Nov 9, 2023

Alexander Fahie: Crafting a Better World Through Ethical Innovation

Alexander Fahie's blueprint for a world where tech serves, not scares

Alexander Fahie: Crafting a Better World Through Ethical Innovation

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In a time when the term "serial entrepreneur" is brandished with a glint in the eye, Alexander Fahie approaches the moniker with a hint of mischief and humility. "I think I've always felt like a bit of a fraud," he confesses, chuckling softly. "I just like building things." This drive to build has manifested in his latest endeavor, Interactive Tutor, an AI-driven platform that seeks to alleviate the administrative burden from teachers, allowing them more time for themselves and their vocation, which as Alexander points out is vital.

Alexander's pivot to education technology isn't a leap but rather a calculated stride, grounded in his experience in finance and his passion for impactful entrepreneurship. His earlier venture, Ethical Angel, already showcased his commitment to pairing profit with purpose. Now, with Interactive Tutor, he's set his sights on reshaping the landscape of EdTech by empowering educators with AI tools designed to streamline their workflow.

The launch of Interactive Tutor comes at a critical juncture for education, with many teachers feeling the pinch of increased administrative duties, a predicament worsened by the global pandemic. Alexander sees his platform not as a panacea but as a valuable instrument to free up teachers to engage more directly with students. It's his response to a trend that has seen too many educators considering an exit from their calling due to the overwhelming stress of non-teaching related tasks.

Addressing the bubbling fears around AI in education, Alexander is quick to demystify the technology. "AI has been around for a fairly long time," he points out, aiming to desensitize the fear that swirls around the concept of artificial intelligence in schools. "I'm not by any means an expert," he modestly adds, "but AI, even in its latest guise, is just yet another tool." His stance is an attempt to quell the sensationalism, and it reminds me of sci fi author Ted Chiang’s take on AI: that if he had to invent a different term for what we today call AI, he would call it “applied statistics.”

Alexander's philosophy on AI in education is clear. While recognizing the legitimacy of the concerns about job security and the integrity of human teaching, he advocates for AI's role as a support rather than a substitute. "People are the best at teaching people," he says, underscoring the significance of human connection in learning environments. Interactive Tutor, then, is not about replacing educators but about amplifying their ability to do what they do best—teach.

"Education is where you have to impart very specific knowledge, and learning is something that one does as a form of activity to develop," he explains, an insightful distinction that informs his approach to technological integration in learning environments.

"There are going to be changes to jobs in the same way as the Internet changed how people did advertising," he acknowledges, eschewing doom-and-gloom in favor of recognizing technology's inevitable tide. But he also admits candidly, "whether this will result in more jobs or less jobs, I don't know."

What emerges from our conversation is not a blind endorsement of AI's role in the future of work, but rather a thoughtful consideration of its potential to make work more humane—should it be used with those intentions—especially for those in the demanding field of education.

In an industry that is all too often bewitched by the next big thing, Alexander's grounded approach provides a vital counterpoint. He's not looking to reinvent the wheel but to oil its spokes, acknowledging that in a profession as vibrant and challenging as teaching, "we need teachers not just to exist, but to be happy." It's a reminder that at the core of all this technological advancement, the goal should always be to enhance human well-being and capability.

Alexander emanates an aura of candid realism sprinkled with a hint of infectious optimism—a cocktail not often found in the back corridors of wealth management from which he emerged. His entry into the world of educational technology, or EdTech, was less a calculated leap and more a serendipitous stumble upon a problem that needed solving. The authenticity of his narrative is compelling. "I'm a total fraud. I just, I just get very obsessive," he says with a self-deprecating chuckle, brushing off any insinuation that his transition from wealth management to EdTech was anything other than natural curiosity.

He reminisces about a day when his former life in wealth management felt "grim and ghastly and boring," sparking a quest for a problem that he could sink his teeth into. That search ended at lunch with a client named Paul, where Alex found himself lamenting the one-sided relationship between charities and the private sector. It was this imbalance that gave birth to Ethical Angel—a venture that has been transforming the needs of charities into learning experiences for the past five years. The vision of Ethical Angel is as striking as it is simple: commoditize the needs of charities to equate the value exchange with the private sector, transforming an imbalanced dynamic into a mutually beneficial partnership.

Yet, despite his venture into the field, Alex is disarmingly frank about the limitations of EdTech. "EdTech doesn't work." he admits, acknowledging that while there are "amazing some EdTech solutions out there," the industry often falls short of producing optimal outcomes. It is precisely this challenge that captivates him. He sees a puzzle awaiting a solution, a problem that calls not for abandonment but for ingenuity and perseverance.

"Think about the pivotal moments of your life. I would imagine education is in there somehow—an experience that has nurtured a feeling or an emotion which has led to some sort of personal development." For Alexander, EdTech isn't just a business—it's about solving for human potential.

The entrepreneurial spirit is often romanticized, conjuring images of relentless innovators on a quest to change the world. But for Alexander, it seems to stem from a far more intrinsic place. "I still feel like a 4-year-old building Lego models," he confesses, painting a picture of an individual whose passion lies in the act of creation itself.

Alexander continually circles back to this metaphor of a child at play, an image strikingly poignant. It's a reminder that in a world often weighed down by the gravity of adult responsibilities, there's profound wisdom in preserving a slice of childlike wonder.  

But let’s not forget that grounded pragmatism. What of the AI apocalypse, Alex? "I don't think we're headed for a showdown with our own creations," Alex says, dismissively. "Why worry about an unknowable future when we have tangible challenges to tackle today?" Alex's stance on the fear-mongering surrounding AI was clear: it's a distraction from more immediate and influential players shaping our reality.

And yet, AI is contributing to the elephant in the room: in a world plagued by climate change, the water usage needed to cool AI servers is not insignificant. Microsoft’s water usage, for example, jumped 34% between 2021 and 2022. "The water usage by large tech firms is certainly a fascinating metric," he acknowledged. But for him, this was not about the apocalyptic scenarios painted by water scarcity; it was a signpost towards innovation. The question for Alex is this: "Is AI going to give us a greater chance of solving our problems?" His bet is on the potential of emerging technologies and the minds of the next generation to navigate us through these challenges.

Alex doesn't dismiss the challenges of our rapidly advancing technological landscape; instead, he suggests that within these challenges lie hidden opportunities. A corollary, I think: what if the true measure of our progress is not in the AIs we build but in the grand challenges we solve as a civilization?

As the world spins into an uncertain future, conversations like this one are a reminder that perhaps the answer to our most pressing existential issues lie not in louder voices but in more. More minds to innovate, more hearts to guide, and more hands to build a future where technology serves as a bridge to solutions, not as a barrier to our survival.

Perhaps the future isn't about us versus the machines or even us with the machines. Perhaps it's simply about 'us'—all of us, together, striving for a world where every dawn is brighter than the last, not because of the gadgets at our fingertips but because of the way we think about the world. Alexander is sure that among us walk the thinkers and creators who will tip the scales. Who knows? Maybe they’re reading these very words.

Images courtesy of: Alexander Fahie

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