Amir Banifatemi, Chair AI & Data for Good Global
My general focus is on identifying and developing emerging and transformative initiatives that can impact society in significant and exponential ways.
Some people are ambitious, some want the world and then there are some who are not contented with the world, they want the universe. One such person is our guest for today Mr. Amir Banifatemi. He is the executive director of the XPRIZE Foundation. He also chairs the AI and Data for Good Global. He also visits numerous well known universities as a guest lecturer. He started his career at the European Space Agency and has been an executive at Airbus, HP and the European Commission etc.
About XPRIZE Initiative
Amir shares that XPRIZE is a non-profit organisation, which was founded in the US with the dream of going into space 26 years ago. At that time there were huge restrictions on unauthorized people going to space. There were no such aircrafts or mediums that could take non-astronauts to space. Due to this a competition was launched to develop an aircraft that could take non-astronauts to space for at least three days. This competition was a huge success. Several competitions were launched after that. Later, XPRIZE became the engine to such competitions of developing and solving complex things. He also tells us about the technologies and projects they are working on right now. He proclaims that XPRIZE is working on three pillars; exploration, worshiping our planet and equity and empowerment of everyone.
Amir believes to be privileged that in the initial days of his career he could work with an agency which is working on issues related to space which is the European Space Agency. He tells us that he had to learn many things like space requirements, military specifications of components etc. to perform efficiently.
Engineers and communication skills
Amir tells us that he wasn’t good at communication skills either. He had to learn to communicate freely because it was required to perform his job efficiently. He had to talk to different agencies like NASA, different astronauts and several other people about the requirements and reviews etc. He believes that he was forced to learn to communicate and he is still learning.
Amir’s journey in XPRIZE
Amir recalls his first visit to XPRIZE. He says that he first went there to attend a presentation session. There was a competition to develop a device that could tell vital data about a human body without even touching them. So, he had to go to a meeting where he had to work on the medical validation of some of those devices. He was impressed by XPRIZE’s ability to bring invisible people who can solve complex problems to light. He joined the organisation as an advisor and now he is the Executive Director there. He also tells us how they discussed AI and started working on it. In 2015, The UN issued Sustainable Development Goals and AI became mainstream. There were a lot of negative views for AI at that time, so XPRIZE came up with a thought of developing robots with AI that could communicate with humans and solve their problems. This led to another competition and thousands of people applied to participate in it. He calls that competition to be the starting point of a movement of development of AI.
How does XPRIZE deal with the people who are afraid of technology
Amir affirms that technology, especially something like AI is like a knife, it can be both beneficial and destructive. People have to be explained the good use of technology and how it can provide them comfort. There are policy makers, research scholars etc. who understand this and are working on its ethical use.
Discussing handling the emotional side of people, Amir says that XPRIZE tries to tell the amazing benefits of the AI gadgets that people have developed through their competitions and showcase what they can do for society. Even after all this he still believes that there should be a regulation on the use of technology so that it does not turn harmful.
Amir’s role models
Amir derives his inspiration from selfless leaders who work for the betterment of the society. He believes everything one does should be a shared prosperity. Working towards something that can benefit all and in a very active manner is what everyone should try to do.
In Amir’s opinion, success is setting that more people are benefitting from progress
Advice to young people
Amir believes that an individual needs only one success to make a difference in the world. That success would come by observing the real problems in your surroundings and finding a solution that is sustainable.
My general focus is on identifying and developing emerging and transformative initiatives that can impact society in significant and exponential ways. I do this by helping create interdisciplinary frameworks for understanding and planning new developments and the funding required to bring new innovations to market.
I have managed a few private and public technology investment and venture capital funds and know how to establish fund operations and their overall strategies and requirements.
I also help innovative ventures and startups that target products that could generate sustainable economic and societal impact. I help teams on product roadmap strategy, pricing and business model, fundraising, and high-growth partnerships and mergers. Particular emphasis on AI and predictive systems, Quantum technology, Genomics, and crowd economics.
I enjoy teaching and have been a guest lecturer and adjunct professor at UC Berkeley, HEC Paris, Chapman University, Claremont McKenna College, and UC Irvine.