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Superpowers Series: Pi Day Special Edition

Technology gives us great Super Powers. Every month we feature a new super hero who has used technology in a creative way. This month we feature Daniel Maskit, Research Engineer at Babylon Health, and computer scientist extraordinaire. And Blueberry Pi lover!

What is your superpower?

The ability to find simple solutions to problems that others see as complicated or impossible.

What or who inspired you to go into technology?

I grew up reading all of the science fiction I could get my hands on, plus watching all the sci-fi films I could. When I had a chance to play with technology it made me feel like I was living in my favourite fiction.

"The most fun thing about technology for me is ‘aha’ moments."

What have you created with technology? What is really fun about technology?

I have had the good fortune to not only be directly involved in creating the visual effects for a number of feature films, but also contributed to tools that have been in use for over a decade. I even contributed to one tool that is used all over the world. The most fun thing about technology for me is ‘aha’ moments. After hours (or days, or weeks, or even longer) of struggling with a problem having it all suddenly snap into crystal clarity and become simple.

Do you have anything you’ve created that you can show us?

Most of what I’ve done is under copyright so I’m not supposed to share links. I can tell you that I worked on a bunch of different pieces of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. For example I created a lot of the atmospheric fog around Hogwarts; worked on the tools used for blowing up the Hogwarts wooden bridge; and helped out with putting people on the backs of dragons.

It turns out that at least one of the pieces I wrote (a long time ago) for a software package called Nuke (now used all over the world) is still used as a training example: see it here. (It’s funny the things that turn up in Internet searches.)

Here is a link to a commercial I worked on. This is still one of my favourite pieces. The entire piece is computer-generated. Part of what makes it feel like it was shot live is the way the camera changes focus and has correct depth-of-field. I wrote the tool to make that happen.

What technology trend are you most excited about and why?

Augmented Reality. I’ve always wanted a dive mask that could identify the fish I am seeing when I am snorkelling or diving. Plus I’m severely face blind and having face recognition spectacles would be amazing for me.

What technology trend are you most worried about and why?

Artificial Intelligence (AI). Not for the usual reasons about AI being too smart and taking over the world. More because I see a lot of smart people confusing statistics and probability with reality and they really aren’t the same thing. Treating people as statistical abstracts risks losing sight of their individuality and I think that is very bad.

What is Pi and why is it important?

Pi (3.14159265359) is an irrational number which does an excellent job on showing how complicated the real world is. A circle seems to be such a simple and obvious shape, and the equation for a circle is very simple. Yet you can’t calculate the size of the area inside a circle precisely as the formula requires irrational Pi. We so want the world around us to be understandable, yet even the simple circle holds real mystery.

What is your favourite kind of Pi?

Blueberry. No mystery there.

Tech Will Save Us – agree or disagree? Why?

If used correctly, I certainly hope so. If we have a breakthrough in energy production that would be game-changing. I think the important thing is that people understand what sorts of problems tech will solve and what sorts it won’t. Technology can connect the world, but it clearly hasn’t done a good job of getting people to be nice to each other. Can tech fix that? I really don’t know. I’d say let’s try to solve that with technology, but let’s be open-minded about the idea that we may need to save tech in order for tech to save us.

⚡️ Got a superpower you’d love to show the world?⚡️

Or do you know another superhero the world needs to know about? Fill out our Superpowers Series questionnaire or contact us at marketing@techwillsaveus.com