It would be easy to compress what Suggestic means into a simple mission statement or pitch, but the true meaning combines both the professional and personal challenges I have seen into this product.
For me, the idea behind Suggestic came well before we thought AI had half the potential it does today, or before hard-working scientists began to unravel the way what we eat. In many ways, it starts with the story of a boy and his father.
In The Beginning
I have fond memories of my father, an educated man with a Ph.D. in chemistry, who taught me many of the first things I remember about the scientific and natural world. In many ways, I owe my attitude towards science and knowledge today to him — a man who would always answer my questions as if I was a student rather than a 9-year old. However, my father also had to deal with type 2 diabetes for most of his life. I saw how it harmed him, and how this brilliant man didn’t have the means and understanding to take care of himself. I also dealt with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), during my youth. What you need to realize is that IBS is no one disease, but a set of various conditions. In essence, if you’re having certain digestive symptoms and your doctor can’t pin it down, you get labeled with IBS.
During my 20s and 30s, IBS continued to make my life difficult, my natural sensitivities compounded with poor eating habits and stress. In that regard, my story may not be that different than the average person struggling to eat well and balance a normal life. However, my condition had become so troublesome that I began meeting with several famous medical doctors and alternative options to try and find some relief.
This is where I first discovered Functional Medicine and decided to eliminate gluten and dairy from my diet. There is much debate over how much these tactics help people on an individual basis. Indeed, everyone has a different ideal diet. What I can say with certainty is that this worked for me. The diarrhea, the cramps, the brain fog, in time, they all went away. If my father had access to theese resources, would he had been able to manage his condition better?
The Mechanics of Learning
While I was dealing with this personal struggle, I also was dealing with frustrations in the professional world. At the time, I was working in the finance sector and had helped create some of the best fraud prevention systems in the world. And yet, in the light of all this innovation and success, nothing seemed to matter to those around me, and it was a setting rife with politics. Frustrated that my work didn’t seem to get the appreciation it deserved and that it didn’t directly help people the way I would have hoped, I looked elsewhere.
The final thing that led up to the creation of Suggestic would be some time after my departure from the financial sector, while I was working on a book. The concept was about “risk pollution,” but much of it covered the evolution of our learning as a species. Our learning process has adapted against entropy through evolving, not only biologically, but also mentally through our experience. Think of it in 4 steps:
Step 1: The learning that we instinctively have as a species, like how our ancestors knew to flee from predators or to breed to continue the species. This also covers the natural evolution of species to match their surroundings, like how we came to walk upright.
Step 2: Things that we learn from direct experience. For example, the first time you move your hand near an open flame and burn yourself, you know never to make that mistake again. The same would apply for something like drinking water that makes you sick.
Step 3: Actively learning and sharing our experience with others. Using our second example, a person who gets sick from drinking water may put up a sign warning others. Later in our history, that person may work to purify the water to make it more accessible for everyone. This separates us from any other species. Yes, a mother tiger may teach her cubs the basics of hunting. But only we as a species have managed to create institutions around this.
Step 4: Cyber memes. This is the next step of learning and decision making, through artificial intelligence making decisions. A person can learn that a pool of water isn’t fit for consumption through experience or education, but what if there was a means to detect it without anyone needing to get sick first? This is the power of AI adaptability. When I worked with fraud protection, I saw AI make complex decisions in seconds, faster than any human ever could. I knew the potential it had then, but it wasn’t being used the way it could.
This has changed.
The Need for Suggestic
It occurred to me. How could I take the principles of AI adaptability and let it help millions of people? This all goes back to my father’s story and my story years ago. A billion people in this world need to eat and live healthier, and it’s not as simple as just getting more exercise. With exercise, you can do many different things to fit your needs for physical activity. For food, each item you eat has thousands of microbiome interactions, not even accounting for toxins, epigenetics and body transformations.
And yet, we know so much about what we eat and what it does to us, but that information isn’t getting where it needs to go. “How do we take knowledge embedded into culture?” I asked myself. How can we take all the knowledge the human collective has about diet and disperse it to give each person customized nutritional advice?
All of these factors come together to become the final Suggestic product. Imagine the means to do something as simple as using a smartphone to scan an item in the grocery store or menu when you eat out, then get recommended items for your dietary needs. Use genetic testing or microbiome testing to figure out what fits you best, then filter this through several popular diets, like eating Mediterranean or paleo vegetarian.
This takes the level of knowledge we’ve learned from years of food study and takes it to another level, letting the AI do the work of analyzing food in real time to help you eat better and be healthier. This combines my passion for health with my experience in AI with my theories of learning, all into one package that will change the way we think about our bodies and nutrition.
I remember one story shortly after I started this company. I flew my father up from Mexico City for the holidays, and for breakfast, my wife made egg-free, gluten-free waffles. My father was excited to eat, but I had to remind him that he couldn’t eat them because he was diabetic and they had carbohydrates. His response?
“You want me to die sad, because I don’t get to eat waffles with everybody else?” He passed away a month later. My father was to be our first beta tester for Suggestic. Shortly after his passing, I was rooting through his things, and found a book about nutrition for diabetes, that he brought for himself. The title may have matched, but the content was the wrong information for his situation. If he knew what to eat, perhaps things would have been different for him.
This is what Suggestic is today, not just a life’s work in the making, but life’s experience as well.