Harnessing AI for Global Security: Insights from Tony Schiena, CEO of MOSAIC

Harnessing AI for Global Security: Insights from Tony Schiena, CEO of MOSAIC

Today, we have the distinct pleasure of interviewing Tony Schiena, a man of many talents and accomplishments. Tony’s journey is as dynamic as it is impressive, beginning with his time as an intelligence operator in South Africa. Transitioning from covert operations to the global stage, he has successfully leveraged his expertise in security and defense, becoming a prominent government defense contractor.

In addition to his work in security, Tony has also made a name for himself in the world of entertainment, showcasing his skills as an actor. Currently, he is the CEO of MOSAIC, a leading organization in its field. Join us as we delve into Tony’s fascinating career, exploring his insights and experiences from the realms of intelligence, defense, and Hollywood.

Tony Schiena, a former South African intelligence operator turned government defense contractor and actor, is the CEO of MOSAIC

1. What initially drew you to the worlds of espionage, acting, and AI technology?

I wasn’t drawn to it. It was drawn to me. I was studying international trade and law, hoping to specialize in law and potentially become a maritime attorney. I was recruited by my law professor. A mentor of mine in the intelligence world would say to me that I need to get out of this “GAME”, as one day it will kill us. He would say to me that I should go act. I listened to him and I didn’t as I ended up doing both and that’s where some complexity arises.

People will say how can you be a spy and an actor but they fail to realize that when I was a spy, nobody, not even my family knew that. Now I’m in the private world and happen to be in an era of privatization which is evident with PMC’s (Private Military Contractors) playing major roles in conflicts and wars. There’s nothing private about me, I’m the face of my company and made a distinct decision at one point to come out of the dark and sell my services. The acting part is completely separate. That’s why I call “Tony-time”, my time to go play..

2. Can you share a memorable experience from your time working as a spy that feels like it could have been straight out of a movie?

There are too many to mention, sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.My company MOSAIC is an elite crisis management and defense intelligence organization but sometimes offense is the best defense and we have implemented that at times, we have gone up against major governments.

3. How do you balance the secretive nature of espionage with the public persona required in acting?

It’s tricky but in the end we are dealing at level where the clients we have are beyond being concerned about that. We deliver an exemplary service that no other company can compete with. I think if I was a performer in the circus they wouldn’t even mind, we have their trust. MOSAIC’s staff, is likewise, a cut above the rest so its not necessarily me doing all the work although I oversee and approve everything.

4. What skills have you found to be transferable between your roles as a spy, actor, and CEO?

Spy’s lie, actors pretend or in other words, “lie”. It’s high-stakes pretending, there’s no successive takes to get it right, it’s one shot and that’s it. We have found ourselves in those positions where we realize the opposite side of the table is lying, we are lying so we are all trying to out-lie or out maneuver each other.

5. As an AI company CEO, how do you think artificial intelligence can benefit global intelligence agencies?

We are not an AI company. The advent of AI is relatively knew. We are working on incorporating it and always staying ahead the curve. Our head of cyber is former NSA and also have a former CIA DS&T (Directorate of Science and Technology) agent so we have the right expertise for implementation. 

6. In your acting career, have you ever played a role that closely mirrored your real-life experiences as a spy?

I’ve actually stayed away from it. It is too obvious. I’m a fan of dark, edgy, violent movies…thankfully my intelligence career hasn’t mirrored that too closely.

7. What inspired you to start an AI company, and how does your background in espionage influence your business strategies?

Again, I don’t have an AI company. Before, it was all government and now it’s a mix of government, corporate as well as HNWI (high-net-worth individuals). We have a number of verticals in the company, including a law firm and a training academy. Espionage background has you continually evaluating and predicting, just like the advent of AI and where that’s going. MOSAIC has extremely experienced and effective intelligence analysts who work almost 24 hours to evaluate, assess, and predict. This is where AI will play a formidable role in the future of intelligence gathering.

8. Given your background in espionage, How do you manage confidentiality and information security in your AI firm?

I have remnants of my beginnings that remain, and hence with extremely sensitive cases, I still silo even my most trusted people but in general, we have a system of checks and balances / over-sight as well as technology to ensure the security of sensitive details and client information. This technology includes secure transmittance/upload / temporary storage and discarding of information, which includes sophisticated cell phone technology and systems of protocols.

9. What has been the most challenging aspect of transitioning between your roles in espionage, acting, and technology entrepreneurship?

Between espionage (or rather crisis management/security) and acting would explain how they can co-exist as they are inherently contradictory in terms, haha. Acting is a hobby, a very fun hobby and a probable future retirement job. Intelligence and security is my livelihood and my world. Technology is the way of the future and can’t be ignored or you will be left behind. We are in constant discussions with AI programmers, who are much younger than me and MOSAIC senior staff, so that’s a bit challenging as we need to re-educate ourselves and learn a new “language”.

10. Can you describe a project or product from your AI company that feels like it could have been information/intelligence or technology?

That will be going into the systems we are discussing and potentially creating. What I will say is that in the collation of information/intelligence, at the moment, a human is still needed to disseminate and interpret what AI has provided, but this will change in the future.

11. How do you use your acting skills to present and market your AI products?

We are currently not marketing an AI product. As I mentioned, the advent of AI is still new. 

12. What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing careers in any of the three fields you are involved in?

All are extremely demanding and competitive jobs. For those pursuing a career in the intelligence sector or in acting, “don’t get caught lying!”. Do what excites you and when that excitement ends, and it’s possible, you can do something new that excites you. If not, add something new and exciting, even if it’s a hobby, it will invigorate what’s become a little dull.

I do many extreme sports and keep looking for new adventure missions. Last year I summated Mount Everest, and this year I completed the “toughest race on earth,” the MARATHON DES SABLES in the Sahara desert. All these adventures invigorate me and enhance my focus and productivity at work.

13. How has the landscape of AI influenced modern espionage, in your view?

It will influence information gathering and other elements of espionage greatly. It will influence so many aspects of our lives.

14. Looking ahead, what new frontier in AI are you most excited to explore with your company?

The systems we are currently discussing and looking at developing. They will greatly simplify and enhance productivity.

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