Coming Wave

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* Book: The Coming Wave. By Mustafa Suleyman.


Reid Hoffman:

"Mustafa, in contrast, has made potential risks and risk mitigation the focus of his new book, The Coming Wave.

I definitely had some conversations with Mustafa while he was writing this book about how focusing on potential AI risks might do more harm than good. Not everyone was as aware of AI's positive attributes as he was, I suggested. Concentrating so much on risks might cause people to mistakenly panic. There was, I reminded him, already a surfeit of speculation about robot takeovers, human obsolescence, and all the various dystopias that AI might catalyze. Did he have to add to it?

But Mustafa, in his characteristically humanistic way, felt obligated to present the clearest picture of the risks as he saw them, as part of the process of getting to our best possible AI future. And ultimately I'm grateful that he felt like this, because in The Coming Wave, and advocating for a global approach he describes as containment, he's produced the most well-informed and judicious assessment of AI risk that I've read to date.

Which makes sense, of course, when you consider that for nearly 15 years now, Mustafa's been at the forefront of designing these new tools. He's experienced their complexities, limitations, and unanticipated behaviors in first-hand ways. He's learned from these experiences and continues to iterate on how to make these tools more aligned with human interests.

In homing in on the dynamics informing current patterns of technological development and diffusion, and describing plausible potential harms rather than future sci-fi apocalypse scenarios, The Coming Wave offers a truly valuable alternative to both alarmist doomerism ("The robots are going to destroy us!") and reflexive anti-tech bias ("The only good algorithm is the one we never run!")

For understanding how bad actors might credibly exploit new AI and synthetic biology capabilities, and our obligation as humans to contain and harness this incredible technology, I can't recommend The Coming Wave highly enough.

Along with valuing The Coming Wave's clear-eyed assessments and sharp insights, I also believe that it's crucial to envision our possible futures through the widest possible aperture, not solely through the lens of risk aversion.

And, obviously, as the co-founder of two ground-breaking AI companies, Mustafa understands this too. As Inflection's CEO, he's leading the effort to create a new generation of AI tools that will enable millions of people to tap the power of AI in ways of their own choosing, in pursuit of more fulfilling lives. "As a technologist and entrepreneur, I am, by default, an optimist," Mustafa exclaims in The Coming Wave's first chapter. And then, in the book's final chapter, after detailing potential downsides with rigorous clarity for hundreds of pages, he says something that may strike some as fairly dire, but which to my ear perfectly encapsulates Mustafa's essential humanism and hope: "It will require an awesome effort to fundamentally change our societies, human instincts, and the patterns of history. It’s far from certain. It looks impossible. But meeting the great dilemma of the twenty-first century must be possible." For Mustafa, then, even containment is an entrepreneurial act."