Careers: Interviews
Elim Kay, Renowned Investor, Innovator, Entrepreneur, CEO Kay Family Foundation

This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with Elim Kay.

Elim KayElim Kay is the CEO of Kay Family Foundation, Managing Director and CEO of a privately-held group of operating and holding companies, and Founding Partner for REDDS Venture Investment Partners.

Elim Kay has been involved with technology ventures since 2002. Through a private partnership, he acquired the then-small online community, in 2002 and served as Managing Director until its acquisition by Internet Brands, Inc. in 2007. He has been actively involved with various companies through operational and advisory capacities.

Elim serves on the Board of Governors of Chapman University and Board of Counselors of Chapman University's Argyros School of Business and Economics. He received his B.A. from Chapman University.


Q: Elim, thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.

A:  "Thank you, Stephen. I am grateful and humbled to have the opportunity to share and discuss with you today."

  Before we get into your participation at the inaugural AI summit, co-organized by the United Nations Agency ITU and XPRIZE Foundation, let's mine details of your life journey.

Q:: Describe milestones in your life from the age of 6?

A:  "Notable milestones in my life include mistakes which have helped shaped my journey as a human being. Some of those mistakes include a juvenile record at the age of 12, nearly dropping out of high school accompanied by behavioral troubles all throughout, changing multiple middle and high schools, constant academic struggles to complete minimum requirement classes, and barely accepted into university (only accepted into one by way of academic probation).

But during this slightly windy road, I started my first company while repeating my sophomore year in high school (independent study), reversed my academic performance by earning high marks during university, and selling my company while still in university."

Q: What are the stories behind your career highlights, outside of the Kay Family Foundation?

A:  "When I was 16 years old, I started my first company with my older brother. We ran the company for five years before we sold it to another firm. During that time, I can safely say that I made much more bad decisions than good decisions, and one of the notable insights I recall from those five years is that I don't really recall any good decisions that I might have made because all of my hard lessons learned then were derived from my bad decisions."

  Now let's get into the Kay Family Foundation and the AGGS.

We will now discuss the historical, seminal AI for Good Global Summit (AGGS) organized by the ITU and XPRIZE Foundation in partnership with more than 17 UN agencies. The event will convene representatives of government, industry, UN agencies, civil society and the AI research community to explore the latest developments in AI and their implications for regulation, ethics and security and privacy. Breakout sessions will invite participants to collaborate and propose strategies for the development of AI applications and systems to promote sustainable living, reduce poverty and deliver citizen-centric public services.

Q: What is the history of the Kay Family Foundation?

A:  "The Foundation was formed in 2004 and began grantmaking in 2006. The organization is missioned to promote new models and systems that produce 21st century leaders, with the underlying strategic pillars of faith, education, medical, and arts. A significant portion of our granting, historically, has been in support of education, starting with higher-learning institutions then later including K-12 initiatives. In recent years, our support for education typically included a convergence of innovation and/or entrepreneurship, e.g. supporting innovation competitions, entrepreneurship competitions, etc."

Q: Personally, professionally, and as CEO of the Kay Family Foundation, why are you supporting the UN ITU and AGGS?

A:  "As we are well in the Innovation Age, the ITU plays a pivotal role in convening global leaders to rally and engage around key issues surrounding advanced information and communications technology that yield significant impact to worldwide issues. The AGGS is an example of an important event to bring leaders from various backgrounds, from all over the world, to address the matter of artificial intelligence with a thematic focus of its application for greater good.

In my opinion, the fact that the summit has garnered support from many UN agencies is a very strong indicator of the collective recognition that embracing the topic of AI through reason-based engagement is both important and necessary."

Q: What outcomes do you wish to see from the summit?

A:  "I hope to see actionable ideas come out of the summit, derived from the momentum of the interactions and exchanges between the participants of the summit. Following the summit, I hope to see such ideas become realized, no matter how big or how small....the importance revolves around action being taken on such ideas."

Q: In what ways can the Kay Family Foundation support the UN ITU and AGGS?

A:  "Philanthropy can be a source of 'patient funding' for ideas that do not necessarily yield monetary ROI but can help plant the seeds that grow to help catalyze thought leadership on topics that can potentially snowball into greater initiatives. As a philanthropic organization, our Foundation can seen the value of this type of support. Kay Family Foundation can play in role in supporting such actionable ideas, as mentioned above, that come out of AGGS as well as the greater ITU."

Q: What are your top five program areas of interest at the summit and do you have any stories to share behind your choices?

A:  "All of the programs at the summit are of high interest, however, one of the notable areas I am curious to learn at the summit is whether governments will develop formal regulation behind the commercial application of AI, how they intend to enforce such regulation, and the anticipated reaction from the dominant forces within the tech industry."

Q: Which Sustainable Development Goals supported by AI do you find the most compelling and can you personalize why you made your choices?

A:  "First and foremost, I believe that all SDGs are important. That said, the SDGs I find to be compelling for AI to support are the ones that address areas around good stewardship for our planet, e.g. water, sustainability, clean energy, life under water, life on land, etc. Truthfully, these areas have not been top of mind previously, but I have come to appreciate these issues over time. Aside to the politicization around such issues, I believe it is a fundamental human responsibility to be good stewards to our earth, to the best that can do and manage, and hopefully leave it in 'net' better shape for the next generation (although I acknowledge that there are environmental forces that simply are out of our control). A 'healthily balanced' earth is the fundamental platform for humans and societies to merely exist over the generations."

Q: What are your predictions for AI?

A:  "With the increasing convergence between humans and technology, the term 'artificial' will eventually cease to exist as an distinctive characterization for this form of alternative or synthetic intelligence. The progression of AI will see that it undoubtedly becomes more and more ubiquitous throughout the 'layers of the human fabric', and become embraced as a 'natural' part of human beings, their individual functionality, and interactions with each other."

Q: How will AI impact culture, society, and economic development?

A:  "AI will increasingly make shapeshifting impact on culture, society, and economic development simply because it will become one of the major backbones behind all three. AI will democratize societies (willing) toward becoming multi-cultural, not only through language by way of increasingly precise and real-time translation, but also seamless cross-cultural understanding, and therefore providing a thicker foundation that can further drive economic development."

Q: What other areas particularly related to computing do you feel need to be brought into focus for discussion and policy?

A:  "Ethics in computing is a critical area that I believe will undoubtedly experience broader discussion and policy. Living in a time where 'information is power', how we govern the acquisition, possession, and utility of such information requires great effort and careful management to implement checks-and-balances that are well thought out, but that also do not jeopardize the positive value delivery such information can deliver to society."

Q: You have many interests. Can you talk further about them?

A:  "An area of personal interest is tracking and observing how governments and well-established technology companies (multinationals) evolve in their interaction with each other, especially in an era of growing influence by such major technology companies that are significantly imbedded in delivery both fundamental and value-add functionality throughout the many layers of society. The opportunities for public-private partnerships between governments and high-capacity organizations are tremendous, but the natural tensions currently seen are obvious, including in areas such as legal issues around privacy sensitivities, taxation on revenues, etc."

Q: You choose the topic area. What do you see as the three top broader challenges facing us today and how do you propose they be solved?

A:  "The increasing speed and growing reach of information is both a blessing and one of the biggest challenges we face as a society. While the modern world has been conducive in facilitating productive globalization and societal convergence, the current platforms and tools we use can accelerate also widespread divisiveness (negative) between vast populations of people, and such divineness may not derive from objective authenticity, but rather skewed subjectivity and even falseness."

Q: From your extensive speaking, travels, and work, please share up to three stories (amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).

A:  "In 2010, I spent an extended period of time living in China, based in Beijing but traveling throughout the country. It was this time that helped me to make sense of my life journey, enabling me to weave a thicker thread connecting the various points that then helped shaped my decision going forward, positively impacting my personal and professional considerations. One of the major drivers behind this was my many interactions with my grandaunt and granduncle, who I lived with during part of my time in Beijing. Their candid sharing and reflecting of their personal journeys accelerated my recognition and appreciation for being so fortunate and blessed in many ways. One of the key practical but lifelong lessons I learned was to, 'never complain again'."

Q: If you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?

Q1: What are some notable risks of an AI-ubiquitous world?
A1: Humans are evolving. We may not be evolving rapidly from a physical perspective, but we certainly are from a mental one. As machines continue to assume more responsibilities in managing applied cognitive functions, humans (as a whole) will eventually lose such cognitive abilities altogether due to having outsourced such to the 'machine'. Therefore, the risk is that an ever-increasing convergence between human and machine will lead to the growing intrinsic inabilities of humans to properly function in the event that the world experiences of vacuum of machine-powered society.

Q2: From the Agriculture Age (thousands of years), Industrial Age (hundreds of years), and Information Age (decades), what will be the next 'Age'?
A2: I believe the next age will be the 'Spiritual Age', characterized not necessarily from a religious standpoint, but rather a growing societal realization of human's innate spiritual side. Applying simple analogies (mind, body, soul) to the different ages mentioned in the question....the Agriculture Age was one that placed emphasis on body (limited mind); the Industrial Age began to place a little more emphasis on the mind albeit the body still the dominant form of energy exertion; the Information Age sees the shift toward society becoming mind-dominant given all the technological marvels we are seeing; the assumption behind the Spiritual Age is a period where humans have outsourced the majority of mind and body exertion to the 'greater but unseen machine', therefore yearning to tap into something much more deeper, turning to spirituality. In my mind, not everyone within a population would be receptive to such a transition, and the transition to some form of Spiritual Age may not necessarily be a 'smooth' one, e.g. an event that creates widespread turbulence in a digitally-connected world can catalyze human exploration in spirituality at a much faster rate, more by default rather than desire.

Q: Elim, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.

A:  "Thank you very much for the opportunity, Stephen, always a pleasure."

Copyright Network Professional Association 2017. All Rights Reserved.
NPA Privacy Statement