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“An Anti-AI-bot” With Fotis Georgiadis & Dr. Martin Zizi

For a long time, technology companies have taken advantage of consumer’s information, whether it is posted freely online or collected obtrusively. What started as a respectable need to use IT to enhance products, improve user experiences, and decrease costs, ended up creating a monster that can track data and use it without the customer’s knowledge. […]

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For a long time, technology companies have taken advantage of consumer’s information, whether it is posted freely online or collected obtrusively. What started as a respectable need to use IT to enhance products, improve user experiences, and decrease costs, ended up creating a monster that can track data and use it without the customer’s knowledge. Aerendir is MY answer as to what might change the world.

When confronted about the state of privacy, tech companies put up a facade that if users were concerned about their privacy, they wouldn’t share their information online, or after reading Terms and Services agreements, would opt out of using that particular service. However, there are few alternatives when it comes to the usage of the Internet as a whole. Terms and Services agreements printed on normal letter paper would add up to 18 feet in length! There is a continuous stream of scandals around data breaches in databases and around abuse of those very same agreements. Aerendir has been conducting research (two years before Cambridge Analytica) that proves consumers are concerned about their privacy in general and even more specifically in an online environment. We will soon have a peer-reviewed scientific publication showing that 93% of all people deplore their lack of online privacy, and we measured their emotional responses (like anger, for example). This was true across all demographics. This was true for the EU, UK, US, LATAM, Africa, and India.


Asa part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs. I had the pleasure of interviewing Martin Zizi MD-PhD, the founder and CEO of Aerendir Mobile Inc.

Martin is the inventor of the Neuro Print®, a cloudless AI supporting a physiological neural tapping technology for authentication, identification, encryption, and bot detection. The NeuroPrint® extracts a unique proprioceptive signature from micro-vibrational patterns in the user’s hands, using the accelerometers and the gyroscopes that are standard in today’s mobile devices. NeuroPrint® users can be safely authenticated across applications on the device, from online payments to the IoT, and as a result, devices become fully trusted. While surfing the Internet, our NeuroPrint® technology can also recognize if a human or a bot is generating the signal, all this without breaching user privacy. We do this by keeping computations local on the end user’s device, no need for cloud connectivity, or centralized databases.

Martin Zizi is an MD-PhD and a Biophysicist; he graduated Summa Cum Laude from Université Catholique de Louvain Medical School (Belgium). He completed his professorship thesis and postgraduate work at KULeuven University (Belgium). In addition, Zizi completed postdoctoral fellowships at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (MD, USA) in the Department of Nephrology, where he was involved in biotoxins and biodefense. He also did groundbreaking research on mitochondria, cell metabolism, and protein-protein interactions at the University of Maryland (UMCP, MD, USA).

Martin Zizi spent his career in both academics and strategic projects for the Belgium government and international organizations. Martin Zizi has 24 patents in various fields from artificial intelligence to bacteriophages.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Insatiable curiosity and a drive to experiment with things for myself whenever possible.

Some good luck too, as I was fortunate to have been trained and mentored by four giants in their respective fields, whether it was Medicine, Physics, or Molecular Biology. For someone reading my resume, they will think it is not possible to be wide-ranging, it would look like dilettantism, but it is the opposite. I always joked that I was not good at anything in particular, and hence I had to train myself 40-plus years to learn. The more one learns the more one sees what one does not know. The fun results in using this relative wisdom to create new things at the frontier between different fields. The oddest thing is that half of what I did is not and cannot be public domain.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career

I have two.

One is a deeply humanist memory. I happen to be a former military veteran. Once in Iraq, in 1997, I was a bioweapon inspector. During the time that we would inspect the weapons, we were always chaperoned by Iraqi minders. Some of them were talented biologists, and some were not. In the course of this work, we got to know one of our minders better, and he was a biochemist. He told me time and time again, how life was difficult in Iraq in 1997. Unfortunately, he could not get married because he needed to pay a dowry, and with what he was earning back then he would need nearly 25 years to do so. Long story short, when UNSCOM was pulled out of Iraq, I had to go through the empty streets of Baghdad in the middle of the night to pick up members of my team to go to the military airport. On my way, I collected all the Iraqi dinars we had on us — back then, $1 was like 2,000 dinars, so with six people, we had in a plastic bag more than he needed to offer to his future in-laws. We stopped at his house — against protocols I must add — and gave him the plastic bag, telling him: “This is for you. We have to scramble and go. Be happy!” At least two people in Iraq must have nice memories from that period.

The other one is a bit crazy. One morning I woke up and told my family out of the blue at the breakfast table: “Today I will make THE experiment that will solve cancer by attacking its metabolism.” In response, I got a table of laughter. Of course, this was an ongoing project of mine while in university, but I had struggled with some key experiments to complete it. So that night, I unconsciously dreamed about it and woke up to take notes. Next thing you know — we did it, and it was successful. We took out patents, and we now have unpublished molecules that can kill aggressive cancer cells in animal models by blocking the energy inside those cells, and thus making it impossible for those cancerous cells to divide. The normal cells being left untouched. This will change cancer therapy. This will be another company that I may build once Aerendir flies high.

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

I never thought that AI needed the Cloud to work, as the brain does not learn or train as we do with big data. Children learn to walk around age one, and they are not connected to hundreds of other children learning from each other at all times, right? Our brain learns by simulating mistakes. This makes mistakes safe, as they are not real. But the brain can — without consciously doing so — learn from those simulations and modify its wiring (its coding) from this ‘hidden’ learning. So, it will never be about big data, but about smart information and about learning from mistakes not just from large-scale statistics (aka big data).

Using those radical concepts, we were able to build one of the most effective and fully cloudless AI engines ever. Equipped with this first-of-its-kind capability, we developed a line of products, both can allow users to use their body as passwords to protect and shield themselves against data abuses and breaches. By being able to be at the true edge of what is Edge computing, we can give every individual the right to decide when and who has access to their personal data. It is quite a statement and quite a revolution in thinking and product design. Privacy is Democracy. By giving choices to users, customers, and citizens, we can unleash the true power of IT without risking the dystopian “Big Brother” models. 1994 was not “1994” as Steve Jobs once told, but 2018 was!

The first two products available are foolproof biometric authenticator and anti-AI-bot.

Our advanced AI system runs locally on standard mobile devices to power our physiological biometric authentication technology. Our patented technology extracts a unique proprioceptive signature, that we call NeuroPrint®, from muscles in the palm of the user’s hand to identify and authenticate the legitimate user. NeuroPrint® is based on a live signal that cannot be spoofed by presentation attacks. Our competitive edge is that we have liveness detection built-in — it comes free of charge.

In a similar way to our authenticator, our anti-AI-bot uses a live signal to differentiate between software agents and humans. In 2019, bot traffic reached up to 50% of all internet traffic — this trend contributes to ad fraud and is truly dragging the whole system down. Our approach to bot detection ensures that there is a real human on the other side of any online interaction. Simply touch a device that is running our anti-AI-bot and one will be seamlessly recognized within seconds. No friction points, no CAPTCHA. No RE-CAPTCHA either. Because, if you think about it, as long as we use the data generated by humans to prove that they are alive to train AI machines, we will fail. If we continue on this path, the human will become the friction point, as the machine will be better at answering RE-CAPTCHA than humans.

We are also in early-stage development for an ethical data collection tool. We have ways to measure certain consumer demographics without EVER needing personal information. We have built a product to “feel” the age of someone using a vaping device, for example, to ensure they are old enough to use tobacco products. The possibilities are quite endless, and for us the keyword now is FOCUS.

By creating these products, we aim to restore individual privacy to the online landscape. We believe consumers care about privacy and are ready to see competitive alternatives to the status quo and Aerendir Mobile Inc. offers those alternatives. For us, there is NO privacy paradox — meaning that users deplore their loss of privacy but still are eager to use privacy-busting products — they are using what they have, not because they like it but because they have NO other choice… so we hope to deliver that choice.

How do you think this might change the world?

For a long time, technology companies have taken advantage of consumer’s information, whether it is posted freely online or collected obtrusively. What started as a respectable need to use IT to enhance products, improve user experiences, and decrease costs, ended up creating a monster that can track data and use it without the customer’s knowledge. Aerendir is MY answer as to what might change the world.

When confronted about the state of privacy, tech companies put up a facade that if users were concerned about their privacy, they wouldn’t share their information online, or after reading Terms and Services agreements, would opt out of using that particular service. However, there are few alternatives when it comes to the usage of the Internet as a whole. Terms and Services agreements printed on normal letter paper would add up to 18 feet in length! There is a continuous stream of scandals around data breaches in databases and around abuse of those very same agreements. Aerendir has been conducting research (two years before Cambridge Analytica) that proves consumers are concerned about their privacy in general and even more specifically in an online environment. We will soon have a peer-reviewed scientific publication showing that 93% of all people deplore their lack of online privacy, and we measured their emotional responses (like anger, for example). This was true across all demographics. This was true for the EU, UK, US, LATAM, Africa, and India.

So, by offering a novel human-machine interface that is under the full control of the human, we can change the depth of IT technologies as a whole. This has helped us pave a path for our privacy-centric products. We are one of the few companies that offer an ecosystem at the intersection of AI, biometrics, and hardware that can revolutionize the way we interact with the connected world. We are coming to an inflection point where people will need to decide which organizations they want to interact with and who they trust will be responsible for their data. Wouldn’t it be nice for each for us to decide what we want to do with our data? Either keep them to ourselves’ or allow their anonymous usage but then receiving say between $1,000-$500 a year to do so from the giant tech companies? Big data had immense value — in the trillions of dollars for some — it would be the right thing that millions of users get a share of this.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

By the way, I liked that show.

Of course, there are always good and bad uses of any technology. It is never what you do but how you do it! By not using databases, by not using raw data to build statistical analysis, by keeping all data on the device, and by using the very same technology to encrypt all of you, I feel that we go extremely far in avoiding all kinds of abuses.

People may be concerned about neural data collection. Hey, would I or should I share my brain in the age of big data abuses? The answer is that NOTHING is shared. It is all yours, at all times, and as I said, your brain can both authenticate you as the unique and legitimate user of a bank account, while at the same time never reveal your identity, plus encrypting your data.

Imagine a world where we bring the envelope back to email — thanks to YOUR unique NeuroPrint®. You touch a device, and there it goes full encryption for everyone except you and the recipient. We are busy building this too.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Well, I was on a plane between San Francisco and Frankfurt, having left another startup I helped lead. I had received a free Wi-Fi card. On such long flights, the mind wanders, so I went online and checked the prices of the mobile phone sensors and their performances. I had a eureka moment when I saw that they cost next to nothing. In shock, I wanted to understand why this was. And I surfed further only to discover that the same sensors (accelerometers and gyroscopes) have been sold by the billions to the automobile industry. And automobiles need reliability and fast speed, so those sensors were super-fast and super accurate. Now as I knew a thing or two about the brain and neurological signals, upon arrival in Brussels, I immediately took an old nexus phone, got an app to read the sensor’s output, and did a very quick and dirty pre-pre-product. I compared the curves that I could generate using my right hand, my left hand, and when the phone was on the table. It was fascinating — I could separate and recognize each hand at around 70%, and the table — without hands — was a perfect control. I knew then that I had stumbled onto something. In the next three months, I wrote a business plan, and one year later, I secured funding for Aerendir.

I can imagine Steve Jobs telling his team building the first iPhone twelve years ago to get ‘the cheapest off-the-shelf things’ to solve the problem of the orientation of the screen. I am quite sure he never thought that a Belgian contrarian would one day try to connect this to the human neural system.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Market access is always the hard part. Building magic is relatively easy by comparison.

At the moment, we deliver tailor-made B2B offerings. As a startup, we would be dead if we tried to change the world with our technology platform because we are keen on privacy in an ecosystem that thrives and makes colossal revenues out of the systematic breach of privacy. Not everyone’s bottom line depends on such breaches. Hence, we have to cultivate those important market ‘friendships.’

We also need the press to stop falling victim to PR noise and ask the hard questions. Do you know that Face Recognition has many unpublicized problems? From the foundation, neural networks are so brittle like a cathedral and are so easily fooled. Simply use lipstick, lip balms, or base make-up, and lightning can influence results. When we mentioned those facts — even as measured by labs or independent institutions like NIST- we get to hear that “others have a different opinion.” Our facts are NOT opinions. We always reference tech or scientific institutions. Does no one know that you have 4,500 tutorials on how to breach and fool the fingerprints from an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy? So, we need the press to play a critical role.

Additionally, I think that for some reason, the media conflates the terms Safety and Security. The use case at the border when face recognition is needed, and databases linked to law enforcement are OK, is totally different from my front door or my fridge. Does our fridge need to have links to a biometric database, sending my private information using my face to monitor the expiration date on a bottle of milk? … I do not think so. So, educating the public and the authorities is also a huge need.

Like any other startup, solid financial backing will allow us to make the B2B deals that are optimal. Lastly, we need to raise the debate about Privacy and educate the globe that choices do exist.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We have been working with specialized media outlets and have been trying to insert ourselves into the conversation at opportune moments, as well as also producing our own research around online privacy and its offline consequences. This is slow but will shed light on the fallacy of the Privacy Paradox that I mentioned earlier.

Given the fact that we need a lot of education, we specifically built our website to give contextual explanations about our products. We created two professional movies and a full fun amateur one, also on the website. We are now starting to film some truly funny spoofs about biometrics in general. Humor can be an attention-grabbing weapon.

We still need to find THE silver bullet there… any ideas?

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

So true.

Serendipity and a good friend led me to meet one of my current investors. After a lunch that was supposed to last one hour but lasted 3–4 hours, he decided to invest in this company and me. He turned out to be not only an investor but a partner. He taught me the difference between being a missionary and a mercenary, and he is quite a deep learned humanist.

Via Pierre — my first helper — I quickly met our second investor. He is one of the most successful people in PE in NYC, but a very quiet one. He happens to be trained as an electrical engineer before becoming a banker. After a first meeting that was centered on the name of the future company “Aerendir,” I went home disappointed only to be called the next day for a more serious business discussion. Then he suddenly told me in French (this happened in Brussels).

After six months, having two people who understand you and what you are intending to do, and who support your dream and vision doesn’t happen too often. I heard that the founders at Google struggled through a few hundred pitches before they got any traction!

But the real luck was to meet my team members. I like humor, so for my future Chief Technology Officer, I wanted someone with many different skills — someone who can code and thrive in various environments like an amphibian. So, I put an ad for a “frog,” and after a few humorous lines, I actually described the expectations and responsibilities of the job. A few weeks later, I received a phone call and heard in Frenglish “I saw you look for a frog?” I said, “yes.” “Well,” said the voice on the line, “I happen to be one, as I am French.”

Now, I have probably one of the most gifted hardcore C-coders that the world has seen. We can do AI in pure C, or at levels that can be ported directly on silicon chips. Exactly what Elon Musk just publicized that he needed. I’ve had this for four years now.

It is all about the team, in fact. Money is just fuel, necessary but sterile without humans. In the last three years, we successfully created a team of around 20, highly diverse in all capacities (youngest is 22, oldest is 71!). Without all of them, I would be nothing but a dreamer. By the way, I am still looking very hard to find a female Chief Operating Officer, so if you know someone!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As a scientist, I always offered my time and energy to educate, help the public, and the authorities to reach balanced decisions. I saved — as a doctor — a few people who had heart attacks or worse on airplanes or in public outings.

I started non-profits to solve the crisis of antibiotic resistance using viruses of bacteria known as phages.

I volunteer time and effort for various activities without bragging about it. I believe that no matter what the company of the future has to offer, it has to be something tangible and useful for society, otherwise, it will fail.

To me, money is just a means to do things; it can never be the goal. So, it is the means to fund new adventures in technology or to help bring change. When Aerendir flies high, one of my projects is to set up a foundation for me to use the money to focus on education and housing. We need to clean up the oceans, and we do not have 20 years to do so. We need to use biology to bio-clean our planets. This cannot happen with thinking as usual. We need to raise our children as out-of-the-box thinkers, but for that, we need them not even to see the boxes! Quite some work!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each)

Do not worry you’ll be OK.

It is a blessing to never think about difficulties; it paralyzes you. So free yourself from what people think about you and about what you do. You live in the eyes of the others, not for their eyes. Often, we want to please or appease, but this should never be too frequent. 10–15 years ago, I was too keen on peer-review because of my past as a scientist and professor. It took me a while to convince myself not to mind.

Be good to yourself.

Being an entrepreneur is like jumping off a cliff and building the plane while falling down. It is both adrenaline-laden and awfully distressing. We all forget to maintain our “driver” for our bodies. So early on, I put on some extra weight. It also took me a while to carve out “me-time” without feeling selfish about it, especially when I have family spread across two continents.

Stand the truth.

Jack Nicholson yelled this in one of the final scenes of the movie A Few Good Men, “We cannot stand the truth.” This is actually a truism in itself. For good or bad reasons, it is easy for any of us to selectively hear what we want to hear, not what we need to hear. I had to reach that stage very quickly, just to survive, to hire and keep good people, and to dismiss a handful (only 3 out of 23).

Use other people’s money.

Sounds provocative, right? But think of it as the ONLY safeguard against going off a cliff. If anyone is 100% self-funded, this person is more likely to indulge him/herself without accountability. Using other people’s money is actually the best way to learn how to be careful with the funds since you will be called to justify your spendings later.

Follow the Madonna business model.

This is from a friend of mine, actually. When you think about it, Madonna has been ‘cool’ for so many years — how did she do it? By being provocative at all times, she occupies the fringes. From her experiences there, she turned them into mainstream successes.

I do not need to be prompted to be provocative — it comes naturally to me somehow — but I had to force myself to unite my ‘fringe side’ to my ‘mainstream side,’ knowing just how far to push while being mindful of people around me.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Become who you truly are, dare to show humanity. Think globally. Act globally.

Richard Buckminster Fuller once wrote “Think Globally, Act Locally,” and it was/is a true movement, which echoes in a lot of what activism was, and what the millennials are updating. But we could go wider. We truly need to unite the planet.

Whatever you do, dare to be a nomad and travel — the experiences will make you fuller! Be human to all, be global, be practical. Always ask yourself: why not?

Whatever you do, remember: 1. Is it human-centered? 2. Can it go global? 3. Can anyone have “fun” doing it because then it would self-sustain? This last part is the trickiest one.

Can you please give us your favorite” Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.

This is a quote by T.E. Lawrence.

When I first read it, it was liberating. I now knew that I had to own my practical dreamer side. I always had those lucid dreams in me, those ‘what ifs’ in my mind, those that I only shared with close friends. Liberation came when I just went to bat for it. This is why I built the VA in Belgium, a side project I did for the Secretary of Defense in Belgium, reshuffling whole parts of the Belgian Social services, DoD, and health services into a structure that was based on the U.S. VA model. Before this, if one Belgian soldier went into a military operation and came back with some problem, or a disease, there was no way to help them, as the very word “veteran” had no legal standing in the Belgian structures.

Everyone, they all told me that I was a crazy dreamer, or worse that it was a good idea but not now, not with my people, not with my money etc. In the end, I had to go from A to Z — planning budgetary notes and drafting the legal statute. This was my side job, and to this day, a few people still love me for that!

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Aerendir is a market-ready neural tapping platform. Our code is production-grade and can function as libraries on devices, as part of an OS or firmware or ported to ASIC. This changes everything. True learning capability can be given to chips worth less than $2.

But to allow those changes we need the means, the skills, and the missionary spirit of our people. We need help to steer this platform into what it can become.

We have an experienced team where nearly everyone is multi-skilled. We have done what others did not. In three years, we have obtained 11 granted patents, and 20 more to come. We have three products at the gate, ready to enter validation in a B2B context, we are NOT a normal startup, we are Aerendir. We are GDPR by design before GDPR was even a word.

Imagine a frictionless, un-spoofable, near impossible to hack biometrics. Imagine being able to solve the problem of fake news and bot-farms. Imagine that Aerendir brings a win-win solution to our actual problem of privacy vs. security vs. user experience. Your body is the password and remains in control of you at all times. Our focus is known; our possibilities in the future are endless.

The aim is doing well while doing good.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow me on Twitter @MartinZ_uncut or LinkedIn @Martin Zizi. Follow my company on Twitter @AerendirMobile or LinkedIn @Aerendir Mobile Inc.

Our web site is www.aerendir.info or www.aerendir.com

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