"I’m worse than a kid in a candy store, I like to play with everything, UUV, UAV, neural interfaces, microchips, etc, but I think this year it’s the year of the Cyborg and neural interfaces going primetime."
Joining us today is Alex K. Rojas, Senior Principal Engineer - Artificial Intelligence at Serco.
We caught up with Alex to discuss his festival talk, what excites him about AI, the biggest challenges for organizations adopting AI and the best projects he's worked on.
Q: To kick things off, it would be great to learn a bit more about your background. What led you to get into your chosen area of AI?
A: Alex, Sr. Principal Engineer - AI at Serco. I’ve been described as a unicorn, or a mutant unicorn a few times, but I think those suckers are extinct so not too keen on that description. In my role, I provide subject matter expertise and guidance on artificial intelligence internally and to our military and intelligence clients. How did I find myself in this sector? I was recruited by Intel Saffron to do groovy stuff with their third level AI brain. Several projects had already begun with the government before Intel decided AI should be something else, therefore I was brought over to Alion, and now Serco to help see these through.
I have to say as far as an introduction to this sector, Saffron was a blessing to fall into. Based on the stories I would hear, it sounded like it was the inspiration for the show “Person of Interest” as it was used successfully to predict where IEDs would be located in Iraq, for whack a mole with terrorists, and for other defense related work which is still frosty.
Its ability to make connections and memories seriously augmented the capabilities of the operators who depended on it and it was something I ended up taking with me into other projects.
Prior to that I had worked on a few low-key AI projects, but got to tinker with Amelia’s brain “The Most Human AITM’ and work on a host of international projects connecting cloud, security, and artificial intelligence
Q: What excites you the most about AI within your respected industry? What advancements do you see disrupting/having an impact on the areas you work in?
A: Wow. My whole presentation is on this. Similar to the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man” my presentation goes into how we are at an evolutionary crossroads similar to how people found themselves within that TZ episode. Every aspect of our lives are being pervaded by algorithms and artificial intelligence. I cover several historical examples of algorithms such as the COMPAS algorithm which came into question for excessively long prison sentence recommendations for certain defendants. This “super advanced AI black box” that refused to
have its algorithm challenged in court was when audited found guilty of doing a disservice to the community as its outcomes were heavily racially biased and its predictive power was
dismal, barely better than chance, and it was wrongly labeling black defendants as future criminals at twice to three times the rate of white defendants. Forget about parole.
In regards to my industry, I’m worse than a kid in a candy store, I like to play with everything, UUV, UAV, neural interfaces, microchips, etc, but I think this year it’s the year of the Cyborg and neural interfaces going primetime. Remember Hobbs & Shaw and how Brixton was able to control drones, vehicles, as well as just about anything you can connect to via bluetooth or network adapter? That’s pretty handy.
You have Nostradamus saying the enhanced or cyborg soldier will be at the front of the Western military forces this year - and right on cue France has publicly microchipped cyborg soldiers in their ranks, China is getting accused of adding bionics to their genetically enhanced “captain americas”, and the usual technical rivalries between the US, and friends. A lot of the bionics, and enhanced limbs they've been doing forever, but the recent blood and pain immunity items such as Respirocyte red blood cells that could help a soldier not run out of air, or stay underwater for hours, and Pain immunity via DARPAs Persistence in Combat initiative where pain is suppressed for 30 days. I cover a lot of this stuff in my presentation.
Q: What is the biggest challenge within your respected industry for organizations adopting AI?
A: Arnold Schwarzanegger. Half-serious. It has been demonstrated that AI algorithms, such as Simulated Annealing and Genetic Programming can efficiently generate plans for tactical problems resembling human-like decision making. Try to build a terminator brain, and you’ll find out all about Human in the Loop which has to verify certain decisions and actions. Outside of that it would be the complexity of the projects and cultures.
Q: What is the most exciting project you’ve personally worked on within the last 3 years?
A: I’ve been very lucky to be exposed to using technologies in many different realms - space, sea, land, air, unsolvable, impossible, but to me - Exciting = Impact. People helped.
Q: What are you currently working on? What departments are involved?
A: Professionally, it’s defense sensitive so can’t discuss.
Personally, a quantum physics based prophylaxis / cure to COVID-19 - Don’t laugh. I have it as a mist and as a gummy - gets rid of all symptoms and contagious factor in 2 days. I have several cases documented with independent medical results. 4 Nobel prize winners, and a former head of medical operations for NASA highly endorse this. This is basically Einsteins theory of relativity with a little Corona : D. If this wasn’t important I would not mention it. We are the people, not our politicians or businessmen. I ran my own trial program with 60 people at the end of the year and everyone was awesome and without side effects or symptoms of COVID including variants.
Q: What does your current day-to-day look like?
A: In short, there is no typical day. There is no typical problem. That’s the type of environment I want to be in.
At Serco, I’m a Sr. Principal Engineer who works on just about any military or intelligence issue problem for the US, but Serco has a pretty wide portfolio of countries it provides services to such as Canada, Australia, and the UK.
My multipass or DoD CAC changes depending on which branch of the military wants to adopt me.
Within the organization I’m one of three oldie but goodies on the AI Tiger Team who people come to for AI related questions or projects. Tiger Team is - a team of specialists in a particular field brought together to work on specific tasks. The term comes out of the Apollo missions.
Outside of COVID-19 status - I’m usually on projects and traveling as a one man red team sent to different bases to take care of whatever is required. Yes, making coffee and taking out le garbage is included sometimes.
Q: What can our audience expect from your session at the upcoming AI Accelerator Festival?
A: We’re at a crossroads, do not lose sight of the intent and power of the technology, otherwise we really will be on the menu due to our carelessness.
Intelligence thousands of times faster than ours is here. That means we must hold on ever tighter to our human values and human ethics and be responsible for our creations.