An Intimate Talk with Machine Learning Leaders


The Vancouver Entrepreneurs Forum (VEF) partnered with Science World as a venue host for tonight’s talk. In the impressive OMNIMAX Theatre, they had presentations on the big screen and chairs setup for the panelist to be on stage.

The night started with some local businesses that are currently working with machine learning.


Justin Long came up with the idea of having a personal assistant for online dating. He explained how Bernie will watch how you ‘Tinder’ and learn what you like and don’t like then start making matches for you. An image can tell Bernie a lot about someone, from the items in the image mixed with facial or body expression. Bernie will even start conversations for you. Learn more here.

If you have a hard time keeping track of your spending and need help managing your money, brings a personal banker to your phone using AI. This is a white label solution for banks to use as a tool with their clients. Learn more here.


Everyone is guilty of at least once going to Google and finding an image to use within their content. If it’s a family email, work presentation or even images on their website. Copypants is using AI to make sure you are protected from theft. Learn more here.


This is where the terminator jokes start to turn into reality. Kindred brought their robot in a stroller and explained how they wish to make the robot look like a human and are working on teaching it to also behave and interact like a human. Learn more here.


Focused on quantum computing and unlocking the possibilities of new commercial quantum hardware production. Learn more here.

Next up was the panel, comprised of the following:

  • Jeff Herbst, VP Business Development Nvidia
  • Geordie Rose, Founder CTO D-Wave
  • Toufic Boubez, VP Engineering, Machine Learning, Splunk
  • Mike Gelbart, Machine Learning Lecturer UBC
  • Moe Kermani, Managing Partner Vanedge Capital (Moderator)

“Data is the new bacon!” – Toufic Boubez

The panelist started with where we are today. How companies have jumped on the ‘Big Data’ bandwagon and have been collecting so much data that it’s impossible to make sense of it all. Because of this, data specialists have emerged as well as the need for a vertical data expert. A very common problem with a lot of companies is that the data is poor. There is a lot of it but it is hard to make sense out of it all.

In the past, we learn and then apply what we learn. We do this on repeat. However, the problem is now that we have so much data to learn from, how do we understand or know how to ask the right questions of the data so we can apply what we have learned. This is not the case for all companies that have been collecting data or have learned to collect good data.


We are seeing now that some industries are being disrupted by machine learning, which Geordie Rose begs to question if computers will take over all our jobs that we have today. Geordie is convinced that computers will take over all of our current jobs in our lifetime. That doesn’t mean that humans would be job less, we will evolve to do something else and this idea is not far-fetched. History can show us quickly a handful of jobs that no longer exist. However, it gets interesting as the speed of adoption with technology will happen at a rapid rate. Which begs the question of how will society adjust such big changes in such a short time. The panelists didn’t have the answer for us tonight, which is fair as that’s a tough question to answer.

Deep learning is already affecting the future of automotive (autonomous Uber vehicle delivering beer), trading and finance, health care (IBM's Watson AI saved a woman from leukaemia) and security industries.

Everyone on the panel agreed that machine learning is pushing the envelope with more practice happening now more than ever before and it’s messy. It’s not a well understood field and mistakes might happen but the future of machine learning is here. They are creating life in a machine environment, to the point where we will not be able to tell the difference between machines and humans. Sounds scary to think that we are on the path of something like Westworld becoming a reality. Before you get scared, a couple points came up that we should remember. AI is automation and these talented people haven’t figured out how machine learning can mimic how humans learn in one shot. One shot learning was referred to when humans can look at a situation and know best to address it based on ‘gut feeling’ or experience where AI cannot.

Another topic that was covered was would big companies have an unfair advantage as they have massive data to work with vs the smaller companies or entrepreneurs. Creating a big separation between those that have good data with machine learning vs those that do not, making it extremely hard for new companies to step in. Again, this is a tough question to try and answer, Elon Musk thinks Universal basic income might be the solution.

No matter how you look at it, machine learning is a very exciting new evolution that is going to affect all of us. Evolution has always been around physical and now we are entering a time where we will see evolution around cognitive solutions.