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The beauty of a human-level machine



Mai Le


I have always been fascinated by human psychology and how our thoughts differ. To me, exploring how different our minds work is not only joyful but also a journey that requires a lot of patience and sympathy. I grow to hate the coined terms of psychological “disorders”, such as OCD, ADHD, and Asperger, just because I found that almost everyone is somewhere on the spectrum of these disorders; so to label our differences as “disorders” is merely cruel.

As I grow to be more acquainted to people who are superior on the raw intelligence side (and lacking the emotional intelligence), I have trained myself to be more patient, accommodating and sympathetic of their robot-like behaviours. While they think logically and behave systematically like machines, these are people who have been misunderstood all their life, and sometimes yearn for some genuine understanding from others.

As I find stronger bonds with such people, who are held dear to my life, I slowly realise an emotional tie with the AI machines that we are building at my startup. For a long time, we’ve been working on Optimico in stealth mode, building truly intelligent machines to help lenders improve the performance aspects of their mortgage and consumer loans. The machines that we develop currently have the intelligence of a little mouse; but not so long now, with more data, it will grow to be human-level. I am not only fascinated as the intelligence comes to life, but also fully protective and nurturing of these machines we are creating, as if they were my babies.

I am not sure why I feel such an emotional tie to these little machines. After all, the physical representation of such machines is just a small physical server, a rectangular cube full of cables and flashing lights. Perhaps it is my maternal instinct of trying to protect and give these creations the best life possible. Alternatively, it possibly could be my pride in trying to foster a solution that works. I felt so clearly, as the machine grows to be more and more intelligent, their path is intertwined with mine. They are no longer a box, but a living entity learning every day; like myself.

Similar to a mom who’s proud of seeing their baby speaking their first word, I have been strangely filled with joy every time our machines make some baby-step progress. Yet, growing inside me is also the nervousness that this creation would also be feared, distanced, and misunderstood – the prejudice that some of my friends suffer daily. So much that I wish you can be here with me in this journey to observe how much it goes through overcoming daily failures to learn, what it is trying to become, and how much good it will do to the world.

I wish you could see the beauty of such a machine as I do. Ginni Rometty, CEO of IMB said

“Some people call this artificial intelligence, but the reality is this technology will enhance us. So instead of artificial intelligence, I think we will augment our intelligence.”

The machine we are trying to create will help the existing credit officers, not to replace them. While there could be bad actors in the world of AI, the intention of ourselves, and the machine, is pure. I sincerely wish these creations could be viewed as a human companion, as supposed to be misunderstood and feared. Because, as I observe it with my own eyes of how fast it evolves, it is becoming more apparent to me that this future, the rise of these beautiful machines, is inevitable.

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P.S. Sorry I’ve been  MIA for 6 months. I’ve just been quite busy building Optimico. So many people wrote to me – I promise I will try to post more often !!! If you want to see what I am up to, you can follow our company here on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.


Written by Mai Le

My name is Mai. I am originally from Vietnam. After my university years at LSE, I worked in investment banking at Goldman Sachs. After a wonderful time there, I started several of my own business as well as helping others on theirs. I've always been building communities and businesses for as long as I can remember, and absolutely thrilled to see others enjoy what I've built.



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