SDS 191: Helping San Diego Become a Smart City - SuperDataScience - Big Data | Analytics Careers | Mentors | Success

SDS 191: Helping San Diego Become a Smart City

Welcome to episode #191 of the Super Data Science Podcast. Here we go!

We are yet to see a powerful social platform that could incorporate the technical side of data scientists, engineers, and experts.

In today’s episode, I chat with Tristen Blake about his upcoming Data+Science collaboration platform, the CO Network. Join us as we talk more about the CO Network. We also dive into his career, the birth of Machine Learning Society, San Diego being the next Silicon Valley, the value of networks and many more!

Subscribe on iTunesStitcher Radio or TuneIn

About Tristen Blake

Tristen Tyler Blake is the Founder and CEO of Machine Learning Society, a global community for Data + Scientists, Engineers, and AI experts. In 2018, he launched the CO Network, a technical social network which aims to speed up global innovations in science, tech, and culture through meeting, connecting and collaborating with the right people.


Tristen was the finance guy for a wealthy Chinese family way before he established the Machine Learning Society (MLS). The closest thing to machine learning that he got a hand on that time was a TED video about drones which he got greatly drawn to. This video can be pinpointed as what sparked the eureka moment while he was attending a company meeting. He asked himself: why are the wealthiest people on Earth not investing in something that could change the human quality of life and earn at the same time?

Courage and leadership are what Tristen sees as his capital when he ventured in ML. He admits that he isn’t good at math but is very good at networks, human behavior, and abstraction. While he was growing MLS, which has now 6,000+ members of Data Science, AI, & ML individuals globally, he was learning from other people also. MLS was already an established avenue for hosting events that could educate and engage the community but Tristen wants to reach more people from remote places. So, he created a new digital experience – the CO Network.

CO Network is every little thing the data science community will need right now. It isn’t like other social networks. Tristen made a really nice analogy about this: When you come in the CO Network, it’s your motherboard, keyboard, monitor, etc. you’ll be bringing, not the suit and tie that you usually bring when you enter LinkedIn. CO Network is where data professionals can hangout and at the same time, do projects together. What matters nowadays are the projects and code reviews, not the resume which is an old broken system. In CO Network, getting jobs, projects, and data news can be tailored to what you want. Through CO Network, cultural difference is also considered.

Discover how data scientists and behavioral researchers can benefit once this social platform is live online. Tristen has so many plans for the CO Network and is hoping that it’d be well-received by the community. One of the things is the ‘reCOGNITION Prize’ which is an annual ceremony that celebrates the emerging technologies. It will be held in San Diego, California, the next Silicon Valley according to Tristen. CO Network is offering FREE membership but charges a little amount for organizing events and job recruiting.

And, if you still can’t get enough of this episode, make sure to catch Tristen at the DataScienceGO 2018 Conference on October 12-14 in San Diego!

In this episode you will learn:

  • Tristen’s career shift from finance to machine learning. (03:45)
  • Birth of Machine Learning Society. (08:44)
  • Creating a digital experience for everybody through the CO Network. (10:46)
  • How is CO Network different from other social networks? (13:56)
  • What features does CO Network offer to Data + Scientists, Engineers, and AI experts? (18:22)
  • Speeding up innovation by improving how people meet, coordinate, and collaborate. (22:30)
  • Tristen’s experience in DSGO 2017. (30:00)
  • reCOGNITION Prize focuses on celebrating emerging technologies. (33:00)
  • San Diego is the next Silicon Valley. (35:32)
  • What Tristen refers to as a ‘smart city’? (43:55)
  • Tristen talks about the book ‘The Square and the Tower’ which focuses on the value of networks and how they grow. (50:50)

Items mentioned in this podcast:

Follow Tristen

Episode Transcript


Full Podcast Transcript

Expand to view full transcript

Kirill Eremenko: This is episode number 191 with founder of the Machine Learning Society, Tristen Blake.
Welcome to the Super Data Science Podcast. My name is Kirill Eremenko, data science coach and lifestyle entrepreneur. And each week we bring you inspiring people and ideas to help you build your successful career in data science. Thanks for being here today and now let's make the complex simple.
Welcome to the Super Data Science Podcast, ladies and gentlemans. Super excited to have you on this show today. And today I bring to you a friend of mine. Somebody who I met just recently, but we instantly connected, Tristen Blake. Tristen is the founder of Machine Learning Society and the creator of the CO Network. And this podcast is full of adventure. You will hear courageous stories of going from finance into data science. Going from not knowing anything about analytics to founding the Machine Learning Society and creating social networks for data scientists and many, many more.
Tristen is a great example of a person who doesn't have the background in the field of machine learning or statistics or data science, but can see the value of this field and how it is growing and is fearless about jumping straight into it and doing things about it. We'll even talk in this podcast about how Tristen is working with San Diego to create a smart city in San Diego to make it one of the most progressive cities in the world. So this podcast is full of various courageous, exciting stories about machine learning, data science, technology, smart cities, social networks and much, much more. So buckle up for an exciting ride. We're going to jump straight into it.
But before, I wanted to let you know that this podcast is also available in video version. So if you want to see the video of our conversation and might feel a bit more personal to you, if that's your preference, you can find on YouTube. We don't often record video podcast but in this case we did. So if you have the opportunity to do so maybe head on over to youtube and you'll finally the link there or you can go just straight to and the video will be available there. If not, it's totally cool to listen to the podcast on audio. So let's dive straight into it. I bring to you founder of Machine Learning Society, Tristen Blake.
Welcome to the Super Data Science Podcast, ladies and gentlemen. Very excited to have you on the show today. On the show I've got a very interesting, a fascinating guest I'd say, a good friend of mine, Tristen Blake. Tristen, welcome to the podcast. How are you doing today?
Tristen Blake: Doing good. Doing good. Thank you for having me.
Kirill Eremenko: It's so, so exciting man. For our listeners, I wanted to say that when we actually met, and this was in San Diego a couple months ago. And it was, if you remember, it was the Fourth of July. So there was supposed to be fireworks.
Tristen Blake: Yeah. That's right. That's right.
Kirill Eremenko: And I was so looking forward to seeing those fireworks. I've never seen Fourth of July fireworks. But Tristen and I, we caught up, and also Paulo was with us, our event manager at DataScienceGO. We caught up and we were at this bar just chatting and we chatted all through the night. We finished, I think it was almost at midnight so I missed all the fireworks, man. You owe me some fireworks, right?
Tristen Blake: All right. It's fair. I'll give them to you on this podcast.
Kirill Eremenko: Sounds good. Well, just maybe like as a bit of a background. I read article that was written or like an interview with you. And it was fascinating. I didn't actually know this part of your story so I'll just quickly mention it, if you don't mind, and then maybe you can take [inaudible 00:04:08]
Tristen Blake: Sure. Sure.
Kirill Eremenko: As I understand, you don't have a background in machine learning or data science. You studied international finance-
Tristen Blake: International relations and diplomacy.
Kirill Eremenko: International relations and diplomacy. And then you decided all of a sudden to get into machine learning. You came to San Diego. You had severe stage fright and you didn't know anything about machine learning and yet, you organized a meetup about machine learning and got 50 people in the room, got a panel of machine learning experts. And from there it went. Now you're in the head of the Machine Learning Society, which has thousands of members in over four different cities and has had over a hundred different meetups and all these crazy things. So take us from there. How did this all happen? Why machine learning?
Tristen Blake: So the story, it's hard to pinpoint exactly where it starts. And I think actually it often changes, where the origin point is. But I remember getting this feeling in New York. I was working in finance, in a family office world. And I was managing a lot of money for a very wealthy Chinese family. And I would go to these really interesting meetings where there would be billionaires from some of the biggest and most well-known families in the world and they would talk about investing.
But when I'm talking about investing they would invest in 100 million in this project. They would buy a building for 200 million. And I'm the only guy in this room that didn't come from Oxford or any one of these schools. I'm not from a rich family. Quite the contrary. So I was basically working with these family offices, helping them invest. And anyway, I watched a story on the TED talk from a gentleman who did some really interesting drone work. And he would navigate his hand and the drone would move and I just got this impression that there was almost an unlimited source of power hidden in this technology.
But power to change the world in profound and in really positive ways, to make all of the things that people struggle to do seem ... Just technology would disappear into the fabric of your life. It wouldn't be something that you struggle to pull out and charge your phone. It would always be charged. So anyway I went to this meeting and I wanted to see what were they investing in and were they really holding a secret on some really interesting companies in artificial intelligence or genomics for example. And I asked these family offices, there's a little semicircle of people around me, "What are you investing in?" And they looked at me and they said, "Just core real estate. We just bought a hospital and we're converting it to a condo."
And they were so proud of this investment portfolio, product. And I just thought, "Oh my God, the wealthiest people on earth are missing the biggest opportunity in history to invest in human quality of life and also make a lot of money." There's a lot of wealth to be generated. And a lot of good to be done. And that's the power of this revolution, I think, that it allows us to do good and benefit as a result of that, whereas in history you had to make compromises.
Kirill Eremenko: Yeah, yeah. I know. I totally agree. That inspired you, if I'm not mistaken, for the fourth time to start your life again, get a ticket to San Diego and start into machine learning. Where do you get the courage to do something like that?
Tristen Blake: So yeah, leadership and courage. That's two of the things that I've been working on and thinking about for quite some time. Those are learnable skills. I think, one of the benefits of going from a good family or coming from a family that has a lot of success is actually they teach you how to be a good leader and they teach you when to have urge. I think that is the most important discipline to teach your kids, quite frankly. Because everything stems from there. All right. Your confidence. Your aggression when necessary. Your creativity directly applied. So getting back to it, I came to San Diego because I felt some kind of energy here.
Kirill Eremenko: Gotcha. So tell us about the Machine Learning Society. You started off. First meetup. 50 people attended. Fantastic result. And how did you grow from there to thousands of people nationwide, more than four different cities, hundreds of meetup?
Tristen Blake: So the reason that I started the Machine Learning Society in the first place was actually because I didn't have the necessary grades to get into UCSD. I mean, it was bad. My GPA. I'm not a traditional student. I'm not very good at mathematics actually. But I am very good at networks and human behavior. The social thing. The invisible threads that bind human relationship. So that's a different type of math or abstraction. And I practiced that my entire life, hence diplomacy, international relations.
But I wanted to contribute to science. And I wanted to get a degree and a potentially a PhD in data science so that I could start contributing to the whole data science world. I know the power of this. But I wouldn't be able to do it through a mathematical approach because I'm simply too weak in that. I don't think I have a strength, a natural one. But I am an artist essentially and I am a community organizer historically. So I decided to create community so that I could learn data Science from the people that practice it by putting on the events. I mean, think about it, you create an event and you marvel at the knowledge that is exchanged to you directly and to the entire audience. So it's almost crowdsourcing your own education. If that makes sense?
Kirill Eremenko: Yeah. No, fantastic. It's learning on steroids.
Tristen Blake: Exactly.
Kirill Eremenko: And you network at the same time. You hit two birds with one stone. Fantastic idea, man. That's very cool. That's kind of like nicely brings us to your new project, which you are wearing a logo of right now, the CO Network. Super excited man. Congratulations. We just launched the Kickstarter. By the time this podcast is out, it's going to be about like two weeks into the Kickstarter. Really, really excited for you. I highly encourage everybody watching to go and check it out. It's going to be revolutionary and Tristen, tell us why. What is the CO Network and why is it going to change the world?
Tristen Blake: The answer is in the Machine Learning Society. When I was hosting events in New York and Boston and the Bay Area in San Diego. People would reach out to me from Florida, from Israel, Japan on occasion. And they would say, "Hey, I would love to participate in this event. How do I get a link? How do I just meet the people that are there? How do I participate?" And it was sad that this person from Africa, I believe there was a gentleman from Tanzania who reached out. He's using mobile networks to predict the crop, yields. Fascinating stuff.
And this person is reaching out to me, trying to connect to this community. And I didn't really have a way to plug them into this ecosystem unless I opened up the Lagos chapter or the Beijing chapter. And that's a lot of work on my part, to organize and to essentially make it like a franchise. So I decided that instead of focusing only on physical events, I would create a digital experience or connect them digitally so that we could have a physical digital and one of the early names that I thought of the project was Physidigital because it has to blend seamlessly between meeting people in the physical world and then digitally exchanging information with them and then meeting back in the physical world again. It has to be seamless. It has to be done in the right way.
So I don't know. It was one night. I was laying there and I just realized that I wasn't building a community anymore. I was actually building a social network. And that realization, it stunned me because just the change of words from community to social network truly changed the entire scale of the project. And I realized I'm not only focusing on data scientists. I'm focusing on data plus scientists. That's anybody who works with data or science. And that's lot of people. And that's a lot of subjects, which are currently entirely uncoordinated. Not enough communication going on between those. We can break down those silos with modern tools like a colloquium as a chatroom for example on a [inaudible 00:13:52] flow. Or a variety of other tags.
Kirill Eremenko: Gotcha. We were just talking about this before the podcast, that even though they are existing social networks. Facebook, there is LinkedIn. There's a couple others. LinkedIn, for instance, is great. You'd think it's a good opportunity for scientists to connect through, but scientists, from my experience, don't really use LinkedIn. They don't. There's an active professional network. People go there to get jobs, to make connections or talk about like developing skills. But in terms of science and data science as well, it's not really a place where people go to hang out and do projects together. Like for instance maybe they even do a project [inaudible 00:14:34] there. I think you guys found a very interesting niche to really connect science together. So tell us a bit about that. How is it going to be different to the existing social?
Tristen Blake: Sure. So LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, all those guys. Just like humans ... I think you're a millennial. Is that correct?
Kirill Eremenko: Yeah.
Tristen Blake: Okay.
Kirill Eremenko: Definitions vary.
Tristen Blake: Yeah. I think we're late millennials. We're late millennials. Companies are just like people in that they're born to a certain cohort. So the IBMs, Microsoft and Oracle's. They're part of this cohort of companies that live and operate on a similar premise, from a similar age. GE, it's very different in age and approach and culture. The Tesla. I find that these companies, especially the new ones that are being born, they have a totally different set of values. We're building platforms that are appealing to a person not only from a use case and quality perspective and price, but also on whether we share their values and share their ambition.
So you wouldn't go on my network if you didn't believe in open data exchange and hiring people not based on a resume, which is a very old and frankly a broken system. You can't really put too much information on a page and most of the stuff isn't relevant anyway. It's been so formalized for an ancient industry that it doesn't really matter anymore today. Today you want to see somebody's projects and their code review, not necessarily how much time they've spent at Google. That doesn't really matter. And I think we're going to, not to be [inaudible 00:16:39] but to kill the resume, particularly in the sciences and the technology world.
So one of the things that LinkedIn for example fails to take into consideration or do is create a specific type of profile for scientist, that appeals to them and asks them science type of questions. And that's because it's a professional network and it has a professional culture to it. You put on your suit and tie when you're on LinkedIn. On our network you bring your mother board and a few soldering wires. You don't need to have a suit and tie on. And I think that culture difference is very important to consider when building this out.
I want to ask people the questions that they are looking to exchange with others and how they evaluate each other. We still haven't figured out what rules or methods do scientists use besides peer review or their academic credentials, to recognize whether another person is a good fit or a project or for their team. And that's really some of the territory that we want to go into in terms of behavioral research and studies on high performance technical teamwork. We really want to write some new literature through our social network and that'll be actually by giving access to many behavioral psychologist to our network so that scientist can study a scientific network.
Kirill Eremenko: Wow. That's so cool, man. I'm just changing [inaudible 00:18:22] just walking through this real fast, I think. But man, that is a really interesting idea. So I can definitely see how scientists can benefit. When we met up, you talked about co-researching things and working on research papers together and sharing research papers together. That's definitely a massive need right now. But what about data scientists. Tell us a bit more about that. If I'm a data scientist, I'm listening to this podcast. What's benefit would I get from joining the CO Network? And who are the people I can meet there? Maybe I can work on projects, get jobs, attend conferences. What are the things that are going to be available?
Tristen Blake: This is going to be ready in about three weeks or so. So you're going to open the home page and you're just going to see a map with people's kind of ... Almost like a conscious map. There are some of the dots on the map that are going to represent people that just made an action or created something, created an event or a job or posted a data story on their profile. You're going to see an organic community of people that are creators, particularly in the computational science, let's say. This is a computational science focus network. We accept social science, but we will lean towards computational behavioral sciences.
If it's psychology, then it's behavioral. Psychology with a computational component. So you would be able to log in and see all the upcoming events around the industry. Are you going to be in New York between the February 7th and February 14th? Perfect. When you search February 7th through 14th for New York you'll see all of the upcoming events, all the available jobs that many of the companies have posted there. We have many partners actually can't wait to post some of their open positions. They're, quite frankly, desperate to find CTOs and technical talent like data scientists and deep learning engineers.
Big and small companies. We're talking about some of the big boys. And we're also talking about some really novel and exciting new competitive platforms that are going to solve problems and compete with Google for solving maps. Or a new company that we're collaborating with, it's actually doing events. And it's quite a powerful platform. So distributed computing. So using your GPU on your computer and using your browser extension to funnel GPU power, you earn credits and then share them with a network. It's just type of companies that are going to be joining the CO Network. And you could talk to them right there.
You'll be able to look at the innovator directory and find not only all kinds of data scientists, but also engineers of all kinds. So when you have a bioinformatics question, you can ask it in the bioinformatics colloquium, which is our version of a forum. So it's really cool. Yeah, jobs. Data stories. Data stories are kind of like medium. You post your own articles and people can read them, review them, rank them. And soon the academy as well, where we're going to post popular books, movies and lectures that are technical in nature. So that people can rank them and you can have an organic sort of ranking system for this academic literature papers that people post.
Kirill Eremenko: Okay. Wow. Very cool. First question, is this going to be free? And second, can you share the website where people can find this, once it is live.
Tristen Blake: So average accounts will cost about a million dollars a piece. No. Look, the reality is, for me, and this is very important. It's not only marketing. It's actually just values and the purpose of why this is all happening. We want to increase the speed of scientific innovation. The law that governs ... The rate at which your battery in your phone changes or the rate at which we're able to dissect the DNA and discover new treatments, new cancer drugs. We want to change that speed. And I think my hypothesis is the speed of innovation is dependent upon how people meet and coordinate and collaborate and what kind of incentive structures are in place to bring them together.
And today, well, it's not very much different from 4,000 years ago where you had to bump into a former classmate or a roommate to potentially launch of project due to that trust being already built. What if our network could append a layer of trust, as being the third party, for a trusted marketplace for the exchange of ideas. Think of it that way. We're essentially a marketplace for the exchange of powerful new ideas and community. And it's architected around community as a service.
Kirill Eremenko: Okay. Cool. Very cool. And the website?
Tristen Blake: So this is interesting. I've been toying around with a few different ideas. There's one website. It's And that's that's our CO Innovation Labs website. I call it the cortex because that's where our ideas live. That's kind of an explanation of what the whole purpose behind this website is and most importantly, all of our projects, all of our initiatives. So that lives on that website. But the website that we're talking about, the CO Network. You'll be able to visit it in the near future, but I don't want to give out the link right now because I have a-
Kirill Eremenko: You want it to be a surprise.
Tristen Blake: Exactly. Yeah. Kirill, I'm telling you, it's not going to be kind of like a software that you just launch and you're like, "Oh, this is cool. A few things here and some things work, some things don't." This is going to be almost like a fully fledged product. It's just going to allow people to do things that they've been trying to do for decades and it's going to open up an entirely new just ... Brain space for people to say, "Oh my god, I can use this to do anything I want." And that's how it's been architected. So free for members.
And if you want to start organization on there, it's also free. But we charge about 6% or any ticket sales that we do for your events. So let's say you have $1,000 conference that you're hosting. We take 6% of every ticket. And 3% of that is actually for payments processing for like Visa and stuff and the other three is in order to continue building the site. While recruiting, and I call that technical recruiting. Actually precision recruiting. That costs $100 a month for five jobs posted. 100 bucks a month, five jobs. And anything more than that, and we kind of go to our internal database and have our team help you get the right talent through our internal network.
Kirill Eremenko: Fantastic. For our listeners, I've actually had the privilege of seeing this in beta when I was in San Diego, Tristen pulled out his laptop. And I was so impressed by the speed and just eloquence of execution. It was just so natural. It was nothing like what I've seen. Most social networks, they have kind of like the standard website layout. In the middle you've got what's been happening, type of homepage and so on. On the left, you got a bar on the right. This is completely different. The colors. I don't know if you've changed it, but the whole black and white was amazing and apps, really, really impressive.
How swiftly you got it off the ground. You said development can take that long, just shows how organized everything is. So very, very excited about that. And it sounds like, as well, you mentioned recruiting, events, careers and people getting together to get a project. It's like win-win for everybody in the sense that you got the recruiters recruiting data scientists who want jobs. That's kind of what we're trying to do at Super Data, bridging that whole data science gap where recruiters often don't even know the correct requirements that they have to post. They post data scientists with eight years of experience when data science hasn't even been around for that long. Those types of things. So really, really excited about it.
Tristen Blake: Actually one of the cool things is I've just started recording the first few episodes of our software development reality show.
Kirill Eremenko: Wow.
Tristen Blake: And basically, really just think about it as just some regular guy who is from the finance and has done a lot of traveling. But just some dude, me, with no scientific background whatsoever, with no development background, basically decided that he's going to build a platform that he sees in his dreams. I see something. I know it's going to work. And I want to release it to the world. And I just basically started building it on WordPress, the initial ML society. A couple of people came to me and said Tristen, "How many users do you have?" And I'm like, "800." And they're like, "How did you do that? Because it's so hard to sign up on your page, on your WordPress." And I'm like, "Oh yeah, they're hacking again. Oh yeah, that plugin must have broken."
I literally had broken plugins that were solving a problem in another plugin because they would break the right part. It was really unstable system initially. And then they said, "Tristen, we should build this professionally and do it the right way." And I'm like, "I've been waiting for you for a year and a half now. Thank you." And that's what we did. We started building it and actually our team is out of Cuba, which is really cool. Fascinating. They see it. When you have a kind of an imagination, you show it to them they get it and it snaps with them. And that's really hard. That's the difference between living in that project, whether your development team actually understands why you're doing this.
Kirill Eremenko: Very cool. Okay. That's a very interesting and exciting description of the platform and totally appreciate like what you don't want to spoil the fun right now. You want to wait until everything is ready and release then. I wanted to say to our listeners, very excited Tristen. Is it right you're joining us for DataScienceGO this year at-
Tristen Blake: That's correct. Yes. And I'm sharing it with my community.
Kirill Eremenko: There we go. So if anybody wants to meet Tristen in person and torture him a bit more about the details of this, then you can catch up with him at DataScienceGO. By the way, I'd love for you to share your thoughts on our events, with the audience. Because Paulo and I give you quite a lot of details on this as goes about when we met up in San Diego. What did you think? What was your first impression? And you haven't been to the event yet. What are you expecting?
Tristen Blake: I went to that one event that you guys hosted. And I really just saw passion in people's eyes. The moment I walked upstairs I saw people focused and learning and really paying attention, which means something that you're doing is working because the room was full. I think there was like 160 people or something. And everybody was really intent on learning. So I saw a lot of familiar faces and a lot of friends were there. I thought that was done splendidly. I really enjoyed it. I think you guys had extraordinary poise. And for this conference I'm really excited because I host conferences too.
So I kind of like to see my "competition". Let's talk about competition in a second because I think that's the relevant point. But when I look at other conferences, the ones that are not created out of [inaudible 00:31:39] I always look at how are they doing it? What culture do they have? Are the people connecting after the event? Are they actually building relationships post event or is this just a one time thing and do they go back home and almost as if it never happened. I think that's the organizers responsibility, to be person that connects all the people there and makes them feel comfortable enough to exchange information and go to the next day and take that idea and start transforming it into a reality.
Kirill Eremenko: Awesome.
Tristen Blake: I want to see that. I want to see you guys do that and I'm happy to help in any way. Because I think in San Diego, you guys are doing it in the right place. Everybody here knows my thoughts about that. But San Diego is the next capital or a science and technology, almost like a classical Athens in the making. One of the cool things that we just launched and you could actually go and register to be a volunteer or just to learn more about it. And actually, you've never heard about this. We didn't have it the ready at that time. So you know how there's the Nobel prize in Sweden and Norway every year. Right?
Kirill Eremenko: Yeah.
Tristen Blake: I mean, number one, it's been around for 130 plus years or something. And it also takes place very far north, in a place where science and technology, it really isn't the center of discovery or scientific revelation. But San Diego, Orange County, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, China, Asia, Japan. All these places. This almost like a ring of fire or this circle of the specific nations are creating most of the science that's coming out right now in almost every field. So I think what we need is a new award ceremony called ReCOGNITION. The COGNITION is capitalized. So it's actually ReCOGNITION or ReCOGNITION.
And it's an awards ceremony that's going to be focused on awarding not only discoveries of this technology or branches of science, particularly emerging tech. We're talking neurotechnology, brain computer interfaces, new battery systems, new energy paradigm, robotics, AI, blockchain, cyber security. These are all categories that we could award in and what we want to give the prizes every year to not only the discover, but also the entrepreneur. So in order to get a prize, you must apply this invention or innovation to something practical. And that really pushes entrepreneurship as well as academic creativity.
Kirill Eremenko: Wow. I never failed to marvel at so many things that you are in. From Machine Learning Society to CO Network to prizes. Very exciting.
Tristen Blake: The CO Network. The people on the CO Network are going to nominate the winners and vote on it using their weight. So if you're an expert in let's say quantum physics, your vote would be much higher weighted for the quantum physics prize than the blockchain prize.
Kirill Eremenko: Okay. Very, very cool. I wanted to touch on San Diego. You mentioned, and I totally agree. And actually you put me onto this kind of mindset of San Diego being ... What's that?
Tristen Blake: That's my cup. From the things I don't understand very well, but love still.
Kirill Eremenko: Nice. So San Diego, you mentioned like it's a new tech hub. It's kind of like the new Silicon Valley. And you are personally involved in building a smart city in San Diego with the government of San Diego. Tell us a little bit about your vision for San Diego. Why is it the next Silicon Valley?
Tristen Blake: Number one, it's just location. As the center of power, political, social, economic, artistic I think, as well, creative. Leads into the West and goes far West. You always go West in order to discover uncharted territory. And I think this time we jumped from the West Coast of the US and go all the way across that huge Pacific Ocean into Asia. The science from there will dominate the next 30 to 50 years.
But I think San Diego can be this incredible conduit of ideas into the North American sphere of influence. And essentially, if we build a fantastic relationship with the Asian giants today, we can position ourselves to not only absorb ideas, but also technology, investment. And share with them to have an economic partner in Asia. Potentially one of the biggest empires in the world. And when I say empires, I don't mean in the classical sense, I mean in a technology sense. Somebody that creates a lot of innovation just from the sheer size of their population. And their focus on education and mathematics. I think the Chinese are doing that right and there's lessons to learn for all the nations of the world.
Kirill Eremenko: Wow. I just have some quick stats to support it. Peter Diamandis from Abunda ... We all know Peter, but from his Abundance Insider, he sent one recently which was titled China Spotlight: Next AI Superpower. And he's actually saying China is, between 2017 and '19, it's predicted to nearly to account for over 35% of global economic growth, which is double of what the US is predicted, at 18%. And also, China, in 2017, so last year, China accounted for 48% of the world's total AI startup funding, compared to America's 38%. So just some of those-
Tristen Blake: Yeah. They're investing.
Kirill Eremenko: ... stats put it into perspective. You're absolutely right. That is [inaudible 00:38:43]
Tristen Blake: I worked for a Chinese family often. So I was aware of this phenomena as it was happening. We had 1.5 billion in assets under management and much of it was for investment into cloud computing technologies and some distributed computing software that we were acquiring. I kind of saw that the Chinese were not afraid of this technology and they were quite aggressive towards acquiring these companies. Good for them. I think they're doing a great job and I want to say that publicly. And I think we should learn from them in that particular scenario.
One of the other things that ... What makes San Diego special is number one, it's culture first of all. It has this fascinating culture where essentially we compete in order to discover collaboration. So the competition is who collaborates the most. And that is a reality you can only find in tech cities. Like New York or San Francisco, where you compete on a zero sum game theory because there are limited finances, there are limited funds, limited resources in general and you must crush your opponent to get their market share.
Here, if you build a technology or some sort of scientific process, there's always room to build on top of that and improve. And every new company can effectively be two new companies born to satisfy that scientific demand or that product demand. So I think science is fundamentally different than finance. And that will become omnipresent in the coming decade. And another thing is, right now there's a lot of intelligence arms race going on. I'd like to talk about this because the world right now is changing and people are finding where they belong. And they are moving to cities for example where the culture is scientific so they're moving there.
And essentially, if you've already won the intelligence arms race, you're only going to get more scientists and technologists and data scientists. And then are going to start building local companies and your economy will flourish. The cities that lose the data scientists that don't appeal to them, they are unfortunately destined to buy our technology in perpetuity or an interest, if you want to put it that way. So right now is a very important time for city administrators and government people to develop the proper incentives that attract data scientists particularly, but scientists in general, to attract them to come. Or else, they won't be able to keep up in the coming years.
Kirill Eremenko: I hope everybody on the podcast is listening to this. Data science is our, not just in a business sense, but in a global economic and government/cities and regions. And that's very, very exciting to be in.
Tristen Blake: I'm in international relations and diplomacy. I wanted to be a diplomat for a long time. There is a reason why I believe being a representative of a data science industry or sector or set of values is far more powerful than being any potential president of any government. I think you wield the power to create anything imaginable. And that goes far further than money or military power. Intelligence, ownership of intelligence and ideas and data is a type of power that has only recently become available. And it's important to use this power to create good and to establish fair and equitable environments that promote not academic hierarchy.
Universities, I'm looking at you. Just because somebody is smarter than somebody else doesn't make them better necessarily. Tenured professors, they're no more special than non-tenured. They simply have a designation. What I believe is there is a caught up point for intelligence or activity. If you're intelligent enough I only care about what you do, not how much more intelligent you are than me or you or any other physicists. I don't care about intelligence. I care about how you've done. And that's what our social network, the CO Network, is going to promote. Yeah, that's what we're focusing on. That's the culture. Culture tech.
Kirill Eremenko: In a way culture of results?
Tristen Blake: Yes. Paradigm shift there.
Kirill Eremenko: Fantastic. And that's, for instance, what we're building at our own company at Super Data Science. At the end of the day, results are what matter. Yes, efficiency. Yes, knowledge. And those are tools in your toolkit. But at the end of day, results is what you bring to this world and that's ... Okay. Tell us a bit about, while we're on the topic of cities. This podcast has been all over the place. I like how we about machine learning, networking and events and stuff like that. Well, while we're on the topic of cities, tell us a bit more about what is a smart city and if you can disclose anything about San Diego. Why do you see that is becoming a smart city and what does that mean?
Tristen Blake: I have this intuition that the future of our economy, particularly in San Diego, is a city that sells city services to other cities. So imagine the entire grid infrastructure, electric or water grid. Imagine an entire almost ... I call it a synthetic infrastructure that communicates and an intelligence that lives inside the wires is able to coordinate civil activity, traffic and parking, pollution. It's able to manipulate all this in real time and ingest this data. Emergency services. Some cities are going to figure out how this works very well and they're going to start growing quite rapidly.
And then they're going to realize, and this is something that I've been talking to the San Diego Government about, is they'll actually be able to sell this service to other cities. Cities that need a better way to manage their sewage system or water resources, crop yields. You can literally give them an entire framework on which they can build and they could rent that from you. So the project that I'm involved in is called a Silicon Road and the Smart Border. And that's a project that I launched in tandem with a lot of these other things. It's a long-term project. And the effective goal of that is to make San Diego the first fully autonomous city on the planet.
Kirill Eremenko: Wow.
Tristen Blake: Yeah, Now, many of the listeners might be thinking, "This guy, where is he getting his money or time or is this even possible?" I would just say the following. This technology today allows you to leverage at an unimaginable ways to coordinate literally millions of people online. You create a viral video, it can touch a billion people and you could change the world by being in front of a billion people. So I think that powerful media is going to be able to make San Diego appreciate its true economic value as the capital of artificial intelligence and biotech and some other fields like robotics, actually, I would say.
And it's already been successful. It's just a matter of helping San Diego appreciate its incredible scientific diversity. And once you give the data scientist competence, I think they start to explore this new territory and build on top of it and truly start to appreciate the benefits that come from being a data scientist in the 21st century.
Kirill Eremenko: Wow. Thank you. Very cool description, and it will be interesting to see how quickly that takes on form because I totally agree that it's all possible. It's just a matter of time how-
Tristen Blake: Kirill, it's inevitable. It's inevitable.
Kirill Eremenko: When do you think it will happen? For instance for San Diego.
Tristen Blake: It doesn't matter. And that's an important point. When will this recognition prize happen? As soon as possible. And that is actually dependent upon how much the community wants it. So I launch a project and I leave it to our community to decide whether that is something that they want to support. We have, I think, over 250 volunteers that have signed up to support this vision and to support what we're doing. And it's only a matter of time before you reach a tipping point.
And as a network's guy, as a person who explores human, social networks, very kind of different types of scientific networks, financial networks, I think that once you align enough people and make them feel like it's inevitable, it becomes inevitable. It's kind of a law of the universe. It's something that you learn by creating smaller things and then you just see how the bigger things can be done. It's just scaling a very small project. Launching this podcast is the same thing of launching that award ceremony. It's just a matter of scale.
Kirill Eremenko: Okay. I gotcha. But then like, I would like to argue that what happens to technology? You're in the space of technology and when you say, "I leave this project for the community to decide if they want it or not." By the time they decide, the technology might be outdated. So inevitably you still have to update it yourself. Don't you think?
Tristen Blake: I'm more interested in pushing and motivating people to think bigger, dream bigger, imagine larger. That's the goal of our software development project, the one that we're recording right now, is basically to show you that if you have a dream, you can create it. You need a little bit of capital, you need to be creative about that, but otherwise a dream can become a reality through very specific steps. If you want to achieve a goal, whether it's lose weight or get a job at Google or build a global social network, it's important to outline a vision of what exactly you want, arrange your values.
What is the basis of how this is all going to work when it's done? And then create a plan. And once you have that. Again, there's a tipping point towards inevitability that you reach once you've actually committed yourself entirely to making this happen, which I personally have. So it's only a matter of time. Hell or high water.
Kirill Eremenko: Gotcha. Okay. Cool. I usually ask this question at the very end, but I'll ask it now because I have something else in my mind that I want to ask you. Is there a book that you can recommend to our listeners? I know you read a ton of books. And just even right now, you mentioned two really good ones that you recommended to me. What's a book that you would want to recommend to those that are [inaudible 00:51:07]
Tristen Blake: Sure. So a couple of days ago I came up with a list of books that guide our values at the CO Network. I actually posted them into our team page on our website. So If you go to the team. So it's press kit and then team. You'll actually scroll down. After you read about the team, you'll see all the books that we put together. I think there's about 40 of them actually. Each one is linked to our Amazon account. So if you buy a book, I think we get a dollar or something. It's just a way for people to support us and also to find some really cool books and podcasts, which I'll add yours there, by the way, after this conversation. They could find really valuable content all in one place. The book that I want to recommend is The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson.
Kirill Eremenko: That's exactly the one I was thinking about man. That's why I asked this question because I was like, "I got to ask him about The Square and the Tower." Tell us about it. When we were catching up you told me about Square and Tower. It's about the value of networks and how they grow. I think it's essential knowledge because it will give people more like a push to build their own networks, their own, not social, but build a network of connections and grow their career that way. What's a summary of this book? What's the most valuable stuff that you learned?
Tristen Blake: He starts it off, Niall Ferguson, he's this famous Harvard Don, this historian. He just has incredible books. The West and the Rest, The Rise of China. He has a lot of work on China. I think he wrote a book about Henry Kissinger, an entire account of his life. Truly this political historian. A beautiful historian. One of the people that, when you read the Dan Brown novels, you're reading about this guy's character. So the main character. He's like this explorer, a modern day explorer and he takes you to a journey of how networks have existed for a millennia and they're the ones that drive human phenomena.
So for example this is on personal account, but I would imagine the World War II was not a war between two people. It was a war between living and dying network. the Thucydides's Trap, which is a famous situation in political theory where arising power threatens a current power. It's a Thucydides's Trap, that it's inevitable that they war. That's part of this network analysis, his network theory. And if you really get into studying this stuff, there's a lot of fabulous methods. There's mathematics behind it and the visuals are spectacular and you really get to see how ideas spread from place to place, how culture manifests.
It's the study of population-wide behavior that we are quite literally ... We know about it just as much as we know about DNA, which is less than a percent, I think. And in the next coming years, and what he outlines is that we're going to start seeing the world in a much more networked fashion. And I totally agree with that because the moment my community became a social network I understood its true power and potential. And by treating it like a network, you give it essentially these new capabilities. You start to provide it with the ability to connect to itself. You can architect the nodes in the communication systems in it. And you could even layer it over other networks.
I'll tell you this much. He also talks about networks collaborating with each other and attacking each other. And I find that today is a great example of in the morning my network essentially attacked 23 [inaudible 00:55:32] network for turning off their API, for scientific research. A really, a move that was based on revenue and not on responsibility. And our network tonight, it's collaborating and blending together and creating value for this intersection. So if you look at the world through networks. you start to see that they're alive. They're conscious. They exist and they govern governments, they govern small towns, they govern corporations. A corporation is almost a living entity. It's kind of consciousness. It has its own consciousness behind it. And that's what a network is to me.
Kirill Eremenko: Fantastic. And even in legal terms, corporation is mistreated just like as a human.
Tristen Blake: Exactly. Exactly.
Kirill Eremenko: So why is the book called The Square and the Tower?
Tristen Blake: I think he was talking about a particular city in Florence or Tuscany, where the Square is where commerce is done, it's where the market takes place. It's where people come from all over and share and exchange goods. The wine seller sells to the bread maker. The bread maker bakes bread, which is used to do this and then the sword maker sells it to this person to protect the bread maker. So it's just a marketplace. The tower is this hierarchical structure. So that's a network of kind of like interactions that are almost a marketplace of exchange. Well, hierarchical-
Kirill Eremenko: That's a square?
Tristen Blake: Yeah, that's a square. The tower is a hierarchical structure. We're talking about the military, the government, we're talking about universities. We're talking about systems that have a distinct leadership infrastructure and cannot bend or breed or create as fast as networks, but they're safer. And in different parts of history and it's time, it's better to be a square than a tower and I think the ... Or a tower than a square. I think today it's obvious that it's better to build digital communities or digital networks in the square. Because the tower is simply, it's unable to leverage this opportunity, this width, this eight billion person and soon 10 billion person intellectual capability that's trapped in there. The tower can't leverage that. It doesn't have enough hierarchical layers to layer all of that. While the square can invite billions digitally or millions.
Kirill Eremenko: Yeah. Wow, very-
Tristen Blake: It's scalable. The square is scalable.
Kirill Eremenko: Tower, at some point is going to start falling over.
Tristen Blake: That's it. Right. How high can you build a tower? And there's also a little bit of the tower can see the square and dominate it. And it was very high up and far away from the action. The king lives in the tower so he's unable to speak with the commoners or the people that are exchanging. He or she doesn't really know what's going on there and they make decisions based on a higher view that affect the square. And the square affects the tower in return. So that's kind of the fascinating thing. But the reading is absolutely necessary. I would truly encourage you to pick that up and explore the hidden world of these invisible networks. They walk around. They're among us if you really look.
Kirill Eremenko: I just looked up Metcalfe's law.
Tristen Blake: Metcalfe's law
Kirill Eremenko: ... which is value of a network. And I just had a thought. Maybe the word square comes from the fact that the value of a network is proportional to the square number of the nodes, the number of nodes square. That's kind of like an interesting, fun word.
Tristen Blake: That's interesting, yeah.
Kirill Eremenko: But basically, I guess, for me and for our listeners the takeaway is that first of all, great [inaudible 01:00:05]. I looked it up. either. I did get it as an audio book, but it's huge man. It's like a really big book. It's not one of those quick reads.
Tristen Blake: Yeah. It talks about illuminati. It talks about secret societies. It talks about financial networks and modern social networks. It talks about how to design them and how to architect them as different types. It's scientific treaty [inaudible 01:00:33] on this type of new technology. Networks are technologies by all means.
Kirill Eremenko: Gotcha. So basically the takeaway is, get the book if you're interested to learn more, but in general, networks have a lot of power. And if you're not as passionate as Tristen about building your own social network, build a network of professionals around you or scientists, data scientists, who will give you that power to leverage your career. A good example that 70% of jobs are filled, job places are filled behind the scenes. They're never advertised. They always happen through referrals, connections, people who each other, internal hiring and so on.
Tristen Blake: Personal network.
Kirill Eremenko: The job listings are like 30%. Well Tristen, this has been an hour. A very, very exciting hour. I know we've got like a ton of other stuff that we can be talking about and so many things. I think we should do a follow-up podcast and maybe a bit after your CO Network launches. You have some initial user feedback and some stories, some success stories to share. Would love to get you onboard. Want to say a huge thank you for coming today.
Tristen Blake: Thank you.
Kirill Eremenko: What are the best ways for our listeners to get in touch and follow you or maybe join the CO Network and other ways that they can get more info about your project?
Tristen Blake: Sure. So visit our website And the reason we use .co, we want to have a little play on words and basically communities, they're born out of conversation and collaboration. While corporations, they're born out of competition and conquest. These are two types of co's. We want to hybridize operations and essentially make them like communities. So imagine a corporation that lives and breathes off of collaboration and conversation. And if you want to support that visit our Kickstarter campaign. It's up for another 30 days. Support us there. Share it. Send 25 bucks or something. You'll get this T-shirt right over here with a hoodie.
And also just tell your friends about it. We plan to release it in about three weeks from now. And it's going to be fully fledged. I mean, it's going to work in a way that you're actually going to be able to use it to search for jobs. And in the next six months or so we actually plan to add artificial intelligence to do it. Because we are a data science community. So we're actually going to host on a hackathon on the user data that we generate. We're gonna host a hackathon to see if we can improve compatibility, that's name of our engine for discovering opportunities between people and talent and companies. So join us for that hackathon. I'll be sharing information. Check us out on that website and follow us and follow our articles. That will be lovely.
Kirill Eremenko: Perfect. Make sure to follow Tristen on LinkedIn as well to grow your network through his.
Tristen Blake: Exactly, yes.
Kirill Eremenko: We'll sharing all of links on the show notes. Tristen, thanks so much, again, for coming on this show. Really appreciate your time and all the comments and all the ideas you shared today and I can't wait to meet you again in person in San Diego in October.
Tristen Blake: Yeah, I look forward to it. I'm going to share an update on our social about the event. I'm really excited about what you guys are doing. I saw you have Pablos Holman coming. I've heard some really great things about that guy. So congratulations on getting him. That's actually a pretty interesting talk. I think it's worth it to go see just him. So look him up. I think he's like Microsoft's lead ... Public stuff. But there's private stuff that's really cool, which you can just ask him.
Kirill Eremenko: Yeah. He's worked with Bill Gates and Microsoft on ... He's behind like the laser that shoots down mosquitoes or something.
Tristen Blake: Precisely. Yeah.
Kirill Eremenko: Really cool.
Tristen Blake: Very cool.
Kirill Eremenko: And then he's talking about data science, so it'll be fun.
Tristen Blake: I love it. I love it. Well, thank you so much and I appreciate it. We got to do this more often, man. It's going to be a lot of fun.
Kirill Eremenko: Thanks. Thanks a lot.
Tristen Blake: All right. Talk to you soon. Bye-bye.
Kirill Eremenko: So there you have it ladies and gentlemen. Hope you enjoyed this podcast. Once again, it's available on video so if you listen just the audio version you can always come and refresh later on and watch the video at I don't know about you, but personally my favorite part of this podcast was just the general fearlessness of the way how Tristen approaches things. Without a background in machine learning or data science or even technology, he sees the value in this and he jumps straight into it. And that is a huge testament that anybody can do it, with any kind of background of any kind or whatever you were doing before. If you see the value in this field you can jump and you can replicate Tristen's success.
You can create your own meetups. If you have a vision, you can create really cool things in this space because you have technology and the data on your side. That was my favorite part. I'm sure there are lots and lots of things, lots of valuable things that you got out of this podcast. As Tristen mentioned, he will be coming to DataScienceGO 2018, which is in October this year. It's precisely on 12th, 13th, 14th October. So if you're coming, you will get to meet him there and network with him and he's a really cool guys to chat to. When we met for the first time we met on the Fourth of July in the US. I really wanted to see the fireworks, but we got so carried away. We were chatting for four hours nonstop.
So I am really excited for you if you're coming to, because you're gonna get to meet him along with lots of other influencers. We've got 25 talks and that means over 20 speakers that are coming from all over the world to DataScienceGO. If you haven't picked up your ticket yet, this might be one of your last chances to do so. Head on over to That's DataScienceGO, all one word, and .com. And pick up your ticket there today. Secure your opportunity to network with some of the most forward thinking, influential data thought leaders in this space.
And as always, you can get the show notes for this episode at Make sure to connect with Tristen and check out some of the exciting projects that he's working on, including the CO Network. And on that note, thanks so much for being here today. Can't wait to see you back here next time. And until then, happy analyzing.

Kirill Eremenko
Kirill Eremenko

I’m a Data Scientist and Entrepreneur. I also teach Data Science Online and host the SDS podcast where I interview some of the most inspiring Data Scientists from all around the world. I am passionate about bringing Data Science and Analytics to the world!

What are you waiting for?


as seen on: