Next 10 years to be 'most prosperous and transformative decade ever', AI guru says

But the technology will also 'empower the long tail of bad actors', according to Mustafa Suleyman

Mustafa Suleyman told the CogX Festival in London that people shouldn't fear the AI revolution. Matthew Davies / The National
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A leading artificial intelligence entrepreneur has told a conference in London that the next 10 years will be the “most prosperous and transformative decade that we've ever experienced as a species”.

Speaking to the CogX Festival in London, Mustafa Suleyman, the co-founder of Inflection AI, one of the first artificial intelligence consumer software companies, also warned that the technology is “also going to empower the long tail of bad actors who want to use these tools to sow misinformation, to have an easier time of causing chaos intentionally”.

Mr Suleyman added that people shouldn't be afraid of the coming AI revolution and should see it within an historical context.

“With every new technology, there have been new threats, new things that make us concerned that it's going to change everything,” he said.

“When people first saw the arrival of our aircraft, it was pretty scary to get into a jet that flew 40,000 feet in the sky and travelled across the Atlantic.

“But over time, we developed all kinds of safety measures to make it was safe, reliable, reproducible, and it's now one of the safest forms of transport that we have.”

Others at CogX raised concerns about the economic transformation AI could engender. Matthew Davies / The National

'Insidious and pernicious'

Others at CogX took a more cautious view of AI, raising concerns about the economic transformation it could engender.

Alex Younger, the former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, described AI as “an insidious and pernicious technology” that “risks fundamentally undermining most of the things that bring together a free society”.

“The term Luddite implies someone who opposes change or new technology, but the Luddites were right at the time,” he said, harking back to the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s.

“The new technology they were protesting about was looms, which were going to destroy their livelihoods.

“Of course the technology and the Industrial Revolution made us fabulously rich and improved our lives immeasurably, but their lives were destroyed, their generation was essentially rendered destitute.

“So, while we’ve got this prediction of new dividend jobs for everybody, that transition is going to be regrettably extraordinary terrible,” he told CogX.

But David van Weel, Nato Assistant General Secretary for Emerging Security Challenges, said that overall AI would “help humankind”, but at the same time stressed the need for safety and vigilance.

“Every technology has been used for bad purposes as well – we got the internet, but we also got cybercrime as a result. So, we need to shield ourselves.”

AI is not going to replace us, Mr Suleyman said at the CogX Festival in London. Photo: CogX

Alien invasion

Others saw a more existential threat from AI technologies, beyond what some “bad actors” might do to further their own ends.

Mr Suleyman disagreed with historian, philosopher and best-selling author Professor Yuval Noah Harari who likened AI to an alien invasion.

He described his friend's comparison as “unhelpful framing”, adding: “It sounds like this scary invasion from a different planet that's completely out of control and that will come to dominate us.

“It's not going to replace us. That would be a choice. It would be a choice to design autonomy into the system.

“It would be a choice to design recursive self-improvement into these systems. It would be a choice to let them define their own objective functions or acquire more resources independently of us.

“Those are decisions which we would make as engineers and creators and that would be a failure of society to provide oversight.

“I think the framing that this [AI] is inevitably going to replace us is just not correct. Nothing is inevitable and it's not out of our control.”

Updated: September 13, 2023, 4:24 PM