If you've ever pondered the meeting point of artificial intelligence and human creativity, this podcast episode is a feast for your thoughts. Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society is joined by Manuj Aggarwal, the inspiring founder of TetraNoodle Technologies, whose journey from a small Indian town to the forefront of Canadian tech entrepreneurship is remarkable. Aggarwal’s fascination with computers and technology, his work helping companies evolve their tech presence, and his passion for AI come alive as he deciphers AI's capabilities.
Aggarwal presents a compelling vision of AI as a disruptive force with applications that could reshape entire industries. He adds a personal touch to the discussion, including his experiences and insights into the potential for a marketplace for AI-generated artworks.
The conversation takes a meditative turn as we explore the convergence of AI with fields like healthcare, logistics, and real estate. Aggarwal reveals how AI can supplement human understanding and decision-making, offering a unique perspective on how meditation can help us better grasp our thought patterns. Spoiler alert: the parallels between AI and meditation are fascinating! In a finale, we delve into how AI can help us ask better questions, tell better stories, and even build better relationships.
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Hosted and produced by Gary Pageau
Edited by Olivia Pageau
Announcer: Erin Manning
Welcome to the Dead Pixel Society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your Pa. geau Pa The Dead Pixel Society podcast is brought to you by Mediaclip, Advertek Printing and IP Labs.Gary Pageau:
Again and welcome to the Dead Pixel Society podcast. I'm your host, gary Peugeot, and today we're joined by Manuj Aggarwal, who is the founder of Chutronoodle in Vancouver, bc Canada. Hi, Manuj, how are you?Manuj Aggarwal:
Good, how are you Excited to be here?Gary Pageau:
Manuj, I asked you to come on the podcast today as an expert in artificial intelligence or, as everyone says, ai. But first you've got a very interesting story about how you became an entrepreneur. Can you just share that first?Manuj Aggarwal:
Sure, yeah. My journey started back in India. I grew up in a small town and I started working in a factory at 15, and I was getting $2 a day as pay, working six days a week, and so you know that was very difficult life and I wanted to do something better, bigger, with my life. And I found my passion for computers and technology and I knew that is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And when I came to Canada, this was 1998. I got a job very quickly because that was the dot-com boom time. And I also lost the job very quickly because immediately after that, dot-com bust happened and then I got another job with a startup and September 11th happened, lost that job and then Girls' War started. So it was like a series of you know up and down as I started my career in North America. So that made me realize that you know, this job security thing is not a real thing, even in North America, no matter where you live. So I decided, you know, I should just go on my own and started my consulting company, basically doing the same thing but helping more companies rather than working for one employer and helping them build their technology. So I got an opportunity to work with hundreds of startups, with giants like Microsoft, ibm, pearson Education built some really amazing technology which produced hundreds of millions in value, impacted millions of lives. So that was sort of the journey, in short, from India to becoming an entrepreneur.Gary Pageau:
So when you started out in tech, what was the field I mean the area of tech you were involved in? Were you a programmer or a product manager? What was sort of your entree into that piece of the business?Manuj Aggarwal:
Yeah, yeah, hardcore engineer coding all day. Like you know, I just enjoyed it because I was an extremely introverted kid and then an adult. So I just enjoyed working with machines, because they don't talk back and they don't, you know, throw tantrums and everything. So you know, just like I used to work all day, all night, it's a lot of fun actually.Gary Pageau:
So how long has TetraNoodle been around, and is it specifically about AI or does it have other disciplines?Manuj Aggarwal:
Yeah, yeah. So, interestingly enough, you know this company. I told you I started in 2001. Back then it was called Spyder Communications and you know, coming coming from an engineer, you know those were the marketing skills I had, because I thought at that time web was new, like Internet was called the web. So I named the company Spyder Communications to go along with the web. And now, around 2007, people were asking you know this is, is this like a phone company you're running so? So I said, okay, it's time to change the name. So the company has been around for like almost 20 years. We have always focused on helping people implement and understand technologies and bring new ideas to life. So I have four patents in artificial intelligence, where we took some ideas from entrepreneurs and implemented the technology. And as technology progresses, we focus on the current technology. So, yes, right now we are hyper focused on AI, but we have expertise in all other areas of technology blockchain, cloud computing, mobile applications so we have done a lot of work in multiple industries in multiple areas.Gary Pageau:
So let's talk a little bit about AI, because there's a lot of it in the press, obviously these days a lot of quote, unquote, fear mongering and apprehension because people don't understand it. In your opinion, could you define AI?Manuj Aggarwal:
Yeah, yeah, sure. So let's, I try to give very simple answers so that everybody can understand it. See, our mind is basically a pattern recognition machine. So if a child touches a hot stove, they only need to touch it, wants to know that. You know, I don't want to touch it again. So that is a data point that our mind registers and understand the pattern. Now let's say we put that child in the middle of Antarctica. It's outside wind, chill factories, this cold wind, the child is wearing heat resistant gloves and now, in that cold weather, the child touches the hot stove. It will actually feel pleasant, it will not feel hot. Now the child is going to learn. Oh, you know, there are multiple variables in this situation I need to learn about and then make a decision. And so, you know, the mind records four or five variables. And now, you know, it becomes smarter. But even the smartest person is not able to comprehend more than 10 or 15 variables in a situation. And so, at the end of that limit of our intellect, when we have to solve problems like climate change and predicting the weather, predicting the stock market, you know, diagnosing disease, that's when we are dealing with hundreds of thousands of variables and the machine is able to ingest all that data and, because the compute power is powerful enough, it can find these minute patterns and tell us okay, you know it's going to rain in seven days, based on the data. So that is what AI is. It's an extension of our mind, but it is much, much more powerful, much, much faster and it can do all these calculations which our mind is not able to do. So it's basically a big mind that has been attached on top of our mind to help us make these big decisions? Does that? Does that help?Gary Pageau:
Yeah, certainly. I mean, that's, that's how I understood it, because basically we have to take a large amount of data and synthesize it somehow, which in some ways human beings do every day. But I'm interested in why, for example, the term artificial intelligence is used, because it's really sort of a weird way of kind of just saying it's really more like mass, massive processing is really more yeah see, the thing is people don't realize this field of work data analytics or AI or whatever it has been around for decades.Manuj Aggarwal:
So, you know, started in 70s, it used to be called data analysis or you know whatever like, and it has transitioned from multiple names and now it is called AI. And the naming naming the way our world works, you know, people throw out names every day and something catches on and then people start to repeat it, you know, and then it becomes a name. Okay, you know, this is AI. You are right in saying that it is not like artificial intelligence, but I think the way that our culture has sort of evolved so far, with the movies, with the TV shows and terminology, that nomenclature has stuck. That is not to say this nomenclature is not going to change again. Because I'll tell you one thing, like underneath the covers, in the technical circles at least, a term called deep learning became very, very popular in the past 10 years because deep, deep learning is the actual mechanism of training this artificial intelligence. So people used to call this deep learning and you may have heard the term deep mind, which defeated the go player, you know, ibm.Gary Pageau:
Yeah, that was an IBM.Manuj Aggarwal:
Yeah, exactly yeah. So all of these sort of you know, technical terms sometimes don't make sense to everyday people. Like you know. If I say to you somebody oh, let's talk about deep learning, they'll be like I've already learned all I needed to learn. So so that's maybe the reason. But you are right, it's not strictly AI as we define intelligence, you know, as we define human intelligence.Gary Pageau:
It's almost in my assumption, sort of a, a linguistic shortcut to computers doing something that scare us and we don't understand.Manuj Aggarwal:
Well, it's basically doing calculation, it's basically finding, yeah, so computers are already doing, have been doing this for a while. Like you know, our, our world if people don't realize it by now, it's already controlled by AI. Literally, our flights are scheduled by AI, our television shows are basically controlled by AI. We are on this zoom call, the video is being transcoded using AI and the traffic that is going through the internet it is being optimized by AI. It has been around us all along. Now, the difference is that everyday people have had a chance to look at it, feel it, touch it, play with it, and now everybody's mind is being blown right. Yeah, but you know, having worked on multiple projects, my mind was blown like 15 years ago when I implemented a system and within three months it was doing better job than professors of university, trained physicians who have 20 years of experience. So this technology is so powerful and that is the thing that you know. It is creating so, so high buzz. But yeah, I mean it has been used by companies like Facebook, amazon, you know all of these things are being controlled. Exactly, exactly, exactly.Gary Pageau:
Exactly so. It's optimized for the provide optimal traffic flow. There's not a human being saying, okay, we need to shave this, the time setting at this light, by four seconds if we want to traffic flow. They're going to do that using, you know, visual indicators and traffic.Manuj Aggarwal:
Yeah, yeah absolutely so.Gary Pageau:
I think what's changed, kind of culturally, is, like you said, it's been in science fiction for ages, right Going back to 2001,. A space Odyssey and all that, but now people are able to, everyday people are able to actually use AI to create their own content or their own products. But content is the word I'm looking for, right. It's because you got the Chat GPT and then in the photo industry we have the Generative AI, which is you basically can create a prompt saying I want a picture of Manuj sitting on an iceberg sipping a soda and it will create that for them. That's kind of shaken up a lot of people, but you don't think that that's really a threat to human beings careers. Can you tell why?Manuj Aggarwal:
See? Okay, let me explain this. First of all, we have gone through technological revolutions multiple times, right? So when the car was invented, everybody was worried what's gonna happen to the horse cart industry? Where are they gonna go? But people need to realize all these technological revolutions. They provide bigger and better opportunities. It's just that we have to embrace this technology, not be scared by it, and upscale ourselves to understand what this technology can do. The content generation part is just a very, very tiny piece of what this technology can do. So think of the internet, for example. When the internet came along, we were excited about browsing like very static websites. Somebody will just write some text on the website.Gary Pageau:
The HTML was the bomb.Manuj Aggarwal:
Exactly exactly right, and not much we could do with it, but just share information. And then we started saying, oh, maybe we can have transactions online. E-commerce came along and then one day, in 1997, a guy named Jeff Bezos started a website and then, within 20 years, he became the richest person on the planet. Right? So he beat out Walmart, which has been around 100 years Now. You can think of AI being 100 times more powerful as a platform, as a digital platform. But the real innovation, the real expertise and opportunity comes when you start thinking what can you build on top of it. In your industry, for example, I'm sure there's gonna be TV shows which are completely done by AI. Like within maybe six months or a year, we will have movies which are completely done by AI. How much opportunity that creates. That's a disruption of multi-billion dollar company industry, right? So the idea is to understand what AI can do for you and start to utilize it, to gain more ideas on how you can utilize this technology, how you can serve your clients, how you can improve your life or the lives around you.Gary Pageau:
Yeah, we recently had a case at the Sony World Photography Awards where photographer named Boris Edgelson actually submitted an AI-generated image to the contest and then he just announced hey, I'm doing this to make a point that these can be cause it won an award. And so the point was is hey, I can create award-winning art using AI. And he was trying to raise awareness of this potential.Manuj Aggarwal:
What do you think?Gary Pageau:
about that? What do you think about a content creator who has been able to use their own creativity to create an image? Now that opportunity could be overtaken by a computer.Manuj Aggarwal:
See, okay, so let's step back. Let's go back in history and see. Humans have always been passionate about expressing themselves, right? So when we go to ancient caves, people used pigment to paint on the walls. Then writing came along, so they started using paper to express themselves. Then painting came along. We started using canvas and real paints, and all that Now. Then radio came along, pv came along. Everybody started to express themselves. This podcast platform we are expressing ourselves. So AI is another medium to express ourselves. Now, if we start to get very technical and nobody can take a picture without a camera that's also a technology we use capture an image and express what is in nature. With AI, I can take inspiration from nature or any other crazy idea I get, and I can use this technology as a medium to express myself. So, in a way, you can imagine, eventually what will happen is there's gonna be a marketplace for real photographs there's gonna be a marketplace for AI-generated photographs and there's gonna be marketplace for probably a more of a real photograph by AI. Like there's gonna be all these people producing content or art and there's gonna be a precision from people who gravitate towards that kind of art, right.Gary Pageau:
No, I don't disagree. I don't see it as a threat myself. I was just saying that that was sort of a very recent news story. That happened because I don't think people were prepared for the idea that there may be a marketplace for an AI-generated artwork or photograph or something, and it's just another form of expression that maybe someone doesn't have the ability to go to Iceland to take pictures of the ice floes there, but maybe they want to create that image for themselves and they can do that generative process. Yeah, exactly how long I used to do been doing this machine learning, ai type stuff for 15 some years. So was that as an actual researcher or did you work with companies who were developing the platform? I'm just curious because it does go way back, and I'm curious as to when the light bulb went up for you.Manuj Aggarwal:
Well, no, no, no. So I'm not a researcher, I'm mainly like you know pretty much. I have education at a master's degree, but I'm more action-oriented. So everything I've done is in the marketplace, so I'll give you a couple of examples. Like we worked with a university and an education company to create a platform to help students complete their degree program. So the problem students face is that when they enroll in a degree program in the first couple of years, they realize this is too difficult for them or this is of no interest. So we implemented an AI system to help them at their admission point to understand which courses they will like and which ones they will be able to complete. That resulted in a lot more students completing their degree programs, and so that was a good example of AI helping students find out the courses, and this program was actually very successful. President Obama and Bill Gates mentioned it in their speeches multiple times. Another example is in healthcare. Like you know, people, doctors these days they utilize AI to help diagnose problems because, you know, sometimes human body is very complex. So, let's say, if they're looking at x-ray trying to decide you know what kind of tissue it is, they will realize doctors can only rely on their own experience with things like making these tough decisions. You also have to understand a doctor is a human being with emotional things going on. So if the doctor woke up in the morning, had a fight with their spouse. That is going to affect their mental state and ability to diagnose a problem. But when you supplement that with AI, you can become more objective, you can get a second opinion, you can get much more. You know much more like detailed and accurate answer. So a lot of these applications are out there and I have had the opportunity to sort of, you know, participate in this education, healthcare, logistics, real estate and the major event that happened in my life was around 2012 and 2011,. I became very depressed and suicidal because of some personal challenges that I was going through in my life, and so I knew I needed to get out of that mindset and I needed to find solutions. So I went into meditation and I started learning about our human mind, psychology, neuroscience how does our mind create our reality and the thoughts that we think, the stories that we tell ourselves. That's what manifests, and so when I realized that AI is actually doing that it's an extension of our mind, it is actually impacting us in both ways. Like our mind is impacting AI, ai is impacting our mind, and so the evidence of this is like you can see Facebook, twitter, linkedin all of these platforms are creating our worldview. That is how we start to think, because we consume this information, but the underlying infrastructure on all these platforms is AI, right? So AI is shaping our worldview, and vice versa. And so now I started thinking, okay, if I can utilize things like meditation to fix my mind, maybe I can help other people fix them not fix themselves, but like realize the power they have in their mind using AI. So these are some of the things that, when I realized, I became super passionate about it, started diving deeper into it.Gary Pageau:
Yeah, I was gonna ask you that was one of the questions that was on the list here what does meditation and AI have in common? So can you kind of share?Erin Manning:
I think that's something that people have broadly not been aware of.Manuj Aggarwal:
Yeah, yeah, see, meditation is basically going inside your mind, looking at your thoughts. So most people have these misconceptions that meditation is about getting lost, getting your mind empty, like no thoughts at all. I don't think that is even possible. So, basically, you have these thoughts and you start to observe your own mind, observe your own thoughts and the stories that are going on. We all tell ourselves all these stories about the past, the future, and if you just stop and think about what's going on in your mind and start to observe, you'll see what stories are going on. And the problem is that 99% of the population they have negative stories going on in their mind. And meditation is about separating out that subconscious mind in which these stories are playing, and your conscious mind, so that you can observe these stories and you can change these stories into more positive stories, right? So one way and this will be a powerful tip for people who can apply this try this go to Chat GPT. Write a story about your future, the way that you, let's say you wanna go to Disneyland with your kids. You know, go to Chat GPT. Write a detailed story about how you went to Disneyland. Maybe you didn't even go yet. Just say you know, I went there. I had ice cream. I went on this ride, blah, blah, blah and Chat GPT will give you like very detailed story. Read it, read it to yourself out loud for five days, seven days, and see what happens. You will experience. You will literally experience what meditation feels like.Gary Pageau:
Oh, interesting, okay, so you can actually cause that will help you visualize the future you're trying to reach Exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah, interesting. I had not thought of it that way. That's pretty cool. Are there other tools that people should be aware of? Ai tools that are readily available that could be helpful in this way.Manuj Aggarwal:
So one thing I say to people is like, right now there's a wild, wild rest of tools out there, so if I name one tomorrow, it's gonna be outdated. I say to people stick with chat, GPT, and then do two things. One I already showed, shared with you, but I'll go into detail. The first one is ask better questions. Okay, because as human beings, we don't know what other people want. We don't even know what we want is seriously. And so, because the thing is we don't ask better questions, we don't ask detailed questions, we just stay at the surface. I'll give you an example If I ask 10 people, what do you want in life, Nine will say I want to earn a million dollars. And I say, okay, you want to earn a million dollars. Here is a million dollars. What are you going to do with it? Like, take some vacations? Like they are not really clear on exactly what they want a million dollars for. They just know oh, you know, million dollars is a cool thing. So if you use AI, you can actually start to ask better questions and say if I had a million dollars, what are some of the things I can do with my life? And then you can start to get specific, Not only about yourself. You can talk about your customers, your audience. You can say you know you're serving photograph photographers or the industry. What are some of the challenges that photographers in you know, in Michigan, are facing? What are the price point for these services that they can afford? You can ask that specific question to AI. It will give you very intelligent answers and now you are so much better informed than before because in order to collect this information, you may have had to talk to hundreds of people or hire research agencies, done surveys and whatnot. Ai can do that for you now, right? So that's the first step. The second step is tell better stories because, as I said, we evolved as human beings not to remember facts. We cannot remember facts. So if I ask you, Gary, what did you eat two weeks ago in lunch? No idea, right? If I ask you, Gary, if you married, or you know what was the menu on your reception, you know, remember the best birthday party you attended? What was the menu? You'll probably remember a few details about that, right? And the reason is because of the emotional impact and the storytelling that you have, all of that stuff. So, but the unfortunate part is we are not good storytellers. We have not been taught that art in school. But with AI you can say hey, you know, I got a question from my client about photography. Write a story about my experience when I went to, you know, this photography event at Sony. They had an entry from AI, generated, you know, like an entry or for a photograph, which was a generated. Tell a story about that, and now I can share that story verbatim with my clients. It will be memorable, it will be. It will make sense to them. You know they will understand what I can do. So if you start telling these stories and, believe me, you can try it in your personal life. Write a story and write a story about your life. You know, when you were in university or college, something interesting happened. Write a story, share it with your kids. See what happened. I can tell you like you will start to see you develop a very vibrant relationship with the people that you start sharing these stories with.Gary Pageau:
Well, that's interesting. So you're really taking it out of the realm of computing and more into the realm of relationships.Manuj Aggarwal:
Relationships, humans, empathy, that is. That is the skill to develop, moving forward, right, Because so far in human history we've always valued people who can think, who can find solutions, the intellect, right. But now you can see, the intellect has become a commodity, like the machine, can think better and you know faster. So what? What is left as a human being is our ability to empathize, to understand the world around us and then use these tools to create the solutions that the world needs.Gary Pageau:
Wow, that's something to think about. So, manoj, where would someone go to get more information about you and your ideas?Manuj Aggarwal:
Yeah, yeah, so you can go to my website, manujaggarwal. com, my first name, last namecom, or find me on LinkedIn and tell me that you heard me on this podcast. Yeah, what can I do for you?Gary Pageau:
Great. Well, thank you, Manuj, you've been a great. You give me a lot to think about. Actually, I came into this was that kind of thing. We're going to talk about technology and we were talking about relationships, so that was. That was kind of a different road for me on this, so you've given me some to think about. Thank you so much for your time and look forward to catching up with you again later.Manuj Aggarwal:
Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.Erin Manning:
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