The Book Thief

When I was in 3rd grade I would steal books from my grandfather’s shelf.

Books that covered the history of psychology and philosophy – and books about the mind.

My grandfather, Paul, was a professor in New York – one of his students was Stanley Kubrick – and Paul would sit me on his lap and talk for hours to me about these subjects. I was fascinated. He had a photographic memory. I loved him and looked up to him.

He really sparked my curiosity especially about the mind, so I would steal his books.

My uncle, also named Paul, was a Harvard mathematician and a Jesuit priest who was really interested in physics. For him, science was no threat to his religious belief system. He talked me lots about science, chaos theory – he loved to talk about cloning and how it could impact the soul.

Fast forward, to 6th grade, I was living in Portland Oregon and Intel was really a big company in the area. 1989, this was the year I discovered the internet! It was years before web browsers would be invented, but my brother and I would use a text command interface to download thousands of articles and pirated books.

We were obsessed, and we would download schematics to build blue boxes for free phone calls, and gray boxes that could turn red traffic lights to green.

It was not only exciting and heady stuff for a 6th grader, but it was also cementing in me a love for building things that could have an impact in the real world. Years later this would be a very reason why I left academia to launch my first company in AI. I didn’t want to just publish. I wanted to apply my findings to the real world, like we did when we were kids.

In 2016, I sold my company, and some people suggested that I should be just kicking back and taking it easy now. But it’s never been about the money.

I love a quote by Peter Thiel, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”

I suppose the kid in me is still driven by the promise of what’s possible. We’re barely scratched the surface. We can do so much more. I’m not sure what my next company will be, but I’m writing a book on combining human intuition with artificial intelligence, a higher thinking is within our grasp. And a part of me feels like there’s still a lot to discover on my grandfather’s bookshelf.

– Alex Bates

More About Alex Bates

Alex brings a unique perspective at the intersection of machine learning, big data, and the IoT.

As an undergraduate he authored 5 peer-reviewed publications (current citation count of 117), performing DARPA-funded research in neural networks, as well as research in memory and computational diagnostics, . Next he jumped into the private sector, applying analytics on some of the world’s largest data warehouses at Teradata, a pioneer in big data / MPP database technology.

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In 2006 Alex co-founded Mtelligence (Mtell) to harness the deluge of sensor data in the industrial IoT, with a mission to create a world that doesn’t break down.

Mtell’s machine learning platform is used to monitor global fleets of offshore drilling rigs, railroad engines, and process equipment, in effect creating a distributed immune system to protect equipment and personnel. Alex is lead inventor on 3 patents in the area of sensor networks and machine learning. Mtell was acquired in 2016 by AspenTech (NASDAQ: AZPN), the global leader in process optimization software. Alex received degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science with a concentration in neuroscience. His current interests are augmented intelligence and network effects, and he is a member of Peter Diamandis’s A360 (Abundance 360) network.