Civilization cannot escape the metaphors of incoming waves and the anxieties of survival. Now it’s artificial intelligence’s turn. The co-founder of one of the first DeepMind laboratories, Mustafa Suleiman, author of “The Coming Wave”, is another insider who invites us to take off the rose-colored glasses. (DeepMind Technologies was founded in 2010, bought by Google in 2014. Suleiman also co-founded Inflection AI in 2022).
The past suggests that we hardly foresee the negative effects of progress. The fathers of the Industrial Revolution certainly didn’t think about climate mischief. A decade later, we overestimated the computer boom. Prosperity grew, but so did the scissors of inequality. Social networks promised a productive exchange of ideas, but played with emotions, stepping on the pedal of polarization. In addition to myopic optimism, there is another reaction: in the face of a danger with a destabilizing effect, the seriousness of which shocks us, we turn our heads. We fall into the trap of “intolerance to pessimism”. One of the aims of the book is to encounter unpleasant truths.
An orchestra without a conductor
“Spend any time around techies or politicians, and it quickly becomes clear that burying your head in the sand is the ideology on duty,” Suleiman writes. He says the field of AI now resembles an “orchestra without a conductor”: there is no consensus on what models to develop, who should do it, and for what purpose. Meanwhile, the first meeting of state leaders on AI safety took place in the UK earlier in November. Suleiman was among the invitees. It remains to be seen whether his ideas resonate.
It offers an approach to deterrence of harmful consequences (containment) from the spread of artificial intelligence. The goal is existential: control would ensure our survival. AI is driving a tsunami and a cornucopia at the same time – from misinformation, harmful pathogens, terrorist attacks, shaky mental health, the transfer of power from man to “machines” to an unprecedented leap in value added, a won battle with disease and aging, why not with imbalances in the climate. For the first time in history, we are working with technology that replicates human intelligence with its best and darkest sides, we read in The Coming Wave. The path between the extremes will not be easy: without limits we are moving towards catastrophes, but suffocating defenses are building an authoritarian order, Suleiman warns.