Some people seize life by the collar, jazz it up with a fuschia tie, and dance on from there. Giles is one of them.
To describe his career to date as unusual would be an understatement. Giles first spent 10 years in Beijing, where, amongst other things, he was a hybrid musician-performer-pop star, produced one of China's biggest Indie rock bands and built various media and production companies. Now he is the CEO of PinPoint Data Science, an AI-driven company that aims to distill the vast and ever increasing complexity of medical data and research into simple tools that make doctors better, smarter and more efficient.
Why do you do what you do?
Because I want to change the world! It sounds extreme - and slightly prickish! - but fundamentally that is what I want to do. The world desperately needs to be changed for the better; and I think it's the responsibility of privileged people like me to step up to that. I've spent my whole life thinking about what that meant I should do... and this role (as CEO of PinPoint Data Science) seems to be the most effective answer.
As it happens, it's also deeply personal, because my mother died of cancer when I was young. But I didn't make a deliberate choice to work in this world; one of my friends happened to be working on the research and said they needed someone who knew could help them navigate the commercial sharks. So I'm also doing this because I got the opportunity to do it - and I'm really pleased about that!
What do you think helps make you good at what you do?
I'm constantly doing things that I don't know how to do - leaping confidently into the darkness, knowing that somehow I will invent a parachute or something that will stop me from hitting the ground!
Of course, along the way a lot of those parachutes were enabled by my privilege. They gave me the freedom to try doing non-standard things, like moving to China without any kind of support network, and leaving university after a year to start a business. I always felt that somehow it'd be fine, and now I've learnt how to ensure that it is.
I wish everyone knew that no one has any idea about what they're doing. We're all just monkeys; we're not supposed to do any of this stuff! People simply run around pretending that they do. I'm an imposter - but that makes me like everyone else!
Is there a book that you frequently recommend?
There are two books that I recommend almost all the time to almost everyone.
The first is "Tao Te Ching", which is kind of controversial because it's about the philosophy of inaction, and it's old so it's got some pretty traditionalist, border-line misogynistic views. But it's also amazing and has a much humbler approach than any equivalent book about spirituality.
The second is "Accelerando" by Charles Stross, which is basically prophetic sci fi. It's astoundingly good at describing both what we're dealing with now and are likely to deal with in the future. It's also extremely difficult to read! You have to look up nearly every 10th word, and then it turns out that was a word that Stross invented and that now has its own Wikipedia page.
How could The Hot Breakfast community help or support you?
I think of The Hot Breakfast as a serendipity engine - and I'm a big fan of serendipity. You get to meet communities and people who you wouldn't ordinarily meet. My approach has always been to "take the meeting", because you never know what's going to come of it. The advantage of The Hot Breakfast is that the group is curated and never the same. Plus it makes use of a time in the day that is often wasted.
What's your morning routine?
I get up as late as is reasonable and as early as is necessary. Usually that means after 9 (I'm a night owl). Then I have a really large filter coffee from a nice, high quality dark roast and get straight into work. I also try to fit in some pull ups and jumping around and boogeying ... that's something I need to do more of!