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5-minute interview Maarten Sukel

Episode 19: Maarten Sukel, ML Engineer - The AI Factory
June 5, 2024
6 min
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Hopsworks Team
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TL;DR

“ML is like a toolbox you can apply to problems and there are never ending problems you can solve, and you're always puzzling. I really like that because it gives me something to do that's also useful for the world.”

It’s time for episode 19 and to meet Maarten Sukel. Maarten is the author behind “The AI Revolution” a book on how AI is changing society. Besides his book and his background, Maarten talks about his work with helping companies build AI products and navigate their tech strategy. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

My name is Maarten Sukel, I'm not just an author. I'm actually also a Machine Learning Engineer. I really like building stuff and making it work on a larger scale, that's sort of my day to day job. I'm also a PhD researcher in the field of multi model machine learning. You can say that humans are multi model beings with how we interact with each other with colors, with sounds and things like that. And computers used to be very bad at that. So ChatGPT would output text, for example you could analyze text, but multi models are basically trying to bring it all together with multi model machines. Some very good examples are models like Dall-E. When you ask a model to generate an image based on a text, and it makes an image, that's multi model machine learning. But I've been focusing a bit more on the practical side because I always worked full time. I worked for Picnic, the online grocery store, where I did a lot of forecasting, search engines, things like this. Before that I actually used to work for the government as a data scientist. So quite a technical background, and I recently wrote a book about it as well, which is a lot more on the societal impact of the tech, which I find very fascinating. 

How did you get into the ML field and why is it so interesting?

I got into the data science world mostly from my studies. I think during my bachelor thesis I started scraping Airbnb and analyzing their algorithms and how it impacted on housing, which was a business I had back then from the thesis as well. And that's how I somehow got interested in these worlds. Later I figured I wanted to be the one building these models. So I started building models and then noticed that sometimes it works out on the intended issue when you run it on production and sometimes it doesn't. And that has a societal effect as well. So that's how I also got to writing the book, by seeing how things end up. Sometimes it's intended and sometimes it is not. 

You can sort of hear from all the things I do, basically I really like doing a lot of different things. That's also why I founded my company The AI Factory, which advises how to build products for a bunch of different clients. I really like playing in other people's backyard, as they sometimes describe data science. You always get to do different things, you can work with medical imagery, you can work for a grocery store, you can work for governments and everywhere you go your technology will always assist you. ML is like a toolbox you can apply to problems and there are never ending problems you can solve, and you're always puzzling. I really like that because it gives me something to do that's also useful for the world.

Could you tell us more about The AI Factory?

Yeah, it's basically something I can put all my energy and enthusiasm for AI in. So on one side, it’s building products and really helping companies do that in a decent way and with a strong tech stack. But it’s also advising them more on strategy, because I like societal thinking as well. For example, what you should probably invest in in the upcoming five years because it will pay off. I really like to dive into those problems, really think about it, and then work on that. But it's all very focused on AI.

Do you have any interesting resources to recommend?

Besides my own book “De AI-revolutie”, I also really like “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism”. It's a very nice book. It's a bit of a denser read, but it's really an eye opener to how society functions. A bit more recent suggestion is “Unmasking AI”, which is basically somebody that's on a mission to sort of protect the world from machines, not in a science fiction way but in reality. But those I can really recommend. And people can always send me a message for more recommendations because I always have more than I can read myself. 

References

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