riva and grandma

Me and my Grandma, Istanbul, circa 1990.

From a young age I’ve been compelled by the idea of ensuring positive futures for current and future generations. My first two companies were child-focused: at the age of 19 I co-founded a London-based toyshop and kids’ club, and at the age of 21 I co-founded a children’s story-publishing app, based in Berlin. Following these, I held teaching positions at both the DAB and HTW Universities in Germany, lecturing on topics such as entrepreneurship and consumer psychology.

My academic background in Philosophy along with a deeper understanding of engineering that I was able to acquire in Berlin resulted in a paradigm shift in my views and goals. In 2012, I started the discussion group Berlin Singularity, with the initial roundtable held in my living room. After 18 months we had grown to 400 members, hosting events at universities and curating technology conferences. During that period, I began giving talks on the topics of life-extension and machine intelligence, including a speaking tour for Apple. Around this time I was part of the team that won the first European LinkedIn Hackathon.

While running and developing Berlin Singularity, I noticed how many deep-tech start-ups had issues with fundraising, and researched the wider market and financing gap. We spun out a consultancy group, Kardashev Tech, working with biotech start-ups to improve upon their business models and fundraising strategies in order to connect them with Seed or Series A funding. During this time, I presented several times on investing in emerging technology including at Oxford, Birkbeck and Stanford Universities (an example presentation can be found here). I am an Affiliate Scholar at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology, which was founded by Nick Bostrom and James Hughes, as well as a Director of the Neuroethics Foundation, founded by David Pearce.

Over the last two years, my research has shifted towards investment structures, decision analysis, machine intelligence and tools that systematically advance science. I spend a large proportion of my time working with Peter Clark of Stanford’s Global Project Center. In 2014, we wrote a collection of essays on the topics of institutional investment, decision-making, and the potential impact of artificial intelligence. Some of these ideas can be found in this Medium piece  ‘Finance: An Industry Based on Psychology’. I follow machine intelligence research closely and often speak and write about its risks and rewards, including for Vanity Fair. I strongly believe that both investors and spokespersons of differing technologies should have a pragmatic understanding of the subject that compels them. For that reason, I play around with python’s Scikit-learn and Theano modules.

I try to balance both sides of my brain by writing, previously as a columnist for The European Magazine and recently by joining Byline and The Idea List. In my spare time, I enjoy long-distance running and working on a life-extension research project with my great friend Maria Konovalenko, currently at the Buck Institute for Aging, as well as the DJ and life-extension activist Steve Aoki.

We all suffer because of humanity’s innate myopia.  However, the systems that define us are complex. I’m growing to learn more about the systemic failures in the justice system by helping with San Quentin State Prison’s Financial Literacy course.  The opportunity to volunteer at San Quentin came through my much-missed friend Dan Fredinburg, who continues to impact my life every day.

If I have headphones in, I am most likely listening to the composer Max Richter.