An interview with Evgeny Chereshnev, CEO and Founder of Biolink.Tech
– Evgeny, today you told us that the traditional educational system is obsolete and that the future of education will be defined by interactive systems. Are you certain that gamification can save education?
– Modern education system does not help discover and nurture talents. It was conceived in the days where the government needed a stable supply of same-ish mutually compatible working hands. The system needed easily replaceable graduates, new gears for the machine rather than individuals. Now these times are long gone and the battlefield where the countries compete has changed drastically. Now what matters is the number of innovative projects and discoveries made by the graduates, not the size of the army or astounding number of manufacturing facilities. New times need new approaches to education. So, answering your question, yes, I’m certain that gamification of educational programs is the solution. By gamification I mean taking the personalized motivation system that worked best in video games and using it to adjust educational program of each specific student. Principles of Human psychology and brain chemistry tell us one thing – we want to do what we love to do. Other activities become a burden – be it a well-paid but hated job, or the subjects that just won’t make sense. The goal of future approaches to education is to minimize the ‘burden’ part and make it dynamic and personalized, just like context ads. Now contextual analysis process the data we generate to feed us with ‘personalized’ ads, but the same techniques can and should be used to help people find their passion, develop their talent. This is what the future education should be all about. People have got to have a desire to go get and read the book they really want, not the one highlighted by iTunes, Google or Amazon, that only care about profit and will happily sell the works of popular authors.
People have got to have a desire to go get and read the book they really want, not the one highlighted by iTunes, Google or Amazon, that only care about profit and will happily sell the works of popular authors.
People should care to read books that will develop their personality, like the ones authored by Miller, Salinger, Hemingway, Dovlatov, Chekhov. But instead they read ’50 shades of gray’ because they are heavily advertised and sell better. It’s a closed loop of marketing. Stores advertize hollow ‘bubblegum’ books, because they sell well, these books sell even better, people’s mindset starts to adapt to dull content and eventually people stop looking for good books. That’s what is happening but that’s not what should be happening.
– What should?
– Personalized recommendations. One’s potential should be constantly evaluated and he or she should be recommended with the most relevant information at the right time to make the next step in the chosen direction. Crystal clear and super honest. For example, if big data analysis tells that a man is talented at math, he should be offered with progressively more creative and interesting math tasks. This is the only way to have math prodigies who can join world class research institutions at the age of 16 and make breakthroughs a few years later. If a kid is great at painting, he should be recommended with courses on new painting techniques, shading techniques, history of fine arts and so on.This is the right way to transform talented beginner artists into future Vah Goghs. But what do we have now? Schools release graduates, who are equally average at solving simple equations and making colorful stains on paper and who equally hate school. Sad but true. I know that, I’ve seen that. Well into my adulthood I’ve spent years on trial and error learning oil painting because I genuinely enjoyed it. School or google had nothing to do with introducing me to arts, but it would be really nice to have our educational system put my mind to it a dozen years earlier. However, gamification is not the ultimate answer. It’s just a step in the right direction, that has to be done right, otherwise… otherwise it will be hated for being stupid and useless. The new educational system has to be based on raw statistics and ridden of the ‘human factor’. It should instigate interest and motivation and totally refrain from the idea of making thousands of equally mediocre graduates each year.
We are usually so engaged in the process of studying, so the question “Why?” doesn’t pop in our minds. This is also a sad fact. What we should do is start asking this question a lot more often. Why am I doing this? Why does X work this way?
We are usually so engaged in the process of studying, so the question “Why?” doesn’t pop in our minds. This is also a sad fact. What we should do is start asking this question a lot more often. Why am I doing this? Why does X work this way? Why are the exams done is this way and not another? Why exactly is my grade so high/low? Do I even care about the grade, do I need it? It’s proven that grades kill the desire to make mistakes for most kids. But without mistakes there’s no improvement. Lots of people drop out because they didn’t do well at the start, got bad grades and earned a honored label – “Loser”. It doesn’t mean that someone is stupid if he can’t name the dates of a “Battle for X”, but our society says the opposite – different means abnormal. Not knowing the dates at school is ‘different’. Pfft, get out of here. Everyone is great at something. The problem is to find that something in each of us and start working on it day and night.
– Do you think that “Big Data” will eventually find its way to education?
– It has to. The earlier, the better. But in this case the problems of cybersecurity should be faced with great seriousness. I think that kids should not own their personal data until a certain age, say 16. Before that age, it should only be up to the parents to decide who has access to their child’s records, otherwise, if the data is public or in the hands of an oblivious teenager it could be stolen and manipulated to raise an obedient soldier. At 16, when a person receives his passport he should be granted keys to the kingdom of his behavioral data, or as I call it, his Digital DNA. But no matter what, only the family should own that data, not government, not school. These institutions need to know only the processed output which indicates the learning directions. This access segregation is crucial – one must not put the sources of his Digital Persona on public, or it’d get stolen or even worse.
– You are recognized as the first cyborg in this part of the world. Last year you said that new biochips are likely to appear. What are the news?
– They’re coming 🙂 But now, two years later after the experiment, I’ve stopped advocating embedding biochips into human body – it’s not secure whatsoever. So far there are no guidelines even on hygiene, let alone data encryption or data protection schemes – the chips are not ready for humans yet. Nor are the humans themselves ready. Nobody realizes that at this moment their Digital Data is taken for free by the internet companies and turned into profit. Data is modern gold and oil. Until the schools start teaching the kids what data is and how to keep it secure, nothing will change. Anyway, I’m posting regular updates on the advances in biochips to Facebook, so any of you tech-savvy guys and gals are welcome there 🙂
– So you’re saying that the first generation chips are just like banking cards in terms of security – their image can be read and cloned to another chip?
– I would not put it this way, but you got the gist. If the chip is not protected and encrypted, your Digital Persona can be stolen. But I proposed a solution – Dynamic Digital Persona. It is never static, it changes each fraction of time, so stealing it is meaningless.
– Just like generating a unique code each second?
– A little exaggerated, but yes. If stolen, the chip becomes irrelevant in a matter of seconds. For example, it can read a bearer’s heartbeat and if it notices a wrong pattern or lack of heartbeat – it stops working.
– Do you think that you are unique because you have a chip in your hand?
– Every human is unique, one of a kind, but only a few understand that. I’m not more unique than you or anyone. Each person has his own level of consciousness. I’m lucky to have found myself and I enjoy what I’m doing. I’m happy to realize the purpose of my life. But many people are still searching for their true selves. They are as unique as anybody, with their own set of talents, they just haven’t decrypted their minds enough to understand what these are. I managed to do that but I don’t think that this makes me special. We start off the same, but with time some slack off, while others keep churning the milk to eventually get out of the jug of mediocrity. Let me explain where I’m going with this. We’re told that democracy is good – everyone’s opinion matters. Well, I think it’s BS. A person’s opinion should be treated based on his skills and knowledge, not just on the fact that he just is. Imagine a man lying on the surgery table. If we use the democratic approach and ask everyone is the hospital to decide whether to cut the man or not, he’d die right there on the table. We gotta ask those who studied anatomy, cardiology, anesthesia and those who’ve got a dozen years of experience in surgery. Opinions of others should not matter.
We’re told that democracy is good – everyone’s opinion matters. Well, I think it’s BS. A person’s opinion should be treated based on his skills and knowledge, not just on the fact that he just is. Imagine a man lying on the surgery table. If we use the democratic approach and ask everyone is the hospital to decide whether to cut the man or not, he’d die right there on the table. We gotta ask those who studied anatomy, cardiology, anesthesia and those who’ve got a dozen years of experience in surgery. Opinions of others should not matter.
The idea is simple: a trained general knows better whether to start a conflict or not, a physicist knows better whether to build a nuclear reactor with proposed parameters or not. Only those should be asked who really can tell right from wrong, not everyone. But currently, it’s the opposite. Popular media feeds the masses with the right information and when the voting takes place – I can bet the outcome will be just as ‘expected’. People don’t usually think about the source of supposedly ‘their’ ideas. Did it really originate in their minds or was it planted by someone? Usually it’s the latter. Inception, everyone 🙂 I think that the future government should be founded on the principles of democracy, but with a twist – experts on the topic of the vote should have a greater impact. If a financial analyst says that bitcoin is good, but a politician thinks the opposite, well, the latter should shove his opinion further down his opinion maker, because the former dude knows better. It happens oh so often, that everything is exactly the opposite – experts say “no”, but oblivious masses go with the flow of their ‘own’ ideas. Remember Brexit and the recent president elections in the US? I’m not sure that either was done the right way. Government is supposed to be an entity, where the entitled wise elders decide what to do, like in the society of vikings where the best warriors decided whether to start a war or not. Welcome to the year of 2017 when one poll decides whether to break a country apart, like really? There have been lots of protests following these events, because people see that there’s almost a half of citizens don’t agree with the results, but can’t do anything anymore. People are convinced that everyone’s voice is equal and that the masses matter. No, the masses don’t know a thing. I’m dead sure that if the experts were making a decision in both cases, the results would be so much different.
– There’s an opinion that the elderly voted for Brexit, and Trump is mostly supported by rednecks.
– Sort of, but there was and still is too much unverified buzz and speculations at the moment. On the other hand. The election took place? Yep. Half the people voted yes? Yep. Was that the right choice? I don’t think so. But that’s just me, I’m just stating my opinion. Don’t blindly accept it, do your own research and make your own decisions. Rule of thumb in a lot of professions is to get information from multiple independent sources. Regular life is no different – don’t just watch one TV channel, tune in to BBC, CNN, see what the Chinese think. Browse the internet. Google will help translate any article in a fraction of a second. Although the translation won’t be perfect, the meaning will be still intact. People have got to build their own truth from multiple opinions, alas only a few do that.
– Let’s get back to the biochipping. Currently, wearables are the hot topic – Apple Watch, Android Wear, various fitness trackers. What do you think the next step would be? Chips and implants?
– Perhaps. Humans are lazy. Humans want to be more lazy, so they will eagerly accept anything flashy that can help them in that endeavor. Currently the price of a chip is around 100$ and the surgery costs another 50$. Imagine if the implant was free, but in return everything that’s saved on that chip – passport, insurance, SSN, driver’s licence, was made publicly available. The line of volunteers would be longer than before the iPhone launch back in the day. Remember that no service comes for free. If it doesn’t ask you to pay, it means that it’s making money out of you, in other words you become the product. I’m all against the idea of being a product, so I’m currently making an alternative – a technology that will make the chip or the smartphone and the data it collects yours and only yours, all for the price of a cup of coffee. No one except you will have access to your digital persona, unless you explicitly allow that. Even third party developers who work with that data will be obligated to not copy it. I’m certain this project will explode. The biggest problem I see is not in making the tech, but in the people who are gullible enough to believe that data privacy doesn’t matter and that free services are really free, which is utter BS. Privacy is a contrived word to rid people of anxiety. Try replacing privacy with freedom and take a minute to think about the modern digital world.
– So you’re saying that the terms are mixed up on purpose?
– Exactly. Seriously, try that word experiment I mentioned, put ‘freedom’ instead of each ‘privacy’ and behold the change in the perception of the digital world where companies are in charge of our /freedom/ to act in one way or another. And we can’t change that because we once clicked the ‘I agree’ button at the sign up, not reading the lengthy ‘Terms and Conditions’. Understanding the consequences is crucial. It may not even be about chips, which quite possibly will see the light of day really soon, it’s about all other devices that you use daily. Your phone, or a smartwatch has to feature an ‘honest’ (but paid) mode, in which it protects your data from being sent to third parties.
– I was skimming your Facebook lately and stumbled across a post about Natalya Kaspersky where you were strongly disagreeing with her on private data management. She is pro-goverment and central regulation, you are pro-privacy and encryption. Keeping in mind recent additions to the Russia’s law book, do you think that Russia and the rest of the World might go the Orwell’s path?
– Don’t want to lie, there is a chance. Job of the government is not to micromanage people, but to ensure comfortable and safe lives of its citizens. The society, the small businesses live their own lives, the government in no way should not stick their nose deep into their deeds. But this is exactly what most governments do at the moment – try to micromanage everything which only makes the lives of ordinary people worse. As an example, most governments now don’t understand huge benefits the decentralized economy can bring, but they do realize it can damage certain obsolete government dependent businesses. That’s a clear interest conflict which smells like Orwell. That’s why it’s good to know that new technology like blockchain, distributed ledgers, new encryption schemes are striding well into the future. Even in Russia. Huge problem is that governments are slow and resistant to change like old turtles that’d rather hide inside their shell than look around and crawl to the beach. Any new initiative has to go through a bureaucratic hell. I’ve spoken recently to one of the directors of the National Tax Service who is a engineering graduate and she said that blockchain would help get rid of enormous amounts of paperwork and make the whole system transparent. But a shift to blockchain has to be done simultaneously in all departments, besides the NTS, otherwise the whole potential would be wasted and they’d be ‘THAT GUY’. The change has to be proposed and controlled by the highest circles who must listen to the technical experts that propel the industry forward. This is the only way to avoid the ‘1984-come-to-life’ scenario and transition into a distributed, competitive society where the kids’ creativity is endorsed. I believe that this is also possible, but the sad facts are not favoring my hopes. On the other hand Singapore is ahead of the game in turning into that ‘perfect’ society where the government minds its own business and doesn’t stick its nose into the lives of ordinary people and small businesses. The rules there are simple: pay tax and live happily. Don’t want to pay taxes? Welcome to prison. Caught with a bribe? Welcome to prison. The law is the LAW. If Russia shifts the focus from micromanaging its people to creating meaningful laws and making sure they work (which is currently not the case) we might have a chance. The glacier has actually started drifting – the number of bribes taken by policemen is reducing. At least in Moscow it does. Economic experts started realizing that the country can’t sell oil forever. Problem is that the glacier will only pick up the pace when it’s too late and the oil drops below 20$. Now it’s around 50$ and everyone is sort of content. If only we had more people who are not content with this oil addiction; those who can create an technological alternative to the oil needle. I personally know about 20, but that’s not enough by orders of magnitude.
– So you mean that to go on and improve you have got to be under stress?
– You’re right, stress and pushing yourself outside of the comfort zone. One has to be curious to look around and research other mentalities. I know that – I’ve traveled to 60 countries and saw how other people live. I know where the Russians are on the global scale and what are our advantages and downsides. For those who can’t travel as much, there is a wonderful thing called internet where you can read all about life in other countries. Not just read, see! Advances in virtual reality allow to travel almost anywhere while sitting in front of the computer. How about visiting Chili’s beaches this afternoon? People gotta understand that they have got the power to shape their lives in any way they want. They’ve got the Force and no one can take the Force away and no one should be able shatter one’s faith in the Force. To become wise and complete, people should strive to find their inner voice and preferably travel as much possible. Because wise people won’t blindly follow orders, they want to be reckoned with, they need arguments. I think that the future society should be built around such people, otherwise we’ll end up with the ‘1984 model’ where the few are rich and the others work in their support.
– TED in New York. How did you get a chance to give a speech there? AFAIK you can’t just walk in and be ushered to the stage.
– I love TED for its honesty. That’s true, you can’t just walk in saying: “Hey, I want to give a speech”. You have to put in a lot of work to get recognition, like I did, and then hope that TED reaches out to you. It happened to me and now I am a part of TED and I know people there, but I’d never send out any commercial proposals to these contacts. Although, in case I meet an extraordinary speaker or just an outstanding person I know who to call. TED now boasts thousands of speakers and this anthill is always exploring the infosphere seeking for new members and interesting topics. Once, somebody heard my speech at the Campus Party in Brazil, where I was on stage in front of an astounding audience of 6000 people. Then there was a speech in Kazan, which I gave deliberately in English, because I wanted the English speaking community to see that Russian TED is also on top of the game, that it also discusses profound topics.
And it worked! Kazan was followed by Brazil, France, Ireland and eventually TED people noticed me. I was literally jumping from joy when I received an email from TED offering to give a speech in NY. When I finally arrived, I was overwhelmed with feelings of pride when I realized I was the only Russian in the room. I felt great to realize that there, on stage, I was the representative of my country. I had the power to change the image of Russia for the better in front of the whole world. What I also noticed is that TED is an extremely friendly community. When everything was over, everyone was saying their goodbyes, making hugs no matter what country you were from. To me, TED is a brilliant idea which binds the world together and spreads good knowledge. It should carry on, no matter what.
– Getting back to your facebook posts. So, where is the best coffee?
– Italy (laughs). To be honest, coffee is a drink that should match your mood – sometimes sour, sometimes bitter. But, yeah, the best coffee I’ve tried was in Italy. Coffee in brazil was cool too. Baristas from Singapore also make amazing coffee. I think that coffee turns our best when it’s made by people who genuinely love coffee. No matter the country or city, be it London, Moscow, New York, or Shanghai.
– Your coffee post was amazing! Did you think of writing a book?
– Thanks, I liked it too 🙂 In fact I am writing a book! I’ve had enormous amounts of work recently, so I can’t dedicate much time to writing, but each time I’m free I get back to my book and put down a paragraph or two. To be honest, I lack support and gamification. If this interview attracts more people to my Facebook that would get equally excited about the upcoming book, saying “GO, Power Ranger, GO” – I’ll rearrange my schedule 🙂 I believe that my stories are quite interesting because they come from the heart and experience but I have to know that people want to read them. It’s all about the endorphine rewards, you know 🙂
– You were asked about video games today. What were the coolest games you’ve played recently?
– I absolutely enjoyed Mass Effect 2 and 3 and honestly think that these games excel at putting engaging script over fancy graphics. I was raised on primitive games where it was your brain that rendered the best graphics looking at a dozen pixels. The original Doom looks awful by today’s standards, but at its time it was a bomb! Speaking of today’s games, I really enjoyed Destiny and Overwatch.
– What about Mass Effect Andromeda?
– I tried it, but to me this game is like the sun in winter. Yes, it shines bright. But the weather is still cold as hell. It’s no match to Mass Effect 2, that I am a huge fan of. Actually, Mass Effect 2 and Fallout were the games that heavily influenced me at their time. Fallout to me is the only game that boasts a truly open universe – there is a thousand ways to end the game. You have a vague description of what should happen at the end and it’s only up to you to choose the path. This is why I come back to Fallout 1 and Fallout 2 every so often, but absolutely despise Fallout 4, which gives you three select choices to end the game and that’s it. Forcing a player into making predetermined decisions is a terrible idea. I feel like an oldie, crying that in his times the grass was greener and the games were better. Believe it or not, old games were better, because they were games.
I feel like an oldie, crying that in his times the grass was greener and the games were better. Believe it or not, old games were better, because they were games.
Modern games are more movies that games. Here’s my list of games that I’d recommend – Master of Orion, Civilization and Full Throttle, if you are into quests. By the way it was recently re-released, go check it out. Back in my day, we’d gather up with a bunch of friends, grab a six-pack and end the game in three hours. Oh, the good old games. Starcraft. It is amazing in his incredibly fast paced gameplay and resource management. World of Warcraft is also on the list, even though I think it’s a heroin in the world of video games. I’ve spent quite some time in Azeroth and the experience I’ve got there has found its applications in my offline life. WoW is number one when it comes to principles of gamification. It’s a perfect example how to work with the gaming community to keep the interest burning for over a decade. Even if you don’t want to play it, at least familiarize yourself with the ways of Blizzard. You’ll be blown away, believe me. I can spend hours talking about video games 🙂 They can actually teach you a lot, but currently the majority of the games are dumb roller coasters. The original Fallout was all about the exploration, but in most modern games you just strap on to the seat at the beginning and enjoy the ride, carefully manufactured by the game designers. Call of Duty, anyone? You know from the start who are the enemies and where is the bad guy. You are not expected to think why are the bad guys THE bad guys. Maybe they are not? This idea crossed my mind for the first time when I played the airport mission in Modern Warfare 2. It was cut from the Russian version of the game, remember? I’m convinced that politics have no place in video games let alone affect them, otherwise the games are no longer ‘pure fun’, but a source of propaganda. I think that some games should try to be more than just stupid shoot-em-ups. But it’s all about the balance, as a profound but boring game won’t be played.