At the dawn of a new era, the future of AI beckons with promises of unprecedented innovation and transformation across every facet of human existence. Join Doctor Awesome for a captivating conversation with Christian Hammer, the CEO of Vala AI and host of the Techtastic podcast. Christian discusses the imminent impact of AI on society and addresses concerns while highlighting its ancillary benefits beyond virtual assistants. From dispelling negativity to discussing its exciting applications, they touch upon AI’s role in tackling technical debt, healthcare, and even the creative realms of science fiction. Get inspired by Christian’s insights and discover where he sees this revolutionary technology taking us in the next decade.

Watch the episode here


Listen to the podcast here


The Future Of AI, Technical Debt, And Science Fiction – A Conversation With Christian Hammer

Future Progression

Welcome back to the show. We’re in the present but talking about the future with Christian Hammer who is a host like myself. He’s the podcast host of Techtastic as well as the CEO and Founder of Vala AI, which is doing a lot of cool things in the AI space.


The Futurist Society Podcast | Christian Hammer | Future Of AI


Christian, I’m more interested in your idea of where technology is going. AI is something that everybody’s talking about. I know that from your podcast, you have a lot of varied interests in regard to technological progress. We see AI happening. We see advances in genetics happening and the space race. Everything out there is happening at such a breakneck pace. Where do you see us progressing? I feel like it’s 1 of 2 camps. It’s an optimistic camp, utopia, or a pessimistic camp, which is dystopia. Where do you see us heading?

Every technological innovation that has ever come up, whether it was the discovery of fire or the mastery of fire, which you could use to heat your home or burn down your neighbor’s home, in one of them, there has been fear and excitement on both sides. The reality usually comes out somewhere in between. Most people end up heating their houses. Occasionally, somebody ends up using it for nefarious purposes and does damage with it.

I don’t think any of the modern technologies we’re looking at really get us all the way to the utopian singularity moment where all of our consciousness is interacting in a boundless energy in a limited and unlimited universe. We’re approaching much more of that. The Star Trek universe is one that’s not that far off anymore.

I don’t know about warp drive being a practicality, like if it’s going to come to fruition or not, but the idea of people being able to pursue their highest purpose or the thing that they almost feel that they’re compelled to do without concern for starvation, disease, or famine and all the things that society has had to deal with throughout our entire existence. I see a lot of these technologies coming together. You have a lot of research going on into longevity and people trying to get to the point where they can live forever where aging is treated as a disease, not as an ineffability. Who knows if we get there? It increases the length of our healthy lives no matter what.

AI is one of those tools that allows us to get rid of the mundane things, the things that we don’t want to do. In fact, that’s what Vala is trying to do. We are trying to take the part of software development. Anybody who is reading this who’s in software development knows that there are a lot of things that we’ll call tech debt that are the janitorial services of software, the stuff we hate doing. What better thing to have the computer do itself than the grunt work?

The pessimism that you see though is because of a lot of the early stuff that came out or at least the early stuff that made a big splash. AI has been around for quite a long while, but the stuff we all see like DALL-E and ChatGPT is creating imagery. They’re reproducing art. They’re writing poetry. They’re writing songs like That’s because it’s the thing that was most approachable. There was enough data for it, and it was something that could be done with the technology. You’re a surgeon. Surgical robots have been around for quite a while, but they’re not doing the surgery. They’re making it so that you can do the surgery better.

It’s like telerobotics. It’s me using a joystick, which is great because there are benefits to using a joystick. If you drink too much caffeine, it removes all twitch, or if there’s even a very small area that you need to get to theoretically, you could have smaller instruments than our hands. Surgery is limited to where we can gain digital access.

Coming back to the whole AI topic, I feel like it’s a sideshow. When is it going to be the main show? I can’t even tell if it’s dystopian or utopian. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or if it’s a bad thing. It’s like a toy. It’s like an art project. When is it going to be so significant in our lives that I will need to know if it’s utopia versus dystopia?

We’re not that far away from that moment. ChatGPT 3, when it came out in 2022, I believe, in October, it was a big wake-up call for many people because it looked like it had the ability to do things that we thought only humans were capable of. However, I don’t want to say it’s smoke and mirrors because that’s not exactly right. It’s like what you were describing with telemedicine and robotic surgery. It’s beneficial and helps in a lot of very specific areas if you know how to use it, but it’s not the paradigm-shifting penultimate technology yet.

As we get closer to being able to do true AGI, you’re getting to the point where you’re going to be able to ask it theoretical questions and it is going to be able to come up with the experimentation methodology and all that. It can come up with its own hypotheses and theories based on the evidence it sees. We’re rapidly approaching that, and I see it every day.

There are a lot of claims of AGIs being reached by different companies that are working on different pieces. The mistake that a lot of people are making is they think that it’s all going to come from one large language model or something like that. They think one large data set with the right mapping is all of a sudden going to reach consciousness and be able to do all these human-type things on its own.

Who knows if it’s even going to look like that?

Why would it?

Even the idea of large language models, transformers, and all these other theoretical stuff, might go in a completely different direction. We might try to mimic the brain. Who knows what it’s going to look like? I feel like I don’t even know what it’s going to look like other than it’s going to be this ethereal assistant that manages our life and coaches us throughout the day about the best options for ramen noodles. It’s like the Rabbit, which has been reviewed as one of the worst devices by a lot of different YouTubers. The point is that other than the personal assistant thing, I don’t know what else it’s going to look like.

When it comes to robotics, a robot cannot outperform a surgeon. Wouldn’t you want to have a surgeon do it? It’s going to outperform the robot. I don’t know if that jump has happened other than assisting. I feel like a virtual assistant who tells me the best ramen places that I like based on my past history would be equivalent to me telling my secretary, “Can you book me a ramen spot?” That assistant could outperform a secretary.

That’s true.

What do you think it’s going to look like? You’re using it for technical debt, which I want to come to in a minute, but what do you think it’s going to look like?

That’s the thing that a lot of people are misunderstanding. They think it’s going to impact everybody’s daily life in a very profound way right away. That’s not what’s going to happen. It’s not what’s happening. From an insider’s perspective, somebody who’s been in technology for 30 years and building it out, there’s a saying around that. It’s that software ate the world. AI is eating software. The technology we are building is fundamentally transforming how we make software. That’s where it’s going to impact first.

Industries that are heavily reliant on software, anything that’s purely digital, their whole worlds have become AI-based. If you are in a large company, most of them have software that runs their world. You’re a surgeon, so you deal with hospital systems, scheduling, and all that. It might not be that you are using an AI-specific tool in your day-to-day life, though you probably will. Think of you taking your medical records and being able to, and you can already do this, speak to it, have it take the notes for you, and may also be able to recommend treatment diagnosis, drug interaction, and all that.

That is a topic where I can see the advancement happening. What I worry about is stuff that I don’t know anything about. For example, the management of my daily life. Am I going to be subjected to an algorithm that makes me go wherever I go? That might be the best thing for me, but maybe I wanted to try this ramen shop instead of that ramen shop. Does it take the freedom of choice out of it?

Absolutely not, no more than social media did. You’re being influenced by an algorithm every day if you use Facebook, Pinterest, or anything else.

I know that I’m caught in my little bubbles, and I have to actively push against that. What I worry about is it is so inevitable that it pushes back that I don’t even know the difference anymore.

Do you use things like Google Search to check and find out about restaurants that are around?

Yeah. I also go by proximity. There’s a Greek restaurant a couple of blocks down that I would never have tried other than proximity. I would search for it. It’s got a high three-star but certainly not a five-star. Why waste the calories on something that’s anything less than four stars? That’s the algorithm that’s going on in my head, but proximity overrides that. I know that’s freedom of choice. I made that decision.

I worry that I’m going to get a Rabbit that says, “Why don’t you try that Greek restaurant a couple of blocks from now?” and it’s being paid by that Greek restaurant to get me to go there. There’s enough of a puppet master behind that I don’t know the difference anymore. It’s something that I actively worry about.

Addressing Negativity Towards AI

I don’t know if other people who are in this space worry about that, but I feel like that’s a common thread that I get from other people who are really worried about AI in general. They think it’s this existential threat. They think all their freedom’s going to be taken away and that we’re going to have robot overlords. Robot overlords come in gradients. There’s a certain amount that I won’t even know is out there. How do you look at it? How do you push back against those people who are negative about AI?

The first thing I would say is if you’re worried about it, you’re already living with it. The algorithms already run our lives in all the ways you described. It’s hidden behind the scenes. When you pull up any mapping software and say, “What are the closest restaurants around it that make recommendations?” it’s not telling you everything. It’s telling you first the ones that paid to be there. It’s a paid search. One of the biggest moneymakers Google ever had. You’re already being influenced without knowing it. The daily news for 50 or 60 years has been influencing your decisions without giving you the full story because you don’t have time for it. You’ve always been influenced by some form of algorithm.

This one, weirdly, is going to be more based on what you want it to be based on. It’s going to be listening to your asks. If you said, “I prefer restaurants that are closer to me even if they are 1 star lower, but I don’t want anything lower than 3 stars,” that’s what it’ll give you. It’s going to be based on your wants rather than an advertiser’s or somebody in a tech executive office somewhere who thinks that they’ll make more money off of the algorithm being based in some other format.

For the first time, especially as we get to these personalized ones, I like the Rabbit. I don’t like the form factor of it. Using it’s a little weird, but I do like the functionality of it when I use it for different things. I was translating to somebody speaking Dutch. I learned a couple of words in Dutch, but it’s a hard language to speak if you don’t speak it natively.

How close do you feel like that is to a universal translator?

It’s so close. It doesn’t have every language, but if you pull up a street sign in a foreign language and put the camera on it, it tells you what it says, or if you pull up a menu in a foreign language, it tells you what it says. If you’re talking to somebody, it is doing, not quite real-time, but mere real-time translation. That’s pretty amazing. My thought or belief and proof we’re seeing with AI is that it’s making things more personalized. It’s allowing you to make the world around you more what you want. It is more of a personal assistant. It’s not an evil overlord. It doesn’t have the ability to do that, and I don’t think it ever will, frankly.

There are a couple of pieces missing from the pessimistic view here that people fail to realize. The reason that humans behave the way that we do and we seek power, prestige, and all that is hardwired into us from evolution. I always say we’re a pack animal, but we’re a tribal animal. Us versus them is baked in, our tribe versus any external tribe. There’s also that power dynamic hierarchy that has to be there because the dominant male gets to have children with females in the tribe. That’s built into us too.

All that hard wiring causes us to behave in society in certain ways. Even though we believe we’ve evolved beyond that and we live in cities, have countries, and all that kind of stuff, we still have that wiring. AI does not have that wiring. It only has what biases we give. It also doesn’t have any physical needs. It doesn’t hunger. It doesn’t fear. It doesn’t have any of those problems. When it’s doing anything, it’s only doing the things we tell it to do. We ask it, “Go solve this problem.” My fear has never been about the technology itself. It’s about people using the technology.

You don’t think the biases will be introduced for profit?

They are being introduced for profit, but then we still have a choice.

It’s going to be nice to have a bias list system where you get information from. That would be a really interesting future to live in. I’m looking forward to all of the other ancillary AI benefits too like self-driving, humanoid robots, and all that stuff. All that future that we were promised in this background, I want to see that. I feel like it’s happening at a closer pace than ever before. What other ancillary benefits of AI can you think of other than the assistant thing? What is the low-hanging fruit that you’re excited about? You’re in this space. You might have a different viewpoint than I do

The big ones for me at this exact moment are all the things we don’t want to be doing. It’s not just the assistant, but the janitorial services. Why do I want a robot? I want a robot that cleans my house and cooks my dinner. I don’t like doing those things. There are a lot of places already applying AI in exactly that way, stuff that I don’t want to do so that I can do the things I want to do. Maybe I want to be painting. Maybe I want to be solving a problem like curing cancer. I want to be doing the research or I want to be helping people. It frees us up from that.

This is why I focused on tech debt with Vala. If you look at how many software engineers there are in the world and what percentage of their time they spend dealing with old technology and maintaining it, it represents hundreds of billions of hours a year. It’s a $4 trillion a year problem. That is an immense amount of human capacity. It’s massive intellect, compassion, and everything we have going for us that is being thrown at, honestly, trying to maintain something that was supposed to make it easier for us to do something else anyway.

It’s garbage work that serves no benefit to society. If we can free up that work or we can stop people from having to do that, then maybe they can go do something amazing. Maybe they can be freed up to change the world in some meaningful way. We have a lot of problems to solve too. Technology is not always bad, and it’s not always good. It’s always about how we apply our technology to anything. We have a moment in time where there are a lot of us and there are a lot of bad things happening in the world, but we also have the tools to solve them. AI can free up a lot of our human capacity to chase those things and solve the big problems and the pain in our lives.

Technology is not always bad, and it’s not always good. It’s always about how we apply it to anything.

That’s the Star Trek utopian idea, right?

It’s exactly that.

Vala’s Work

Can you tell me a little bit more about what you’re doing at Vala?

Yes. You mentioned tech debt a couple of times. It’s one of those terms that’s like five blind men touching an elephant and describing what they see. Tech debt is the accumulated set of inefficiencies and bad designs that were put into technology, and they usually are done for expediency.

I look at it even a little bit more broadly. In my private practice, we’re part of a larger company. We have about 200 people that work for us. We’re still doing our calculations on freaking Microsoft Excel, the ‘97 versions. We have not made the jump to other better software. Even our electronic medical record looks like it’s coming out of Windows ‘95.

I feel like we’ve been kicking this can down the road and the amount of investment that we need to do is going to be astronomical, so it almost becomes daunting to even take it on. That is something that even a small to midsize company like my own can understand the amount of difficulty taking on a big push to update yourself with current technology. It becomes very daunting and a little bit scary. Is that something like what you’re talking about?

Yeah. That’s exactly right. I’m going to give you a long story. I’m going to do it as soon as I can. I’ve been in software development for a long time. There was a moment when Steve Jobs got in front of the whole world in the mid-’90s and said, “Finally, computers speak a language that we speak so that you don’t have to be a programmer anymore to tell it what you want it to do.” He was talking about Visual Basic coming into the world, which was not a true statement. This time, they do because of tools like ChatGPT, etc. You can talk to a computer and it gets you.

With all this technology that you’re talking about, the software that’s in the world that’s supposed to make our jobs easier to do and give us time to do the more important things, I believe we finally have the moment to empower your medical transcriptionist, receptionist, or whoever’s using these tools. I believe we finally have the power to solve that problem. It’s there.

All this technology in the world that’s supposed to make our jobs easier gives us time to do more important things.

My wife has the Alphabet soup after her name. She has many advanced degrees, certifications, and all that fun stuff, probably like you. What does she get paid to do? She gets paid to manage a piece of technology that was supposed to enable the same outcomes she’s supposed to be doing. What’s she doing? She’s administrating technology. That problem is everywhere and in every company. It doesn’t matter how big you are. It happens in construction companies with three people.

There is a gap though. I thought that the technology was there, and it’s not. That’s what we went about going to solve. We have to fill that gap. You don’t want it to break. You can’t have your medical records going off into the ether and not ending up where they need to. You can’t have your billing system not charging cards. You can’t have your payment systems not paying. You can’t break what’s there. Yet, you have to fundamentally replace it.

The first thing you have to be able to do is to understand it, and that’s the problem. A lot of those systems are either a black box and there’s no way in, or they’re so old that nobody alive knows exactly what they do anymore. The first thing we have to do then is to understand them. That’s the first thing we started building out. Our AI scans across the technology and starts saying, “Here are the facts about it. Here are the things that we can determine are true. Here are some strong opinions based on those facts, but we need you to tell us whether that’s what your business is doing.”

How does it form those strong opinions? How does it look at code and say, “It could be done better this way.”

It’s not necessarily making that opinion. The first thing it’s trying to do is trying to understand what your business is doing with the system. It can understand what the code does and the domains of the code. It’s like, “This is financial data. This is employment data. This is customer data.” It can understand those, and then it can understand the logic between the data being used in different ways that are trivial.

The things that we don’t know that we form opinions on are what you’re doing with that data and with those things. That’s those opinions. They’re coming forward and saying, “Is this what you mean to be doing?” Those are business decisions. Those are things that you need. In the case of scheduling where they’re using a scheduling tool, it’s like, “We see that you tend to schedule at 3:00 in the morning for so and so. Is that intentional or is something else going on?”

Here’s an example of something we saw. The port of Long Beach when ships were having trouble getting unloaded during COVID would tell ships to stay over the horizon and idle because they got incentivized for not having ships waiting at port or trucks waiting in the terminal. Software was able to look at that and go, “Is that intentional? Were you intentionally telling them to wait? All your systems say that that’s bad, and it is bad. You don’t want that to occur. Why are you doing that?” The systems were doing that because of incentives, right?


We don’t want to make a decision for them.

It’s cutting through technological bureaucracy.

That’s stage one. Once you understand that and you get them to articulate what they really want, what’s the outcome? We’re like, “We can tell you what you’re doing, but we want to know if that’s intentional. Now, tell us what you want to occur. What’s the business outcome you’re driving?” That’s when we can make recommendations.

This is a follow-up question. I heard on another podcast that AI has the ability to create software that does 80% of the job well and the 20% needs to be guided by a human or something. The next logical step is what if I hate my electronic medical record? What if I hate my X, Y, or Z? Can I make a better one with AI? Is that possible?

It is. When you’re talking about something discreet that doesn’t have a lot of interconnectivity to other systems and reliance on those, you can do that. Most people have probably heard of Devin AI, which claimed to be the first AI software engineer. It wasn’t. I created one called Brother, but I was the third.

I didn’t know about this company. Can you tell me more?


I didn’t even know that this space existed until you confirmed it.

There are about a dozen of them. There are a bunch of AI companies that have created software engineers that are AI. You chat with it like you would ChatGPT and tell it what you want, and it starts asking questions. Those questions help inform it on exactly what you’re trying to do. You might say, “I want a medical transaction record-keeping tool.” It will go out on the web, do a bunch of searching, understand what tools are out there, and pull together a bunch of facts. It then will start asking you questions about that, like, “What did you not like about this? Do you want it to do this? Where would you use it? Is it running on a Windows PC? Do you want it in a web browser? How do you want this built?”

The fundamental problem with all of those though, including the one I wrote, is that they make an assumption that you know a lot about software rather than being somebody who knows nothing about software. Somebody that knows nothing about software should be able to tell it what they want. Why we ended up going down a different path with Vala is because we recognized that the problem that most people are trying to solve is that they’re not technologists and they’re surrounded by technology that doesn’t do what they want. Even if you were to tell it what you want, it’s going to have to try to figure out how to connect itself to what exists. It’s not like it lives in isolation. We had to create something that understood the full context of where this thing was going to be and then could do the rest.

Having someone like yourself who has a deep understanding of it plus AI is really the best combo. The best case scenario for AI in the short term, in my opinion, is this idea of cobots. It’s cooperative with the AI. They can turn Christian Hammer 100X more powerful than by himself. I look forward to being in all sorts of different industries including my own. The biggest thing that I see for it not getting into the medical space is the idea of hallucinations. I hear about hallucinations and I’m like, “That could go terrible if it was like, “Give to patients this drug because it sounded good.”

Hallucinations are a weird thing though. If you stay in the middle of a large language model or any of the very similar systems of their vector graph, they’re very accurate. It’s when you get to the edge of it. You push to the edge by trying to give it too much context. This is why most of them have a token limit, which is an idea of how much information you’re sharing with the thing and asking it to do stuff around.

When you’re doing software, you run into the same problem. If I’m trying to build a system that does this thing and it’s trying to do too much at the edges of it, it starts to make stuff up because it doesn’t have a graph to go through and make sense of it. What we do is we’re constantly chunking things up into smaller pieces. If you’re building a house, there is a general contractor and they’ve got a bunch of subs. It’s the same idea.

What a lot of people are doing in very specialized niches is they’ve broken up their problem into a bunch of different what we’ll call agents because that’s how we think of them that are running different bits, and then they’re checked. This is a fun, hard problem in math. You have a non-deterministic outcome coming from these AIs, but software is implicitly deterministic. It’s 1s and 0s or true or false.

How do you test a non-deterministic output from these things and say, “Yes, that’s good,” or, “No, that’s bad.” That’s how we solve the hallucination problem at the edge of those. In some places, it’s 50% of the time. In software, they say that they can build 80%. What they mean is that 80% of the time, it’s going to give you a good outcome. That’s still terrible. 20% is a really bad failure rate.

Inspiration & Fun With AI

I would agree. I wouldn’t want to recommend a surgery that has a 20% failure rate. I do like the hallucinations every now and again. It’s fun to poke fun at the edges of what the AI is capable of understanding. It’s interesting. People have been caught in the medical literature for copying and pasting citation sources. I could see myself reading the citation sources. They’re so close to being something that I would read on this topic.

Let’s say I’m reading something about cardiac disease. The citation sounds so impressive. Whatever stylistic point they have been able to figure out, sometimes, it’s impressive to see that hallucination because it looks so similar to the real thing. That is one of the reasons why I go on these blender programs that make Harry Potter and the version of Balenciaga. That’s my favorite pastime to look up at in regards to YouTube. These imaginings that AI can put together are so interesting. Do you do any of that stuff?

Yeah. I’m also a visual artist. I do a lot of painting. Sometimes, I have a crazy idea and I’m like, “I have no idea how to represent this,” so I’ll sit down with one of them and give it a weird prompt to see what it does. I like to give things stories. I like to give non-human intelligent things the seeming ability to act like they’re humans effectively. I’m not putting them in. I’m giving them personality.

It’s an octopus. It has written a found prose about the loss of his friends because a fisherman came through. That’s the whole idea behind the painting. It wrote me this poem. The poem was a perfect description of what I wanted to paint. I used that to start painting because it was nuts. If you think about an octopus, it has no experience similar to you. I’ve been diving hundreds of times, but that doesn’t, in any way, make my experiences in life, and it’s relatable. It’s got eight legs of the whole thing. How would it see this world? It was a large bit of hallucination because there was no reference point for it, but it was believable and compelling. It was something that was like, “I now have a story.”

My favorite is a re-imagining of current movies or science fiction tropes as different eras in regards to their blockbusters, like 1980s blockbusters. That, to me, is really interesting. It could also be The Matrix in the 1950s. That’s why I like retro-futurism a lot. It’s an interesting concept as the future of what’s capable but in some previous era.

The retro-futurism thing’s really fascinating for another reason too. If you think of the ‘50s and ‘60s era of sci-fi, it was all boundless optimism. It wasn’t until the ‘90s that we started being pessimistic about it.

I know. I love that era. I want to live in that future so badly where you’re doing yoga on some forgotten seascape on a planet that’s light-years away. A lot of it had to do with the space race, psychedelics, and interesting music. I don’t know if we’re ever going to be able to recreate that time, but I hope that we can recreate that optimism. That’s something that I don’t feel like is out there. It’s not something that is celebrated enough.

Societies go through major evolutions over time. They all tend to follow the same parabolic curve. You can pick out what’s going to happen. Generation by generation, there are going to be events. We’re falling back into the ones that were in the early 20th century in a lot of ways. We’re seeing a lot of the same patterns emerge from a lot of the same causes, frankly. It’s in different specifics but has similar impacts on society.

A pandemic happened in 1914. We went through one. Even though far fewer as a percentage of the population died from this one, we isolated. We became a little bit less trusting of each other. We became a little bit more selfish out of necessity. It’s hard for society to bounce back immediately from that, but I do hope that the same type of optimism that flowed into the twenties the last time around starts to happen again. I think it will.

They’re so pessimistic, that generation. I hire a ton of people within that demographic and everybody is so pessimistic. Honestly, they have every reason to be. They might be worse off than their parents’ generation. There are a lot of existential threats for them other than artificial intelligence. I hope it really turns around for them.

It will, but it might not be as fast as everybody hopes for. Those cycles do rebound. My parents are a prime example. They live in a house that’s bigger than the one I grew up in in their 80s. Do they need to be living in a multi-story house with 5 bedrooms with 2 people in it? No, but they won’t move. A part of it’s the housing issue, the cost of living in general, and all that kind of stuff. It’s having a huge impact on people. That will turn around. It’s a matter of time.

I hope you’re right. I have faith that you’re right. The line Martin Luther King said, “The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice,” I truly believe it bends towards beneficence. We tend to get better year after year. I have faith that that will continue. I don’t have enough data to see that and enough data to honestly say that, so I hesitate to make an opinion or a prediction.

That’s one of the things I like about futurism. You don’t need to make a prediction. It’s interesting to contemplate the different features that are available to us. I’m sure that on your podcast, you have the ability to talk to all sorts of different people from all sorts of different technologies. It’s fun to ideate what the best outcome from their technology is.

For me, I love what we’re doing with AI. That’s going to have a profound impact on humanity on the medicine side, what’s going on with genetics, and all that. It’s amazing stuff. The one that’s been most exciting to me for a very personal, egotistical, and selfish reason is the flying car. I live on an island. I live remotely. I don’t have many neighbors, but I am, like any other human being, a social animal.

AI is going to have a profound impact on humanity.

I want to go and do those things. I want to have the ability to go to whatever restaurant I want. I want to have the ability to go to concerts and sporting events and be around people, but then go isolate away on my island sanctuary where I could be alone and it’s quiet and dark. A lot of those things are starting to happen rapidly. You can buy a flying car. The Jetson One exists. You mentioned that there’s not a lot of good data about the world being better than it has been. Prime is a great one to look at way down since my parents’ generation or down since my childhood.

You’re right about that. I’ve been more isolated in the past few years. Maybe it’s a journalism thing. I hear the negative aspects of journalism and it seeps into my consciousness therefore giving me a pessimistic outlook. Also, it truly is a generational thing. The people who are in their twenties, when I talk to them, they are overly pessimistic. They’re not looking at the crime rates from the 1950s. They’re like, “What’s happening for me right now? What’s happening within my neighborhood with the opioid crisis?” or something like that. It’s the stuff that they see front and center. I get that and empathize with them for that.

I’m a little bit older than them. I’m in my 40s. I look at the crime statistics. I look at the internet. I was born pre-internet. The internet, overwhelmingly, is a positive thing for society, in my opinion. I have some data. You are right. I can empathize with what they’re saying. I want them to have a house. I want them to have better income opportunities and whatever it is. I want them to feel optimistic about it also. If you could say one thing to that generation based on all of your technological conversations on your podcast, what would it be? What would you say to those people who are worried about all the negative aspects of technology from that generation?

With any technology, it’s about how we use it. Everybody feels unempowered. However, we all have this massive information tool that we can broadcast to the world like you and I are doing with the show. It has never been easier to have an impact on the globe than it is now. If you want a brighter future and a better world, the only thing that you can do is start to act on that. Start to be what you want the world to be and help others do that as well.

If you want there to be a brighter, better future, go build it. What’s exciting about your show, and it’s what I try to say about mine too, is things can go terribly. The world isn’t always rainbows and unicorns, but if you try to make it a world of rainbows and unicorns, there are more of us who want that world than we want the dystopian hellscape. Let’s get out there and do it.

I agree with you. I love that personal responsibility aspect of what you’re talking about. That idea of freedom and agency, creating the life that you want, and curating the life that you want is available even if you look at it on an extremely small scale. If you’re able to make your apartment look nice and tap into all of the stuff that’s available within your little bubble, that is something that you could focus on. If you are able to focus on that, that bubble grows. You can then start seeing some of the data that you and I are talking about. The crime rate is going down.

Several years ago, I was not able to have AI in my life. Now, I have an AI assistant in my life. It’s so much better that I don’t have to get a haircut by calling all of the different barbershops to see if they’re available. If you can control a small little bubble, it grows. You then see how things tend to get better in your bubble and how that bubble grows. That makes you overly optimistic about the future.


The Futurist Society Podcast | Christian Hammer | Future Of AI


That’s right. I don’t know if I believe in a higher power or anything like that, but I do believe that if you put good in the world or when you need good in your life, it comes back because it’s there. If nothing else, it’s a bank account. If I put enough good into the world when I need it, it’s there for me. Try to surround yourself with people who see the world the same way. The worst thing you can introduce is somebody that starts tearing that down.

If you put good into the world, it will come back to you when you need it most, because it’s already there.

I feel like we could continue talking for a long time, but we are getting close to the end of our show. Honestly, I want to give you a little bit more time with the last three questions that I ask my guests. We both have a show. We’re both in very similar stages of our careers. You’re building a company. I’m building a company. You like science fiction. The references that you made and the signals that you’re putting out there, I can tell that you like that.

Usually, I will ask a guest, “Where is your inspiration from?” I get a lot of my inspiration from science fiction. I want you to tell me specifically about science fiction and what inspired you in such a way that it opened your eyes to a larger world than was available. Your consciousness expanded from this science fiction work or whatever. I feel like we have a lot of similar interests. I would love to hear what your thoughts are specifically in that vein.

I always try to talk to people about the feeling of being in awe. That’s why my name is Dr. Awesome. That feeling of understanding that you’re a smaller part of something larger or understanding of reality got a little bit bigger, I gained a lot of that from science fiction. I can tell you a number of different works. Personally, the mop series of iRobot made me realize that robots were possible to be humanoid helpers. That’s a future that I want to live in. I didn’t realize that was available before Asimov, at least not in that way. Afterward, I looked at it as a real possibility. Specifically on science fiction, where do you gain inspiration from?

There are a lot. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy. Especially as a child, the fantasy side was very compelling. It was the first time that I saw those two lines blurred together, which was the Star Wars movies. Anybody my age, that’s probably the first thing that’s going to be out their mouths because it was the blurring of, “Is this sci-fi?” It’s happening in space, but it’s fantasy because there are wizards and things of that nature going on. It started with, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” There were these questions as a five-year-old child that I started asking, like, “What do they mean a long time ago? What’s a long time ago? What does that mean?”

It was in the past.

I was like, “How long does the past go on? With far, far away, how big is it? How big is the universe? How much out there is there?” That got me really deep into Sci-fi. Star Trek was part of my life growing up, but for me, it was more The Next Generation when it came out because the original one was on 1 of the 3 stations you got on television. It was on repeat for a few months.

TNG shaped my view of the world and morality. I am a different person because I grew up watching that. I get that.

I could keep going on, but the one that stands out most to me is a dystopian movie. I’m staying away from the books because there’s a mountain of them that I’d want to talk about. Blade Runner.

I love Blade Runner.

It’s a dystopian movie. The Earth’s uninhabited. There are so few people. People are living in entire skyscrapers by themselves, which I don’t think most people catch onto

I know you have a background in visual arts. It’s far ahead of its time. Even the fight scenes when that one Android was doing cartwheels and stuff was incredible.

That’s right. I forgot about that fight scene. That movie was visually stunning. Also, it was blurring the lines of another set of things, like technology in the traditional circuits and gears with biology. For me, it was a shocking new concept. I’m sure it has long been thought of, but it opened my eyes to that and made me want to research more and understand, “Are these things connected? Is there a way of understanding the human body?: Biology, in general, is similar to how we understand gears and circuits. There have been a lot of those moments. One of my favorite movies also is The Fifth Element.

That was so good. If you want to talk about the merging of fantasy and science fiction, other than Star Wars, that’s number two. There are other properties that have tried to do it, but the acting was so well done as well as the visual arts and even the costumes. Chris Tucker in that, I had never seen anything like that before. I didn’t know Androgyny was a thing in the future, not like that.

It was amazing. On so many fronts, it was pushing boundaries. They used a lot of avant-garde artists involved in costume-making and stuff like that. The Aliens series also. Syd Mead was an influence on my visual style but so was H. R. Giger.

That was so scary. I love H. R. Giger. It’s avant-garde. Have you seen the new Dune film, Dune Two?

I really want to talk about that one.

Let’s do it. It was also foundational. Fear is the mind-killer, that was something that I didn’t think about before that.

The Dune novels, all of them, including the ones by his son after he died, so many times have come up in my life. I read them first when I was pretty young. I took one view of it. I understood a piece of it, and it was the hero’s journey piece. As I got older, I re-read them again. I’ve read those books dozens of times at this point, and there’s so much going on about society, religion, technology, and everything.

He wrote about this stuff all before the age of terrorism. There’s this new focus on the Middle East that really wasn’t there at that time, I don’t think. He did a long treatise on the Messiah Complex and how it has its appeal, but it also has its huge cons. There are a lot of pros and cons to both sides. I agree. Frank Herbert was ahead of its time.

In the movie, Dune Two, when they were having a fight scene in a stadium and it was all black and white, it was very H. R. Giger inspired. For a long time, I was not interested in H. R. Giger because it was a little scary and I don’t like the feeling of being scared. I’m into sci-fi, but I draw the line at horror. For me, it’s not my thing. I don’t like that feeling.

I get it. I am there with you. Part of what I do with my visual stuff is I give something that we don’t think of as being human and give it human-like emotions and feelings. I used to do a lot of monsters that way. The Shape of Water is a phenomenal movie.

AI In 10 Years

I’ve seen that one. It’s good. It’s like optimistic horror. You can do creepy things like The Addams Family and Beetlejuice. Stuff like that brings elements of horror and makes it campy and fun. I like that kind of stuff. Honestly, I liked the Aliens. The big mech suit or the freeloader that Ripley was using, I want to live in that future. I can’t wait till exo suits are a thing. I feel like we should have another episode about science fiction. I do want to get to my second question, which is specifically on AI. Where do you see AI in ten years from your perspective? What is it going to look like? Are we all going to have Rabbits? How do you feel like it’s going to happen in ten years?

It will be with us everywhere like you have an iPhone with you or maybe a Galaxy. You have that device with you everywhere. You will have an AI assistant with you everywhere. You probably won’t be driving your car. I would be shocked if people are still driving because it will become less safe. You’ll probably not be able to get insured if you’re driving your own car.

A lot of the jobs that we think of as safe won’t be though. I don’t mean this as stealing away jobs. I think new and interesting jobs come from it. If self-driving cars are safer, how many jobs are driving related? There are truckers and taxis. You can go on a long list. That’s also inside the warehouse. There are hundreds of jobs related to that.

Any non-safe job is going to be replaced with robots, AI, or something.

That’s already happening. What does that turn our jobs into doing? It is ensuring that those are doing the right thing and they’re not doing harm as well as pursuing those higher orders, whatever it is you want to be doing. There is going to be a moment of reckoning in the next ten years around the question of how we compensate people in the world when jobs are becoming less common or when there are far fewer jobs where humans are the best choice. How are we going to make sure that contribution to society is still rewarded but everybody has the means of living that they need? That’s the bare necessities of food, shelter, and safety.


The Futurist Society Podcast | Christian Hammer | Future Of AI


Even that is going to be in flux. Is the internet going to be a bare necessity? Artificial intelligence is going to be so ubiquitous. I feel like it’s rising at a clip that I wasn’t expecting. Initially, I was like, “This is going to take a while.” The Rabbit came out. Google has its own basic artificial assistant. It’s going to be really interesting to see the next ten years.

Glasses will probably become the major paradigm that you use for communication. I don’t need to be wearing these anymore. There are things to correct for that. I don’t need to do it. I do partially because if I take it off, I turn into a white blob that nobody can see. There are enough people that feel comfortable wearing sunglasses. It’s something that if you can get the technology inside it, it answers all the questions of, “Where’s my display?” and all that. It’s close to your ears for the hearing and all that. It will probably fall down on that.

In 1994 when Mosaic came out, we did a study on what technologies would impact the world the biggest and which industries would be impacted the most. We said the internet. This was when the browser first came out, but we were like, “The Internet’s going to change the world. It’s going to start with two axes you need to pay attention to. One is the proximity to data that the industry already is. The second is if it has a physical manifestation, how easy that is to ship.” If you could graph that out, this quadrant to this quadrant, you could tell when things were going to happen. With AI, we started that. We started like, “What would this graph look like?” It does have that first one in common.

Current Curiosity

That’s a really interesting thing to think about. We’re at the beginning of this journey. This is the last question. What do you look at independently of the field of interest? We’ve been talking about AI this whole time because you’re the CEO of an AI company. I feel like that is something that we could do a deeper dive than we have for a million episodes. Outside of your field of interest, what is something that is really coming to you through your newsfeed or conversation with people that you can’t get enough of learning about?

For me, if you would’ve asked me a few years ago, I would’ve said longevity. The more that I think about that, it’s changing. You hinted at it a little bit, which is going off-grid. In your flying car, where are you going to go? My bubble is completely self-functioning. That little farm that I own, I don’t have to leave that farm. That farm fulfills all of my needs.

We call it the Hammer Homestead. It’s our little farm here. That’s exactly what we’re doing. Before I got into technology when I was in school, I wanted to be an architect. What I wanted to do was sustainable architecture, specifically doing things like the earthships, which were starting to happen in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I was like, “These could be closed systems. If we’re ever going to colonize the moon or other planets, we are going to have to know how to build these closed systems. I want to learn how to do that.” I was told I was nuts and that there was no future in it. At the same time, the rise of the internet or the web had happened. Computers were everywhere. I was already doing a lot of that.

I’m still very passionate about sustainable agriculture in particular because the earth is heating up and the climate is becoming more disruptive. Our agriculture is based on a stable environment. How do you prepare for that? There is a lot of work that we have to do in that space. The biological engineering and the sciences in that space are fascinating.

Partially, as we learn more about the machinery of cells themselves and how it all works, I find that fascinating. There are so many cool things. I can’t remember what they’re calling that, but you can go online, design your RNA or DNA strand, and have it printed and sent to you. It’s the combination of advanced manufacturing with genetic engineering and the possibilities of that with sustainable agriculture.

There was a discovery that a new cell is like the mitochondria or the chloroplast, but it’s really about nitrogen. It’s called a nitroplast. It has become part of an algae cell. It used to be a separate organism. Over the years, they’ve co-evolved together, but now, it’s one thing. What happens when you can take and put that nitroplast into wheat, for example? We’re talking about genetic engineering. People freak out about that when it comes to food and agriculture for good reason.

One of the biggest problems we have in agriculture and the side effects of it is nitrogen fertilizer and the runoff, the algae bloom that it creates, and all that kind of stuff. It’s the combination of these things coming together. What’s cool about advanced manufacturing, robotics, CNC3D printing, and all that is I can make something custom for my needs without all the byproduct waste of the rest of it.

It’s also the bureaucracy. If I need a bone graft, I print one in my office as opposed to going out to a company that has to go through conversion with the hospital to make sure that it’s an approved product. I get that it is fair in regard to the safety requirements, but once that becomes less bureaucratic, there’s less red tape. That’s something that is going to be better for everyone.

It won’t have the issues of rejection from you because it’s your own cells being used to print this thing for yourself.


Once we’re able to use a person’s own cells to create new products that suit their health, that’s something that’s going to be really interesting. I could have a whole other episode topic about that. It’s something that we’re looking into in my own practice. Honestly, it was nice speaking with you. I feel like you’re doing a lot of the same stuff that I’m doing. Kudos to you for spreading the word about the great things that technology can accomplish for us and what the future can do for us. For those of you guys who are tuning in on a regular basis, thank you so much for all of your support. Please like and subscribe as always. I will see you again in the future. Thanks, everybody. Thank you, Christian.

Thank you. It was amazing.

That was fun.


Important Links


About Christian Hammer

The Future Of AI, Technical Debt, And Science Fiction – A Conversation With Christian HammerChristian Hammer is the dynamic CEO of Vala AI and is leading the charge in technology innovation and artificial intelligence. With a storied career spanning decades at top global brands, Hammer is a visionary leader, sought-after speaker, and artist. He brings unparalleled expertise to the forefront of digital transformation and provides great insight on technology trends and leadership strategies.


By: The Futurist Society