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Women Leading The AI Industry: “When machines gain the capability to generate creative ideas faster and more effectively than humans, I believe there will be a real threat to humanity that we need to be prepared for”

with Sarah Levy Schreier and Tyler Gallagher


It’s still unknown how far we are from that; existing models are statistical and mostly deterministic. But when machines gain the capability to generate creative ideas faster and more effectively than humans, I believe there will be a real threat to humanity that we need to be prepared for. This threat is very similar to past concerns about the atomic bomb and genetic cloning, as well as existing concerns about the possible impact of quantum computers. I think governments tend to remain behind on such technological shifts, something that poses an additional risk.


As part of my series about the women leading the Artificial Intelligence industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Levy Schreier, CTO of Sight Diagnostics. Sarah joined Sight to build and lead its technology dream-team. She is responsible for all of Sight‘s R&D and Product teams as well as its medical-regulation activities. Top of her class at the elite Talpiot program, Sarah gained her technology leadership experience during a brilliant military career, where she commanded elite cyber security teams and led projects in the intelligence special technology unit. Sarah holds an M.Sc. in Condensed Matter Physics from the Weizmann Institute of Science, and a B.Sc. in Physics & Mathematics (magna cum laude) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the ‘backstory” of how you decided to pursue this career path?

When I was 18, I joined an elite military program in the IDF called “Talpiot.” It was a highly exclusive program training 40 cadets, selected from a pool of 5,000 candidates, to become technological leaders in the security sector. The Program includes a B.Sc. degree in Physics and Mathematics and wide-ranging military training. According to Forbes, “‘Serving in Talpiot’ is like having a Rhodes scholarship, a presidential fellowship, and a Harvard M.B.A. rolled into one.”

After 3.5 years I was recognized as the top of my Talpiot class, and joined the special technological unit of the intelligence corps. I spent six years there, where I led complex and strategic projects involving a variety of technological disciplines and managed a cybersecurity department which employed some of Israel’s best software engineers.

I spent over 10 years in the IDF, and that’s where I developed my passion for leadership, my interest in solving hard and complex problems, and my aspiration to make a difference and work for a good cause. That’s also where I met some of the smartest people I know, who work with me today at Sight Diagnostics.

Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

Currently, I’m the CTO of Sight Diagnostics. Sight was created to provide patients with access to accurate, convenient and pain-free diagnostic testing that delivers results in minutes instead of days, in order to transform healthcare. To do so, Sight has developed an artificial intelligence-driven platform for blood analysis and infectious disease diagnostics based on its revolutionary methods for ‘digitizing’ blood.

We built and are currently scaling OLO, a lab-grade point-of-care blood diagnostics system that delivers blood test results to patients within minutes, rather than making them wait days to receive results, so that accurate treatment can be delivered faster. Our technology offers Complete Blood Counts (CBCs) — the most prevalent blood test in the world.

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?

I owe a lot of my success to my parents. They raised me to believe that nothing can stop me from reaching the top. Gender never played a role.

Today, being a mother of three young children, I get lots of support and help, particularly from my mother. She does everything in her power to allow me to do my job, promote my career, and not let the fact I’m a mother slow me down.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about the AI industry? Why?

In a sense, it works like magic.

Using a large enough amount of data, computers are now able to augment humans and perform advanced analytics and decision making tasks. After gathering data for years, we can use it to create new value. The techniques and methods to train and teach computers to do this become more and more sophisticated and less intuitive. It seems like we really are creating a new form of intelligence and are able to discover new patterns and trends that cannot be identified by humans alone.

At Sight, we are able to collect new data that was never collected before by digitizing blood. This allows us to not only perform multiple complex tasks that human microscopists perform today, but also to identify new features and patterns that will lead to new insights with huge potential clinical implications.

What are the 5 things that concern you about the AI industry? Why?

We are going to rely more and more on machines that rely on data. Hence, an enormous amount of data about every single person will be collected everywhere and all the time. This data can be used to develop extraordinary algorithms that will help improve our lives in many aspects, but at the same time, it can be used to cause harm and be exploited to threaten our freedom, privacy, and security. We are living in a world where there is no real option to remain disconnected from the data infrastructure, something that gives a lot of power to the owners of data.

At Sight, we work hard to guarantee that a patient’s personal information remains private and protected, because we strongly believe patients are the owners of their own data.

In addition, in a world where data is abandoned, AI has become common, and in many cases, improper use of learning methods can lead to wrong conclusions and meaningless insights. For example, MIT tried to see what happens when you teach an algorithm using dark Reddit sub-threads — they created a psychopath. Another interesting example is the attempt to develop predictive policing systems that use historical data, including arrest records and electronic police reports, to forecast crime and help shape public safety strategies. In such systems, improper data practices and the common use of “dirty” historical data leads to biased outcomes, calling the validity of predictive policing systems into question.

At Sight, we ensure our training data is variable and represents a wide range of demographics, disorders and clinical conditions to avoid such mistakes.

As you know, there is an ongoing debate between prominent scientists, (personified as a debate between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,) about whether advanced AI has the future potential to pose a danger to humanity. What is your position about this?

It’s still unknown how far we are from that; existing models are statistical and mostly deterministic. But when machines gain the capability to generate creative ideas faster and more effectively than humans, I believe there will be a real threat to humanity that we need to be prepared for.

This threat is very similar to past concerns about the atomic bomb and genetic cloning, as well as existing concerns about the possible impact of quantum computers. I think governments tend to remain behind on such technological shifts, something that poses an additional risk.

What can be done to prevent such concerns from materializing? And what can be done to assure the public that there is nothing to be concerned about?

The key is to combine forces between governments, academia, and industry to discuss ethical ground rules and proactively advance regulation. While most of the debating voices are from leading tech companies, a healthier debate would include a broader range of people with different backgrounds and educations.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

Sight’s initial product was the world’s first automated microscopy device for Malaria diagnostics, dubbed Parasight. Malaria is still one of the world’s deadliest diseases, largely due to ineffective and costly diagnostics. To date, over 600,000 tests have been sold to accurately and consistently diagnose Malaria in 24 countries across Asia, Africa, and Europe.

As you know, there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would advise to other women in the AI space to thrive?

I don’t think this is a problem specific to the AI industry. In tech companies in general, there is a need to excel, stand out and work hard. This is easier when work is done out of passion and interest. Women should face these challenges with no fear. I personally believe this is not a gender issue. I’d recommend both men and women to try and dedicate the first years of their career to finding what they enjoy and trying to make an impact there. Many times this will pave the way for a continued successful career later, when building a family and trying to manage a more relaxed work-life balance. Many companies have come to appreciate the importance and benefits of gender-balanced work groups and women are currently encouraged to apply for leading positions in this industry.

Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the AI industry?

I’ll start with a personal story. Before I signed the contract to join Sight Diagnostics as VP of R&D, I notified the CEO of Sight, Yossi, that I was 3 months pregnant. This news didn’t raise any concerns or pose any problems. Yossi congratulated me and then promptly hired me. I was relieved. Since then I have recruited most of Sight’s employees and, today, over 40% of our employees are women. I think the real difficulty that prevents young women from joining the industry is the challenge to combine work with motherhood. But this is also a challenge for young fathers, and the key to engaging more women is to build a work culture that treats mothers and fathers in a similar way — for example, to encourage both fathers and mothers to spend time with their families and to leave early at least 2–3 times a week to be with their children. Companies should cherish the importance of leisure and focus on goals and results rather than working hours. The AI industry exists thanks to the talent and creativity of the people behind it. I strongly believe that respecting your employees’ lives, families, and needs is the key to success.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.” ~ Mark Twain.

Throughout my career I faced (and sought out) complex challenges. When facing such large and intricate problems, the path ahead is not clear in advance. This may lead to negative reactions: frustration, confusion and loss of morale.

What I have found to be the right approach is stated crisply in the quote above. Breaking the problem to something more palatable and then taking the first step, is what makes a difference.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

I believe in the freedom and autonomy of individuals and in emphasizing freedom of choice. People should have their own choice in all fields of life and specifically in managing their health. I find true alignment between my personal beliefs and the values through which Sight operates. Sight emphasizes the importance of patient centricity in all that we do: people should own their own data, make decisions on where and when they go through diagnosis, and take a proactive role in leading their own care. Therefore, I am not looking to start a movement by other means at the moment; I am taking part in the changes I want to see in the world through my daily actions.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/sarah.levy.549

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahlevyschreier/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


About the Author:

Tyler Gallagher is the CEO and Founder of Regal Assets, a “Bitcoin IRA” company. Regal Assets is an international alternative assets firm with offices in the United States, Canada, London and United Arab Emirates focused on helping private and institutional wealth procure alternative assets for their investment portfolios. Regal Assets is an Inc. 500 company and has been featured in many publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg, Market Watch and Reuters. With offices in multiple countries, Regal Assets is uniquely positioned as an international leader in the alternative assets industry and was awarded the first ever crypto-commodities license by the DMCC in late 2017. Regal Assets is currently the only firm in the world that holds a license to legally buy and sell cryptos within the Middle East and works closely with the DMCC to help evolve and grow the understanding and application of blockchain technology. Prior to founding Regal Assets, Tyler worked for a Microsoft startup led by legendary tech giant Karl Jacob who was an executive at Microsoft, and an original Facebook board member.

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