Babak Hodjat is an Iranian American inventor and tech entrepreneur who is behind several Silicon Valley companies as main inventor and technologist, and currently serves as CTO at Cognizant. Babak is the former co-founder and CEO of Sentient, responsible for the core technology behind the world’s largest distributed artificial intelligence system, and he was also the founder of the world's first AI-driven hedge-fund, Sentient Investment Management. Babak is widely credited as the main inventor of the natural language technology used in Apple’s Siri.
Since the beginning of his career in 1984, Babak has been truly passionate about artificial intelligence and its evolution: it has scaled tremendously, and scientists have been able to tackle some very challenging problems.
However, as expectations from AI are very high, it is very likely these will not be all met. The current expectations exceed in fact the actual capabilities of AI, which could lead to a new AI winter, in which business is booming less.
Babak firmly believes in creating a working environment in which values are of key importance. Retaining talented coworkers in AI is very challenging, as there are so many interesting places to work for. That’s why it is so very important to give your employees the feeling they belong to a team, in which certain values are being respected.
Throughout his career, Babak has held a great interest in natural language systems, but he admits he has somewhat lost his interest in Siri and is therefore turning his attention towards new AI projects in finance and trading.
Another big project for Babak is his book, entitled ‘The Konar and the Apple’, which is a compilation of different stories about his life as a western oriented kid in Iran during the war. Should you ask yourself how someone who must keep so many balls in the air still manages to find time to write a book, Babak has written it during his long commutes to his work in Silicon Valley. As you can tell, efficient time management is key!
It is remarkable that Babak combines creative writing skills and technical skills, but he doesn’t feel writing is that much different from coding: he has the outline and structure in mind, and then the creating process begins. Whether this creating comes down to coding or writing doesn’t make much of a difference.
Babak’s book can be found in hardcopy, eBook, and audio, both on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
If you want to follow Babak on social media, he can be found on twitter: #babakatwork.
[01:40] Can you tell us a bit about where you're coming from and how it all evolved for this backstory?
[02:54] How can you compare the AI that was in the beginning from this now? Is it a big difference?
[05:30] What motivated you to do AI and what's the story behind it?
[07:40] How does that work to have technical baggage technical knowledge, but still, you have this writing site, creative skill?
[11:33] Aside from being good on time management you need to be organized for all the other things that you need to do, right?
[13:31] Do you put you publish on Amazon?
[14:02] How was an audiobook? Have you just read a certain piece? Did it take effort from you to do that? Or was it just natural to you?
[15:43] Can you explain a bit about the Siri adventure and how you see that evolve?
[18:20] What are you and your team doing to keep up with the base and to keep up to date?
[22:23] Where is your attention going now? Is it going on your book, to the marketing for your book, or other stuff?
[25:17] Are there other things that you're planning for the next few years?
"There is a shortage of core AI talents as well around the world."
"There are other applications in the world that you can pursue to make the world a better place."
"The problem was so fascinating, and if we can crack that then we can use that technology in many other places as well. It's a very data rich problem."