Riding the wave metaphor in the title and given the fact that we have been inundated with warnings about the tsunami of AI, we should now be moving to “higher ground”. But the higher ground that Mustafa Suleyman is asking us to climb in his book The Coming Wave is a moral one.
Suleyman has been embedded in Artificial Intelligence for years. He co-founded AI research company Deep Mind, which was later bought by Google. Recently, he co-founded machine learning company Inflection AI. But he also has a less technical side. He has been a human rights officer, a negotiator and facilitator and, at 19, even started one of the largest mental health services for Muslims in the UK. So, big heart, big mind.
These are his warnings in this most urgent book. Like most technologies, AI cannot be stopped. We need watertight answers for how this wave is to be controlled. AI, in particular, hyper-AI evolves.
There will be extraordinary geopolitical competition with massive financial awards and colossal redistribution of power. Nation states are threatened, citizens flooded with dis-information, disappearance of jobs, and buttressed authoritarianism seems to be our future.
He believes that understanding technology is, in part, trying to understand unintended consequences. Gutenberg just wanted to make money selling bibles. Fridge makers didn’t aim to make a hole in the ozone layer. Do the scientists working on AI and synthetic biology have any kind of moral or philosophical lens? He thinks that many techies obsess about an AI superintelligence explosion called a singularity – an AI that can function like a human mind but unimaginably faster. He wishes that, instead, they would concentrate on synthetic media and misinformation, privacy, or lethal autonomous weapons.
Because we are not all as scientifically literate as we should be, biotechnology is working in realms beyond our understanding. We can now alter DNA coding. Humans could possibly be bred for traits that would be most ‘useful’. CRISPR (editing of DNA) is editing DNA almost like raw text. Evolution by design. Sounds like science fiction, but it’s actually happening in the world we live in.
The two waves of AI and bio synthetics are crashing and creating one huge wave. Some companies (Elon Musk’s Neuralink) are investigating ways to plug human minds into computer systems. In fact, I think that they even succeeded just last weekend. This will help so many people with disabilities, but you can also foresee the risks and problems if it is misused.
I understand that knowledge is power. I have so little knowledge of the tech world but will be on the lookout and lobby for things like support of industry standards, global regulation, and funding of government agencies to oversee standards. That’s what Mustafa suggests, and I believe both his diagnosis and prognosis.