About

Welcome, stranger! I am Florian "fnl" Leitner, an Austrian living in his exile of choice: Madrid, Spain. To give you a better idea of what you will find on this blog, here is a bit of a background about me.

Back in 2001, I moved to Vienna to study molecular biology, and in the same year began working on computational biology; By the end of my first university year, I had landed a bioinformatics practical at Novartis, and have kept working on machine learning related topics ever since. My main areas of interest and my PhD is about artificial intelligence and molecular biology, and I love working on mathematical models and algorithms that enable computers to emulate otherwise tedious human workflows. Over these years I have been working with many imperative, declarative, and functional computer languages to tinker with a large number of libraries, frameworks, and environments for text and data mining.

As of 2015, I founded my own consulting company, Data Catalytics, to offer services in the biotech, pharma, finance, and banking sectors. Through it, I provide real-time machine learning and natural language processing solutions for the most complex, cutting-edge data analytics problems. As a true machine teaching architect, I accompany my work all the way from design to (continuous) Cloud deployment.

Mainly, I have been working for Selerity all these years, a fantastic New Yorker startup providing AI solutions, both SaaS and on-prem, for financial workflows involving unstructured data. Since May 2018 I am the CTO of the company, and have the privilege of leading a word-class team of over two dozen financial analysts, software engineers, and data scientists. Regarding further full professional details, feel free to take a look at my (pretty outdated...) CV.

On a more personal level, I believe the declaration of the human rights has been the biggest achievement of humanity so far (now we only need to observe them…) In particular, the right to a proper education, but even more so, being taught critical thinking, is something I think the world is lacking still. The side effects of not teaching our next generations how to properly think for themselves is further amplified by "social" networks with a dopamine-driven, addictive UX and their ubiquitous, graphical messaging systems. Our lack of an accessible, intellectual and creative education for everybody, coupled with the unprecedented increase in connectivity has led to the rise of the "behavior change" industry. This new industry manipulates entire peoples on topics as far apart as the "anti-vax" movement, unscientific Homeopathy, and all kinds of extremist left- & right-wing FUD. Overall, I see this as the causal chain leading to our splintered political opinions (that likely are not even our own!) and societies. As with everything, this connectivity is very positive, too, but we have to learn to "yield" this powers properly, as to not get overwhelmed by the negative side-effects.

Furthermore, I am a vivid defender of (personal) privacy and a supporter of all kinds of free/open software. Going a step further, I suggest we might consider getting rid of copyright laws and the patent system: Our modern copyright laws were historically created by the Roman Catholic Church together with English, French, and German monarchs. During the Age of Enlightenment, copyright laws were explicitly designed to prohibit the spread of knowledge and censor information and effectively continue to do so to date. Patents, on the other hand, arguably only serve patent trolls and large multinationals of protecting the individuals (i.e., inventors). These artificial monopolies on pharmaceuticals, software, and other cutting edge technology that are created by the patent system are degrading livelihoods, innovation and societal evolution: For example, patents on human genes are limiting our ability to prevent and cure cancer.

A final pet peeve of mine is that I believe humanity will have to do much better on preventing climate change through global warming: As a scientist myself, I feel that climate researchers couldn't be ringing the alarm bells any louder, yet our leaders utterly fail to listen to them. It is disconcerting that a young woman with Asperger's has to halt her own education to raise the world's attention and in turn educate humanity on the expected impacts of climate change. Put graphically, our delay in reducing global warming is going to a very high interest credit card of accrued economic debt.

But even if this sounds a bit gloomy so far, the true insight from the above is that we have a very clear picture of what is "wrong with us" right now. And, we also have far better tools for fixing our problems than any society before us, with technologies that can also be used to build a much safer, nicer, and more equal world. More than anything else, I believe that this "fixing" requires an open mind and heart, to support leaders that "do good recklessly" (yeah, so most are out of the question), and, importantly, to understand that most others will strongly disagree with parts or even all of your world view and that is OK.

In terms of lifestyle, I love arts, traveling, nature, and Alpine sports and might once in a while write about some of the awe-inspiring places you can find on our planet. Finally, and most dear to my heart, is my family, that is my wife and two sons. For news and micro-updates, feel free to follow me on Twitter (@flowing). If you wish to discuss anything with me directly, please contact me via e-mail.

social