Whether you imagine culture as a melting pot or a mosaic, it is the diversity of ideas, backgrounds and characters that work in unison to produce magical results. Yannick Desjardins is the kind of colorful and creative character that makes Stradigi AI an interesting place to work at. There are robots and Star Wars memorabilia adorning his walls (and he says he’s only getting started). He has an extensive collection of Denver Broncos memorabilia and he has an innovative approach to product and solution development.
He founded one of the very first companies that created SaaS Product Management software, for the Pragmatic Marketing process. It was an experience that led him here to Stradigi AI. Very similar to what we are doing, it required studying and defining a new market, and developing the software to serve it.
I sat down to with him to hear his side of things.
You recently joined Stradigi AI as the VP of Product and Solutions, what excites you most about working here?
There’s really nothing hotter than the opportunity to work in AI today. Not only are there great people here, but to be a part of this industry right now, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. It’s like being part of a gold rush, except it isn’t about the “shiny object”. We are already seeing so many groundbreaking use cases and applications for AI.
What most excites you about AI?
There’s no limit to what we can do with AI – as long as we stay within of our ethical boundaries and stick to them. Apart from that, we can build solutions beyond what we can dream.
If I could have an AI solution that can think like me, show me good algorithms, show me which code to use, help me fix my bugs – it has been my dream for the last 20 years to have AI build products for me. If you can program a program to program it would be fantastic. It’s a great example of how AI can make us more productive.
Are there any particular trends in AI that concern you?
Not really a concern, but what I really don’t want to be a part of is using AI that can cause harm to humans. For example, I wouldn’t want to be part of building automated missile systems or UAVs that can actually make a decision to harm humans without intervention. I’m a big fan of Asimov and his 3 laws and they run deep into the work I do. There’s a lot to learn from Science fiction.
So to me the implications of a self-driving car having to make decisions on potentially causing human harm are mind blowing. The trolley example, where AI might need to choose between harming the driver or pedestrians, is a mind blowing exercise. I want an automated car. Personally, I hate driving and would love to have a self -driving car do it for me while I read, do work or what not. But having an autonomous car decide who might die in an accident is just unfathomable. How can an algorithm classify humans? Day trading is cool. We can also use AI in supply chain management to do amazing things. But to create a human life value algorithm? That troubles me.
What are some of the most useful, relevant or exciting developments in AI you’ve seen thus far?
To me, the developments in medical research have been the most exciting. The ability to conduct millions of tests in parallel without needing to wait 2 years is incredible. There’s already a lot of progress in the industry, but many discoveries will move medical R&D in the next few years.
Otherwise, I’m the kind of person who believes that in 50 years people won’t die. I look at my dad, he looks 20 years younger than a 70 year old used to look. Not only are we learning so much more about the aging process, but we can isolate the genes that are causing aging. Research into the degeneration of our body has shown that many parts of our body regenerates every 7 years. Nanotechnology which will change so much over the next 50 years, it may likely repair the aging process while you are sleeping. I imagine that nanotechnology could be fixing your teeth while you slept. Maybe you won’t even need to brush your teeth anymore. It will be mind blowing.
In your past experience, you built a company from the ground up to 80 people – what was the most satisfying part of that?
It’s the creation. For example at a staff party, when I would look around at my employees and tell myself “look at what I built” – and they are happy, with good salaries, and a healthy work environment. The happiness of the people working with me is primordial. I strive to have a happy workforce and I always tell my teams that if there’s anything making you unhappy, stop what you are doing and come talk to me.
Let’s go back in time, growing up, were you a designer or an artist?
I was an artist and was always drawing. On my first computer, I started programming images in Basic, which was what really drew me to computers. I only just recently started drawing again on my iPad Pro, but I’m in need of a lot of practice.
What media do you consume, whether, reading, watching, listening, that inspires your creativity?
I really love sci-fi. I’ve read everything that Isaac Asimov has ever written. Arthur C. Clarke is another one. I highly recommend everyone read the Foundation series, they are my favorite books of all time. One tip I’d give though is to read a wiki on how to read them in the order you are supposed to – not in the order he wrote them – for the best possible experience.
As a Montrealer, there’s no doubt you’re a hockey fan, what is you favorite hockey memory?
The 1986 Stanley Cup win was quite something – I had just graduated high school. What a party! But I’m a bigger fan of the Denver Broncos. I worked in Colorado for a little while and managed to get a signed photo with John Elway. I have figurines of him and Peyton Manning that I probably shouldn’t have spent so much money on. I have a lot of other memorabilia, including several jerseys, hats and more.
Oh yes, I have 5 kids – and they’ve all moved out. I replaced them with 3 dogs and a cat. So my house went from being a jungle to a zoo.
Yannick is spearheading Stradigi AI’s innovative approach to Artificial Intelligence. Want to join him and the rest of our colorful team? We are hiring across the board. Come join us!