In this interview, Fardad Zand talks not only about his own personal journey, but his outlook on Artificial Intelligence, Web3 and entrepreneurship…
What has been your proudest professional moment?
There are quite a few moments in my professional life that come to mind for this question. At this moment, I would say it is establishing Wisdomise and building and working with a world-class team that is busy developing cutting-edge, much-needed tech solutions for the masses to bring further efficiency and intelligence to web3. What keeps me excited and passionate every day with Wisdomise is the opportunity in front of us to empower the masses to create wealth and be the master of their financial future.
Talking of an interesting, recent piece, the news that just came out about Google firing one of their engineers over an AI chatbot being sentient springs to mind. I think it brought a lot of unsavoury thoughts to the AI space. This however only proves that AI is capable of much more than we anticipated or planned for; it is simply another challenge for us to meet with our heads on - apart from the tech and product aspects of AI, there are the ethical and moral aspects of it as well. AI is capable of many advancements and we are still discovering what is to come; if anything, it is only becoming more exciting for us.
What is one message you would give to people trying to adapt their business for Web3 today?
Web3 has opened a gate to a new world where everyone can benefit from a shared, decentralized pool of knowledge. Those businesses that fail to adapt to web3 opportunities (whether it is crypto as a currency, blockchain as an infrastructure, NFT as an ownership instrument, and metaverse as an evolving ecosystem, among others) will miss out on a big chance to grow in the future. With decentralization as the core tenet of web3, the wisdom of crowds can be a very potent pool of knowledge that can lead every business towards success. It can also give every individual an equal, fair platform to create wealth, thus, creating a clear value proposition for the masses, something that businesses don’t want to miss out on.
What other innovations in this space are especially exciting and close to being launched?
We believe that the most exciting innovations in the AI space within financial markets will work to solve inefficiencies and asymmetries. When we talk about inefficiencies, this could mean addressing the boom\bust cycles that investors are able to discern and become used to as a normal part of doing their business.
When Artificial Intelligence is helping to guide decision-making at scale, we can encourage trading behaviours which benefit everyone and contribute to the collective outcomes of the markets. Similarly, asymmetries can mean knowledge gaps among different parties participating in the financial markets. AI can surely reduce these gaps by synthesizing the scattered sources of intelligence and extracting meaningful insights for a broader group of participants, hence contributing to the collective value again.
It’s important to touch on some of the rather smaller inefficiencies and asymmetries too. When someone begins learning about a new market or financial opportunity they have to trade valuable time and resources to reach a level of understanding that allows them to profit. This is particularly problematic within the crypto market. Crypto projects provide an enormous amount of growth potential but also a great deal of risk. This means that potential investors have to spend thousands of hours learning about projects or put their trust in influencers, copy traders or their contacts on social media. Achieving financial goals doesn’t mean forgoing other important aspects of life like spending time with family or pursuing passions outside of work. With AI agents being designed and employed effectively, anyone can benefit from crypto opportunities while using their time in ways that are more meaningful to them.
Artificial Intelligence is all about augmenting the abilities that people have rather than replacing the individual. As leaders in the field, we should make sure that no one gets left behind. The truth of the matter is that there is a massive competitive advantage in the global financial ecosystem in the form of asymmetric access to information and historic monetary enfranchisement. The top earners of the world and those that come from generational wealth are capable of growing their fortunes because they have access to expertise, the ability to pay financial managers, or time to research investments which are necessary to yield supernormal profits.
Artificial Intelligence actually levels this playing field by reducing the information gap between those that are at the top and those that are still building wealth. In other words, it has the great potential of easing access and enhancing yields for the underprivileged. The question is not necessarily whether or not bots will take over, particularly in financial markets, because these markets exist, in the first place, due to human behaviour and needs. The question is really who stands to benefit most from Artificial Intelligence and how can Artificial Intelligence serve the broader masses, rather than becoming an elite group’s service in the end. The way we see it at Wisdomise AI Labs, everyone should be able to gain a great deal of value by sharing information and having their financial decision-making guided by a dispassionate AI agent.
‘Sentient’ is a tricky word when talking about Artificial Intelligence. For the sake of argument, let’s define it as the ability to understand and convey emotional information. This is where natural language processing (NLP) comes in. This essentially allows an AI agent to explain itself to human counterparts in ways that will be intellectually and emotionally relevant to them. One of the big difficulties with AI is that we can’t ask an agent what it is thinking about or how it reached its conclusions (a trend known as explainable AI). NLP opens up a two-way street of communication between users and AI agents, thus augmenting their abilities.
So ultimately, we feel that this will be a huge value addition to the global workforce. To put it simply, imagine an AI agent as your trusted advisor or co-worker, somebody who can not only share rational insights with you and guide you logically (based on facts), but also understands you and communicates with you emotionally. This is surely an advancement in human-AL (human-machine) interactions that expect to yield productivity improvements in the workplace. Yet, this will undoubtedly raise certain ethical and normative concerns with itself, which demand careful considerations and remedies on their own.
Some time ago, I started a tech company with a friend and two of my university professors. We had access to the best of tech talent out there and managed to raise funds for our startup pretty quickly. In the end, we failed and that gave me a profound lesson that there is way more to entrepreneurship and leadership than pure talent and capital - these are important ingredients of every successful venture, but they won’t last forever without a clear, simple translation of the vision into a product and the effective traction of it within its target market. We learnt this the hard way.
A turning point for me was to start working on Wisdomise in the midst of Covid pandemic with all the chaos and uncertainty in the world, let alone in crypto and DeFi spaces. This finally offered me the opportunity to build something for a much broader group of people to help them create and manage wealth - this has always been one of my dreams and crypto paved the path to realizing it. After building the product failed twice, due to its complications and other side challenges, I finally managed to take it off the ground and commence a solid foundation around it. This will continue to be a turning point in my life for the years to come, I’m sure.
…And a moment to forget?
Every step I took and every situation I’ve faced has led me to this moment now. I’ve learnt and grown from every moment of my life, but if I had the chance or ability to redo an instance of it, that would surely be my dear dad’s passing away.
If you weren’t in tech, what other career would you be in right now?
I’d probably have gone into snowboarding as a professional or becoming a fighter pilot. I quite enjoyed tackling the ups and downs of the snow-capped mountain ways. It taught me about always finding the smartest way to face a challenge while enjoying what you do. In a way, it's a lot like manoeuvring through entrepreneurship in the tech scene: challenging, exciting, and uncertain. We have to see the big picture and create a seamless path to the finish line, fast, precise, and enjoyable!
What I most liked about flying fighter jets, on top of their deep tech nature, is the strong association of risk, speed, precision, and manoeuvrability with the job. Witnessing my dad flying them, it’s always been and will remain one of my dream jobs.
Best advice you have ever been given?
Not to be afraid of questioning and challenging the norms and habits (the status quo), and not to fear change and failure, as long as there are good rationale and intent behind it.