks at that time were the cost-efficient storage and transportation of such energy at scale from one home or institution to another.
Fast forward a decade, the prediction is fast becoming a reality with companies like Power Ledger and Polar Night Energy paving the way. In a nutshell, the idea is simple: Every individual or business is a consumer of energy. But unlike coal or oil, renewable energy can be generated locally through solar panels, geothermal energy, etc. And as the economic and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin showed, a building can typically produce more energy than it needs. The surplus is an in-demand entity that can be consumed by another party in exchange for goods or services. This turns energy into a form of currency that is universally usable, producible and is globally standardized, thereby shielding societies from periodic financial meltdowns.
Why do you think sustainability is such an important topic today?
Sustainability has always been, and should be, an important topic. It reflects long-term success, which is essential for the survival and progress of any company or society. Our prehistoric genes have instilled in us a tendency to prioritize immediate profit. It used to mean a good hunt and food on the plate for our distant ancestors, but has evolved to short-term shareholder value in the modern era for many. As a result, growth focus and lack of information often blindsides one to negative repercussions of one’s actions over the longer term. Sooner or later though, the costs become apparent and turn our attention to matters of sustaining our growth.
Today, we are staring at mounting costs – from climate change to food and water insecurity. Tackling these has proven challenging because of systemic issues tied to our growth – fossil fuel dependency, growing population and stock market dynamics being chief among them. How is a company supposed to prioritize sustainable behavior if doing so can lead to overnight drop in its share price, a loss of competitiveness and risk to jobs? Yet, it must be done to mitigate growing issues to our society and livelihood. This complexity is what makes sustainability an important topic today.
What do you envision your industry looking like in ten years?
I work in the technology industry – specifically, the AI solution and services industry. In ten years, I believe this industry nomenclature will have evolved because AI will have been applied to most software in the market, and services rendered in that space will fall under IT consulting or customer support. Nonetheless, the challenge within this space, as with Deep Learning models, is that it requires vast amounts of dataset and processing time. While Generative AI has addressed the latter, the former limitation would likely have been resolved in ten years. We will instead arrive at the challenge of reducing the energy consumption involved in more advanced tech like Blockchain applications or IoT systems.
While greater use of renewable energy would help make that cost more sustainable, it is also where we come back to a need and likelihood of renewable energy exchange being needed between net producers and net consumers. Secondly, AI’s innate ability of pattern recognition will have also educated us on the inherent dynamics of Nature – from pollination and food chain dependencies to weather patterns, to disease and pest prevention. That would allow us to markedly improve the protection and resurgence of our ecosystems. In fact, the challenge here would be to avoid its misuse or over-interference in natural processes that could once again risk having unforeseen consequences. For instance, while CRISPR can help cure genetic diseases, genetically engineering babies can also go out of control.