Beyond AI: Why I Joined The Board of NECSI

Several years ago I read the book “Logic of Failure.” The book is about how poorly humans deal with complex systems. To give you a simple example, when I was in college I had a roommate who didn’t understand how a thermostat worked. There is a time delay between changing the thermostat and changing the temperature of the apartment, and he didn’t really understand that, as a result, you need to use small increments, not large movements, in changing the thermostat settings. So, he spent a lot of time moving it up 5 degrees, getting too warm and moving it down 7 degrees, etc.

I’ve been fascinated with complex systems and the problems they cause since those days. Humans are mostly terrible at dealing with complex systems because we are trained to look at the entities in a system more than the interactions between the entities. The whole field of engineering is about breaking down a large problem into smaller problems, until they get small enough you can solve one, then building it all back up.

Complex systems are very common in the world, yet we humans continue to make mistakes when dealing with them. So I took a course a few years ago taught by Yaneer Bar-Yam at the New England Complex Systems Institute. It was so interesting that I started getting more involved with NECSI, and became friends with Yaneer.

As an entrepreneur and investor focused on AI, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what is next. One of the things that is next is the complex systems mathematics that NECSI uses to solve problems. I had the chance to see first hand how complex systems mathematics beat existing AI techniques to solve supply chain problems, financial problems, and more, and so when NECSI decided to start spinning off more research for commercial purposes, I was very interested.

After a bit of discussion, I agreed to join the board of NECSI and help advise on some of the technology commercialization. It fed both my personal interest of complex systems, and my professional interest in learning about what the future may hold beyond artificial intelligence.

If you run a company dealing with complex systems (most likely your company does), you should think about getting some formal training for your key executives. Learning to think about second order consequences, and other key complex systems skills, is really important in today’s economy. And if you have problems that current AI methodologies can’t always solve, I hope you will reach out and see if NECSI can help.

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