Dr Jacques Ludik is a Smart Tech Entrepreneur, PhD in AI, Author, International Speaker, and Global AI Ambassador. He founded multiple AI companies. One of them, CSense Systems, was Africa’s first AI company that was sold to a multi-national, General Electric, in 2011. He is the Author of “Democratizing Artificial Intelligence to Benefit Everyone” and “Neural Networks and Psychopathology”. Dr Ludik is Founder & CEO of Cortex Group & Cortex Logic, Vive Teens and Journey Wellness, and Founder & President of Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa and Sustainable Technology Venture Capital. He was previously an executive at General Electric and Jumo, and also academic at Stellenbosch University. He also received Africa’s AI Leader of the Year Award in 2019.
Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Magazine, Dr. Ludik shared his professional journey, the boundless potential of AI, the inspiration behind establishing Cortex Logic, the major takeaways from his latest book, personal life mantra, words of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.
Dr. Ludik, please tell us about your background and areas of interest.
My journey began with a deep-rooted curiosity about the workings of intelligence, both human and artificial. With a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence from Stellenbosch University, I ventured into the realm of smart technology entrepreneurship, establishing several AI companies over the past two and a half decades. From founding Africa’s first AI company, CSense Systems, and selling it to General Electric, to my later endeavours at JUMO.WORLD and the companies I have subsequently founded such as Cortex Logic, Cortex AI Group, Vive Teen Wellness, Journey Wellness and the Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa, as well as my investment in educational platforms like The Student Hub, it’s evident that my journey is fuelled by a combination of intellectual curiosity, a business acumen, and a deep-seated desire to foster positive change through technology. Across the diverse roles I’ve held, from being an academic to leading AI-based companies and engaging in global AI initiatives, the common thread has been my passion for AI and its transformative potential, and building AI-based companies with data rich platforms that leverages AI technologies to unlock business, customer and societal value at scale.
My endeavours have always been driven by the desire to harness AI for the betterment of business, society, and individuals at scale, solving complex problems and making a positive impact in the world as also communicated in my latest book “Democratising Artificial Intelligence to Benefit Everyone: Shaping a better future in the Smart Technology Era (jacquesludik.com). I have also introduced an massive transformation purposes (MTP) for humanity and its associated goals (that complement the United Nations’ sustainable development goals) to help shape a beneficial human-centric future and founded Sapiens.Network as a decentralized, human-centric, user-controlled AI-driven super platform. I have recently co-founded Sustainable Technology Venture Capital (STVC) Fund of Funds with its own AI-driven investment automation platform and am also currently pushing for establishing a global AI Leader and pushing AI Innovation to amongst others develop state-of-the-art personalized AI and intelligent agents on trustworthy AI guardrails for a decentralized world.
Which disruptive technology are you fascinated by and why?
The boundless potential of Artificial Intelligence captivates me. Its ability to mimic human intelligence, learn from data, and automate complex tasks holds the promise of solving some of humanity’s most pressing challenges, from healthcare and education to climate change. Moreover, the convergence of AI with other technologies like blockchain and IoT is creating a foundation for an innovative, decentralized, and human-centric digital future. The realm of Generative AI, particularly its ability to create new content and solutions, truly fascinates me. It’s like opening up a universe of possibilities that were previously unimagined or unreachable. This technology has the potential to revolutionize numerous industries by fostering creativity, innovation, and efficiency, which is incredibly inspiring.
What was the inspiration behind establishing Cortex Logic? Tell us about its key offerings.
Although the original vision for Cortex Logic was a combination of building scalable AI-driven platforms (which was eventually built in, especially the wellness space with solutions such as Vive Teen Wellness (viveyou.com) and Journey Wellness (journeywellness.co.za)) and solving intelligence (similar to Deepmind), the focus initially shifted to providing an AI engine for business and delivering AI-driven enterprise solutions aligned with key business value drivers and assisting enterprises on their AI-driven digital transformation journey. Our key offerings revolve around providing AI-powered solutions that drive operational efficiencies, improve customer experiences, and create new revenue streams. Whether it’s healthcare, finance, or retail, our aim is to leverage AI to solve critical problems and deliver tangible value.
How do you envision the next phase of Cortex?
As we consolidate the current Cortex Logic business activities and transition to Cortex AI, we envision establishing a global AI leader in emerging markets to develop state-of-the-art personalized AI and intelligent agents on trustworthy AI guardrails for a decentralized world. Cortex AI’s focus is aligned with my own massive transformative purpose around pushing AI innovation, the creation of a personal AI that operates in a decentralized, human-centric, user-controlled, private, trustworthy and explainable fashion, and shaping a better future in the Smart Technology Era (see also my book on “Democratizing AI to Benefit Everyone: Shaping a Better Future in the Smart Technology Era (jacquesludik.com)).
We envision a future where everyone has access to Personalized AI that can help them to live better lives and operates in a decentralized, human-centric, user-controlled, private, trustworthy and explainable fashion. We believe that AI has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with the world through Intelligent Agents that are operating on trustworthy AI guardrails in a decentralized world that empowers people and optimizes quality of life in accordance with a Massive Transformative Purpose for Humanity that complements the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. We envision a decentralized human-centric user-controlled AI-driven Super Platform with personalized AI agents that not only empower individuals and monetizes their data and services, but can also be extended to families, virtual groups, companies, communities, cities, city-states, digital nations and beyond (sapiens.network). We envision an “ecosystems of intelligence” where collectives of intelligent agents, both human and synthetic, collaborate in harmony and work together to create a better and smarter world.
How do you intend to pushing AI innovation to build better personalized AI and intelligent agents on trustworthy AI guardrails?
Although we need to build on the current state-of-the-art Generative AI stack and address the current limitations of large language models (LLMs) and related deep learning models, I believe that there are also other complementary important building blocks that should be in the smart technology toolbox for the development of personalized AI and Intelligent Agents: (1) Active Inference AI based on the Free energy principle for distributed intelligence and development of autonomous intelligent agents; (2) Energy-based Self-supervised Learning AI for development of autonomous intelligent agents
We need to build trustworthy personalized AI and intelligent agents that learn reliable world models, learn and adapt to new situations, reason, predict, and plan complex action sequences at multiple time horizons. We need to address the lack of Sympathetic AI that can understand and respond to the emotions and needs of people and other AIs. There is also a lack of Shared AI that can work together with humans, other agents and physical systems to solve complex problems and achieve goals.
You are the Founder & President at Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa. Can you please tell us about this non-profit organization and its vision?
MIIA (miiafrica.org) is a testament to my belief in the transformative power of AI for Africa. This non-profit initiative aims at building a strong, innovative, and collaborative AI and Data Science community across the continent. Through MIIA, we envision fostering innovation and leveraging AI to address African challenges, thus playing a part in the continent’s transformation. MIIA has also assisted and collaborated with other AI and Data Science organization on the African continent such as Data Science Nigeria, Artificial Centre of Excellence in Kenya, and Zindi that connects organisations with a global community of data scientists.
Your latest book is titled “Democratizing Artificial Intelligence to Benefit Everyone”. Can you share the major takeaways from this book?
My latest book, Democratizing Artificial Intelligence to Benefit Everyone, takes us on a holistic sense-making journey and lays a foundation to synthesize a more balanced view and better understanding of AI, its applications, its benefits, its risks, its limitations, its progress, and its likely future paths. The book also synthesizes, assimilates, and acts as a filter on a wide spectrum of thought leadership, information, ideas, and research to enable as many people as possible to not only interpret and make sense of this, but also participate in helping shape a better future for ourselves, our children and humanity going forward. It helps us to more accurately understand where we are heading given the current dynamics on a global and national economic and political level as well as across ideologies and industries. Specific solutions are also shared to address AI’s potential negative impacts, designing AI for social good and beneficial outcomes, building human-compatible AI that is ethical and trustworthy, addressing bias and discrimination, and the skills and competencies needed for a human-centric AI-driven workplace.
I specifically argue for a more decentralized beneficial human-centric future where AI and its benefits can be democratized to as many people as possible. It further examines what it means to be human and living meaningful in the 21st century and share some ideas for reshaping our civilization for beneficial outcomes as well as various potential outcomes for the future of civilization. The book also proposes a Massive Transformative Purpose for Humanity and associated goals that complement the United Nations’ 2030 vision and sustainable development goals to help shape a beneficial human-centric future in a decentralized hyperconnected world. As a practical step towards a building block in support of this purpose and goals, this initiative has been introduced and an invitation extended to people around globe to participate in the development, deployment and use of a decentralized, human-centric, and user-controlled AI-driven super platform called Sapiens. To help shape this better future we need a collective, integrated, and comprehensive response that involves all stakeholders of the global system of governing, from the private and public sectors to civil society and academia.
Career-defining moment: What has been your most career-defining moment that you are proud of?
The establishment and subsequent acquisition of Africa’s first AI company, CSense Systems, by General Electric in 2011, was a pivotal moment in my career. It not only validated the potential of AI but also opened doors for me to drive significant AI initiatives on a global scale.
What’s the best advice you have received in your career?
The best advice I received was to continually learn and adapt as well as always remain curious and open to learning. The field of AI is ever-evolving, and staying abreast of new developments while being open to new perspectives has been instrumental in my journey. This advice has kept me on a path of continuous learning and exploration.
How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
The impact that AI can have on humanity and the exciting challenges that lie ahead keep me motivated. Every day is an opportunity to learn, innovate, and contribute towards a better future. My motivation stems from the potential of AI to significantly improve lives and create a more equitable world. The thought of contributing to a larger purpose keeps me motivated. Moreover, surrounding myself with a community of like-minded individuals who are equally passionate about making a positive impact through technology, fuels my enthusiasm and drive.
What mantra do you live by?
My mantra is “Innovation with Purpose, Collaborate, and Transform.” It reflects my belief in the power of innovation, the importance of collaborative efforts, and the ultimate goal of creating transformative solutions for a better future. I believe that technological advancements should always aim at creating positive societal impact. It’s not about what we can achieve with AI, but what we should achieve to build a better future.
What advice would you offer others looking to build their career in technology?
I would encourage individuals to remain curious, be willing to learn continuously, and be adaptable to new technologies and methodologies. Engaging with communities, collaborating on projects, and building a network within the tech ecosystem can significantly accelerate learning and open doors to exciting opportunities. The tech landscape is fast-evolving, and continuous learning is crucial. Secondly, find your niche – a domain that truly resonates with you, and strive to make a meaningful impact within that sphere. Lastly, build a strong network within the tech community. Collaboration and knowledge-sharing are the bedrocks of innovation in our field.