Dr. Tania Peitzker, Author, Educator & Technologist

Dr. Peitzker is a “German intellectual” by training and nature. She grew up in Australia and recently relocated to Switzerland. Tania still has a base in rural Kent where she indulges many of her passions, including an experimental Immersive Tech museum called MRAM. In her spare time, Dr Peitzker is creating a series of festivals on the subjects of Emerging Technologies, AI, Literature & the Arts and Green Tech / sustainability products and services for the everyday consumer. She hopes to promote better understanding of climate change, equitable tech and democratic cultures through these events and her writing.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Magazine, Dr. Peitzker shared her insights on the global mixed reality market, her professional journey, career milestones, future plans, pearls of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

In what ways is the mixed reality market taking over the world?

Mixed Reality innovations have culminated in Immersive Technologies in 2023. With the rapid rate of change in jargon and hype cycles, we have seen MR-based installations rebranded as Immersive Tech experiences. Mixed Reality has a strong market demand with the anticipated release of the new Apple headset which emphasises Augmented Reality and “spatial computing” over MR terminology. Such hardware and cloud services have been repositioned in the light of Generative AI as well.

What does ‘Metaverse’ mean to you? And why are more and more companies exploring the commercial potential of the Metaverse?

The hype bubble of “The Metaverse” from 2020 to the end of 2022 has burst. It’s going to be stuck in a trough for the next few years most probably, but the billions of dollars of investment that have already been poured into what I call “proto-metaverses” is not going to be wasted.

Sure, the American tech giants have cut back on staffing of this experiment to further develop virtual 3D worlds since the establishment of the platform Second Life years ago by Linden Labs. Some of the bigger investors like Meta and Disney have reduced the number of employees working on metaverse building by the tens of thousands. I think they underestimated the computing power required to create “wow factor” metaverses, distinguishable from existing gaming platforms.

But the meaning of the metaverse to me is the ability to engage with each other easily in an improved, more 3D experience. Better than a “traditional” video conference call or chatting in a VR-based video game.

When the Digital Art and Animation layers are gradually – or rapidly in the longer view of internet history – improved to facilitate better user communication, then the business case will be established for all industries and verticals. Companies will rush to use these new tools, just like they have with the incumbents Zoom, Webex and MS Teams, to name a few market leaders of the legacy telco tech.

Dr. Peitzker, can you tell us about your professional background and areas of interest.

You’ve probably guessed by now – communications! My first degree was in Law, Journalism, Cultural Studies and English. I dropped out of Law School in Australia several times as the profession back in the 90s was just too conservative, though I did have a strong interest in “innovative” Arbitration and Mediation as an emerging area of International Law.

In fact, whilst living in the UK I became a registered Qualified Paralegal for Intellectual Property and Commercial Law to make use of my old legal studies and everyday experience writing contracts for my own companies and clients. I used to be registered with CiARB [Chartered Institute of Arbitrators – see the YouTube interviews I did for CiARB at a Legal Geek conference in London]. I always put mediation clauses in my agreements because I fundamentally dislike avoidable conflict. I don’t think people should be greedy, stubborn or bear grudges, especially in business.

My key professional interest is Digital Transformation. I sort of “fell into” Artificial Intelligence by working on a proprietary algorithm VAIP for the past decade. We’re selling that IP now to developers to push it into the LLM league and convert its Natural Language Processing into a Gen AI engine. That is my connection to metaverses and video games – I am intrigued about adding autonomous agents to these platforms to assist the humans in their use of them. I see that as the “missing link”, apart from quantum computing!

I did some computer programming way back in school in the late 80s and have been involved with the evolution of the net since I was one of the first permitted users of the web at my university in Australia in the early 1990s. After that, I got immersed in Emerging Technologies in Berlin where I lived for nearly two decades, becoming a German Citizen and a UK Permanent Resident as I have lived on our family farm in North Kent on the Greater London Border for the past decade.

I am now going back into academic research and writing more books on AI from my new base in southern Switzerland, Ticino, on the Italian border near Milano. I am already connected with like-minded friends and colleagues in the region who are doing amazing work on Immersive Tech and applied AI.

What formative experiences have been most important in making you an effective leader?

I believe in equity and social justice and have done so from quite an early age. I think I was born somehow with an antenna for seeing what’s wrong with the world and a belief that we each have the power to fix it. Even if it is in some small way. I like encouraging people to feel empowered to change not only the aspects of society that are oppressive of humans, animals and the poor defenceless environment, but also themselves to make their own lives more powerful and contented.

Tell us about your roles and responsibilities as the Adjunct Professor of Metaverses & Cognitive Interfaces at University of Silicon Valley.

I was headhunted for this role over 12 months ago and it has been a professionally gratifying experience. Creating and designing a course from scratch was quite a learning curve but my boss and colleagues were supportive and encouraging. I used to be Head Trainer – for cross-cultural comms workshops using state of the art “Blended Learning” – at a German corporate university in Berlin, so I feel like I have come full circle!

The students I’ve had have gone on to do great things – my cohorts have been commissioned to build a cutting-edge Immersive Tech interface using Conversational AI. Part of the course I teach has that challenge as an End of Term Project for the “mock” client which is a famous museum in California!

USV endeavours to be completely focussed on practice wherever possible. This means the courses I teach are essentially “hands on labs” from week to week, culminating in Assignments and practical challenges over the 15-week trimester.

Which disruptive technology are you fascinated by and why?

Like the part of the world that loves rather than fears innovation, I am blown away by the “magic” of the recent releases of OpenAI and Google, among other challenger Generative AI engines like character.ai and YouCha – all are American companies by the way. I teach a number of these Gen AI tools in my class which at USV is an interdisciplinary mix of game engineers, game designers, Digital Art and Animation students and business, not just the Computers Science Department where I am based.

The many faceted applications of tools like ChatGPT are truly innovative and I’ve been delighted by the Natural Language Processing developments that have taken decades to get to this point. The NLP Conversational AI engines like the one I worked on for so long have been paving the way for Large Language Models. Artificial Intelligence has “been in development” for something like over 30 years – from when I first logged into the university’s World Wide Web 1.0 in 1993, to using OpenAI 4.0 to write my contracts in any language for any jurisdiction in 2023.

Applied AI will become everyday and regulated, that’s inevitable. I think the current hype cycle – sad that we must look at life these days in terms of hyped content versus more staid evaluations (that don’t get clicks or likes) – means that many commentators want to drum up fear, anxieties and over-excitement.

The good aspects of new advances in AI will be very good e.g. creating new pharmaceuticals in a fraction of the time and with far less expense so that medications can cure humans, animals and – hopefully with these new Gen AI tools – they can detox our climate and reverse environmental pollution.

I am fascinated by how Gen AI could help turbocharge action to solve climate change by producing ever more irrefutable statistics and more useful data that the denialists and obstructionists can no longer debate and ignore. This is a powerful “weapon” against apathy and resignation about the end of the world due to global warming.

We can even use it to fight wars. For instance, I would love to see Russia put back in its box after the humanitarian crimes it has perpetrated on the Ukrainian people and others.

Brief us about your upcoming book. What kind of research did you do, and how long did you spend researching before beginning this book?

It is based on the MOOC courses I have done and am doing for the SpringerNature platform in Berlin, iversity. I can’t disclose the title and content as yet – don’t want copycats before it is published.

I have been researching the topics for many years now. I published part of the original manuscript as a series of Kindle ebooks on Amazon in 2022. It is very much a work in progress because soon after, Gen AI was unleashed upon the world! And I need to incorporate all the new studies and research about that.

What does literary success look like to you?

The Long Tail. If you look at all my creative work that I have self-published on Amazon Books, you can see that I have been writing for quite a while. I had work published and performed in my early 20s but I decided to keep honing my craft until now when I will take it mainstream, so increase my public profile as an author.

The Long Tail means that all the microfiction I have published keeps getting read, sold and shared. I don’t have a lot of reviews – I have deliberately avoided marketing it. The reasons are that I am scaling up some of these novellas and shorter works into full length fiction in the coming years so I intend to promote those novels instead

I guess I took an entrepreneur’s approach and wanted to show traction with actual data about readers courtesy of Amazon so that my future literary agent and publishers could see the potential of my writing and its audiences. For instance, my biggest fan base is in Japan, followed by Brazil. I wouldn’t have known that without the Long Tail trail of data.

By the way, the term “The Long Tail” means that sales are not about immediate “big” volumes e.g. a bestseller with thousands or millions of copies sold, rather it is about measuring long term impact. In other words, it is a more telling metric for the constant, small number of sales over years and decades, no matter what niche you have created work in.

What are the aims and ideals that guide you as an individual and a professional?

Honesty and frankness. I personally believe relationships are not worth nurturing unless you agree on a level of openness to create trust. Thus, I keep my circle of friends and work colleagues to a relatively small, curated number that I can easily manage to invest enough time in.

What has been your most career-defining moment that you are proud of and why?

Getting my course at the University of Silicon Valley up and running as it services a need for students who are grateful to me for it. And my first MOOC course on the amazing iversity platform – they just commissioned from me another 3 MOOCs on Gen AI and Immersive Tech so stay tuned!

Earlier in my career as an academic, it was definitely getting my grade of magna cum laude for my 4 year doctorate in Anglistik (English), Philosophy Faculty, at the University of Potsdam in Golm which now boasts a technology park, incubators and not just a Max Planck Institute when I was there in the late 1990s.

I missed the ultimate “summa cum laude” by just a few points because my “Oral Defence” of the thesis was a particularly difficult one given the subject of Cultural Studies. I was examined by UP Professors from Ancient History to Contemporary Sociology and was expected to be knowledgeable on just about everything, not just my dissertation. So yes, that was a big sense of achievement when I got my diploma for that.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I am going to be cruising around Lake Como in northern Italy and Lake Lugano in Switzerland. I used to do a lot of yacht racing in Germany and Australia, though that involves too much adrenaline-charged energy in my 50s! I am working from that region as of autumn 2023, so I plan to establish a home there with my family.

I would like to do a quarterly “commute” to California if the carbon footprint of that is justifiable, from Milan Airport directly to San Jose because I get a lot of inspiration and good energy from Silicon Valley. And I am going to be writing more books, creative and non-fiction, which is why I am finally signing up with a literary agent to handle all that.

What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in tech?

I was sent an article just this week with horrid statistics: the cost-of-living crisis in the USA and globally has seen women being sacked from tech jobs in huge numbers. The piece named the Tech Bros Culture as the culprits: women make up only 33% of the global tech workforce, yet are nearly half, 44%, of those being sacked since 2022*. This is obviously a huge setback for feminism, women’s rights at work and basically just any woman who wants a career in any tech-related field.

What can I advise? When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Don’t be ashamed of toughening yourself up and fighting for that job. Stereotypical femininity of being “shy”, reserved or “not demanding” – so a “non-threatening”, passive type of rival to a guy who wants the same gig – won’t get you anywhere when the job market tightens like this and is unashamedly discriminating on gender grounds (no doubt racial bias will be on the rise again given the hard economic climes).

There’s no shame in putting yourself forward just as assertively and confidently as your male counterparts. Remember they are the competition, and you need to prove yourself on your merits and wiles just as much as they do.

Tech Bros Culture is defined as men who choose other men like themselves for jobs and positions of power; women are then automatically disqualified. So get tough and be extra confident in promoting your capabilities to land the work you desire and aspire to. You have every right to go for that dream job – I’ve said these words to many young people I’ve mentored and often they landed a position they never thought they could get. Mind over matter!

Reference: https://www.msn.com/en-za/money/careersandeducation/women-facing-lay-offs-as-tech-bros-beat-culls/ar-AA1c3EWa

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