Interview with Derrik Leach


 

Hi, my name is Derrik Leach and I joined SOSCIP in March 2021 as a Partnerships Officer. My role is to work with companies and academic researchers to uncover opportunities, build partnerships and identify relevant resources to drive innovation, commercialization, and economic growth.

Derrik holds a PhD from McMaster University in Molecular and Cellular Biology. He has worked in industry and the innovation ecosystem for ten years.

 


 

Q: What drives you in your personal and professional life?

A: Understanding the universe and the complex interconnected systems it contains, whether that be molecular biology, the human mind and body, computational systems, quantum physics, the earth’s climate systems, deep space, chemistry, mathematics, economics, psychology etc., it all fascinates me. I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert in all these fields, but learning about them, gaining new knowledge and being involved in the creation of new knowledge drives me every day. The beauty of there being too much to learn and not enough time to do so is that you will not run out of things to discover. It is important to remember that knowledge can be gained anywhere at any time and from anyone. I believe knowledge and access to the tools and resources to effectively acquire and use it are basic human rights. I strive to align my values and personal goals with what I do professionally to enable mastery and joy through all my pursuits. Being a part of SOSCIP and the innovation ecosystem provides me with the opportunity to interact with some of the brightest and most creative minds in the world to contribute in meaningful ways projects that have the potential to significantly improve lives in Canada and globally.

 


 

Q: What inspires you?

A: Daily I am inspired by the actions and character of my family and friends – they play an important role in my life and I am thankful for them. In our ultra-connected world, it can be difficult to avoid seeing the worst in humanity and wanting to put your head down and ignore the rest of the world to just live your life. Fortunately, within the noise there are plenty of stories of humanity at its best – people caring about people and understanding we are all human, all imperfect and all in this together. These stories have a deep impact on me and inspire me to use the skills, knowledge and opportunities that I have been afforded to play whatever role I can in creating an equitable and caring society that values all its members.

 


 

 

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: One of my all-time favourite hobbies is daydreaming; it can be done anywhere, anytime, requires no equipment and there are very few limits. You can spend your time thinking about impossible things that amuse you and bring you joy, abstract concepts or ideas to answer challenging questions; the future you want to create for yourself, others and the world; what amazing food you want to eat, anything at all. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have worked with academic researchers from many disciplines as well as companies from almost every sector for almost ten years. Exposure to so many incredible ideas, technologies and ways of thinking has broadened my knowledge base and understanding of complex systems and made daydreaming one of my most useful problem-solving skills. Balance is important and to give my mind a rest I spend time working with my hands. I have spent many years restoring a century home – a functional art project that I rank as one of my greatest achievements. Applying stain to a piece of restored heritage hardwood with beautiful grain patterns is one of the most satisfying processes.

 


 

 

Q: What makes you excited about working in the innovation ecosystem?

A: The innovation ecosystem is the perfect place for me. Almost everyone I meet and work with is an expert in something and my goal is to connect these experts to each other and/or resources to solve really interesting problems.

 


 

 

Q: What are your thoughts on the current state of artificial intelligence and what do you see in the next five years?

A: The discoveries and technological advancements of the 20th and 21st century have created and continue to create tremendous amounts of information. Every day we improve our understanding of the natural world, ourselves and the systems we have built our societies and economies on. Advancements in machine learning, deep learning and computational and communications systems (CPUs, GPUs, cloud, 5G etc.) have enabled us to collect and leverage data better and faster than ever before.

 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the term broadly used to describe basically any software code or algorithm that uses these datasets as an input to provide an answer, insight or actionable output. Datasets have become too big and/or too complex for a person or group of people to manually analyze them accurately or quickly enough to answer the questions being asked. Humans simply do not have the ability to handle, store, recall or process these massive data sets. The pace of our technological advancement greatly exceeds the pace of evolution and we are not suited to the societal requirements we have created. I will avoid going too deep into this discussion, but for these reasons, I feel the term AI has been adopted too broadly and a more accurate term is augmented intelligence. A lot of what is referred to as “AI” is codifying of the logic one would use to analyze the data; there really is not any intelligence in the systems themselves. They simply execute without any awareness of the actions being done or why they are being done.

 

Regardless of the term used to describe these tools, I think it is fair to say that they all increase the efficiency with which we use data and make decisions with it. Here are a few things (non-exhaustive) I expect to be driven by AI the next five years: i) as 5G infrastructure becomes more widespread, integrated into devices and adopted by consumers I expect to see smart cities start to come to life, including improved infrastructure monitoring and preventative maintenance; ii) increased awareness of data ownership and privacy with a push toward individuals owning their own data; iii) improvements in medicine and healthcare – the ability to collect high-resolution patient/person-specific data will allow us to move away from medicine being taught and practiced based on the “average person” ultimately allowing some diseases and chronic health issues will begin to be identified earlier. Imaging technologies will be augmented with AI tools, improving diagnostic resolution and accuracy. Finally, AI will continue to improve the design and discovery of novel therapeutics. I do not expect any major breakthroughs toward true artificial intelligence within the next five years.