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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Coming Wave.

An existential tsunami?

 On deck... Got an Amazon book recommendation yesterday. I bit.

A long-time joke of mine: "The only person who enjoys change is a baby with a wet diaper."

As I preliminarily post about this, I'm about halfway through the book.
So, what do you do? Chronically over "booked?" My typical first stop is often the Amazon reader reviews, in particular the dissing 1's and 2's—which can sometimes be show-stoppers (though not this time). I read the Amazon blurb, and then perhaps any reputable authors' blurbs (notwithstanding Confirmation Bias risk). to wit:
Advance praise for

“The Coming Wave is a fascinating, well-written, and important book. It explores the existential dangers that AI and biotechnology pose to humankind, and offers practical solutions for how we can contain the threat. The coming technological wave promises to provide humanity with godlike powers of creation, but if we fail to manage it wisely, it may destroy us.”
—Yuval Noah Harari, New York Times bestselling author of Sapiens

“This wake-up call from the future warns of just what’s coming, and what the global economic and political implications are likely to be. Truly remarkable, ambitious, and impossible to ignore, this book is a persuasively argued tour de force from a leading industry expert that will shape your view of the future—and rewire your understanding of the present.”
—Nouriel Roubini, professor emeritus at New York University

“Mustafa Suleyman’s insight as a technologist, entrepreneur, and visionary is essential. Deeply researched and highly relevant, this book provides gripping insight into some of the most important challenges of our time.”
—Al Gore, former vice president of the United States

“In this bold book, Mustafa Suleyman, one of high tech’s true insiders, addresses the most important paradox of our time: we have to contain uncontainable technologies. As he explains, generative AI, synthetic biology, robotics, and other innovations are improving and spreading quickly. They bring great benefits, but also real and growing risks. Suleyman is wise enough to know that there’s no simple three-point plan for managing these risks, and brave enough to tell us so. This book is honest, passionate, and unafraid to confront what is clearly one of the great challenges our species will face this century. Thanks to Suleyman we know what the situation is and what our options are. Now it’s up to us to act.”
—Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at MIT Sloan, author of The Geek Way

“The AI revolution is underway, but how well do we really understand it? The Coming Wave offers an erudite, clear-eyed guide both to the history of radical technological change and to the deep political challenges that lie ahead.”
—Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian

“When this landed in my inbox, I cleared the diary and got reading. This is an extraordinary and necessary book; the awe-inspiring thought is that in twenty years it will seem almost like a conservative vision of the future, whereas right now, reading it is impossible without pausing every few pages to wonder: Can this be true? It’s the book’s genius to explain, soberly and gently, that yes, this will all be true—and why and how. The tone is gentle and kind and sympathetic to the reader’s sense of shock. There are terrifying moments, as there should be when one realizes that most of what is familiar is about to be transformed. But, ultimately, one leaves energized and thrilled to be alive right now. The wave is about to hit and this is the forecast.”
—Alain de Botton, philosopher and bestselling author

“The Coming Wave offers a much-needed dose of specificity, realism, and clarity about the potential unanticipated and yet disastrous consequences of artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, and other advanced technologies. This important book is a vivid and persuasive road map for how human beings might guide technological innovations rather than be controlled by them.”
—Martha Minow, Harvard professor, former dean of Harvard Law School

“Nobody has been closer to the unfolding AI revolution than Mustafa Suleyman, and nobody is better placed to outline the risks and rewards of the huge technological changes happening right now. This is an extraordinary and utterly unmissable guide to this unique moment in human history.”
—Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, co-author of The Age of AI

“In The Coming Wave, Mustafa Suleyman offers a powerful argument that today’s explosive technological revolution is poised to be uniquely disruptive. Read this essential book to understand the pace and scale of these technologies—how they will proliferate across our society and their potential to challenge the fabric of the institutions that organize our world.”
—Ian Bremmer, founder of Eurasia Group, bestselling author of The Power of Crisis

“This vital book is inspiring and terrifying at the same time. It is a critical education for those who do not understand the technological revolutions through which we are living, and a frontal challenge to those who do. This book is about the future for all of us: we need to read it and act on it.”
—David Miliband, former U.K. foreign secretary

“Presenting a stark assessment of the dangers as well as the wonders of AI, Mustafa Suleyman proposes an urgent agenda of actions governments must take now to constrain the most potentially catastrophic applications of this revolutionary challenge.”
—Graham Allison, Harvard professor, bestselling author of Destined for War

“The rapid pace of exponential technologies has overwhelmed us with its power and its peril. Mustafa Suleyman, in tracing the history of industrial development to the dizzying acceleration of the recent technological advances, gives us the bigger picture in calm, pragmatic, and deeply ethical prose. His personal journey and experiences enhance The Coming Wave and make it enthralling reading for everyone wanting to step back from the daily onrush of tech news.”
—Angela Kane, former UN undersecretary-general and high representative for Disarmament Affairs

“An incredibly compelling window into the current developments and exponential future of AI—from the ultimate insider…If you really want to understand how society can safely navigate this world-changing technology, read this book.”
—Bruce Schneier, cybersecurity expert, author of A Hacker’s Mind

“The coming wave of AI and synthetic biology will make the next decade the best in human history. Or the worst. No one recognizes and explains the epic challenges ahead better than Mustafa Suleyman. Thought-provoking, urgent, and written in powerful, highly accessible prose, this is a must-read book for anyone interested in understanding the staggering power of these technologies.”
—Erik Brynjolfsson, professor, Stanford Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence

“One of the greatest challenges facing the world is to devise forms of governance that harness the benefits of AI and biotech while avoiding their catastrophic risks. This book provides a deeply thoughtful account of the ‘containment challenge’ of these two technologies. It is meticulously researched and packed with original insights and constructive recommendations for policy makers and security experts.”
—Jason Matheny, CEO of RAND, former assistant director of national intelligence, former director of IARPA

“If you want to understand the meaning, promise, and threat of the coming tidal wave of transformative technologies that are even now swelling and converging out there on the main, then this deeply rewarding and consistently astonishing book by Mustafa Suleyman, one of the key pioneers of artificial intelligence, is an absolutely essential read.”
—Stephen Fry, actor, broadcaster, and bestselling author

“This important book is a vivid wake-up call. It carefully outlines the threats and opportunities associated with the exhilarating scientific advances of recent years. The Coming Wave is rich with interesting facts, arresting arguments, and compelling observations; it is essential reading.”
—Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner, bestselling author of Thinking Fast and Slow

“The Coming Wave is a fantastically clear, energetic, well-researched, and readable book from the front line of the greatest technological revolution of our times. It weaves the personal and technological stories seamlessly, and shows why better governance of immensely powerful technologies is both so vital and so hard.”
—Sir Geoff Mulgan, professor at University College London

“The best analysis yet of what AI means for the future of humanity…Mustafa Suleyman is unique as the co-founder of not one but two major contemporary AI companies. He is a profoundly talented entrepreneur, a deep thinker, and one of the most important voices on the coming wave of technologies that will shape our world.”
—Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and Inflection

“Technology is rapidly transforming society, and hence it’s more important than ever to see someone within the technology industry write with such honesty and rigor. Taking us from the earliest tools to the heart of the present explosion in AI capabilities and research, this book is a panoramic survey and a clarion call to action impossible to ignore. Everyone should read it.”
—Fei-Fei Li, professor of computer science at Stanford University, co-director of the Institute for Human-Centered AI

“The Coming Wave makes an eye-opening and convincing case that advanced technologies are reshaping every aspect of society: power, wealth, warfare, work, and even human relations. Can we control these new technologies before they control us? A world leader in artificial intelligence and a longtime advocate for governments, big tech, and civil society to act for the common good, Mustafa Suleyman is the ideal guide to this crucial question.”
—Jeffrey D. Sachs, University Professor at Columbia University, president of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network

“A sharp, compassionate, and uncompromising framing of the most consequential issue of our times, The Coming Wave is a must-read for technology practitioners, but more importantly it is a resolute call to action for all of us to participate in this most consequential discourse.”

—Qi Lu, CEO of MiraclePlus, ex-COO of Baidu, ex-EVP of Microsoft Bing

“Suleyman is uniquely well positioned to articulate the potentially grave consequences—geopolitical upheaval, war, the erosion of the nation-state—of the unfettered development of AI and synthetic biology, at a time when we need this message most. Fortunately for the reader, he has also thought deeply about what needs to be done to ensure that emerging technologies are used for human good, setting forward a series of incremental efforts that if undertaken collectively can change the environment in which these technologies are developed and disseminated, opening the door to preserving that brighter future. This book is a must-read.”
—Meghan L. O’Sullivan, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government

“A brave wake-up call that we all need to answer—before it’s too late…Mustafa Suleyman explains, with clarity and precision, the risks posed by runaway technologies and the challenges that humanity faces…. Indispensable reading.”
—Tristan Harris, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Humane Technology

“A practical and optimistic road map for action on the most important iss\e of our time: how to retain power over entities far more powerful than ourselves.”
—Stuart Russell, professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley

“The Coming Wave is a realistic, deeply informed, and highly accessible map of the unprecedented governance and national security challenges posed by artificial intelligence and synthetic biology. Suleyman’s remarkable and in some senses frightening book shows what must be done to contain these seemingly uncontainable
—Jack Goldsmith, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University

“Brilliant and inviting, complex and clear, urgent and calm, The Coming Wave guides us all to understand and confront what may be the most crucial question of our century: How can we ensure that the breathtaking, fast-paced technological revolutions ahead—AI, synthetic biology, and more—create the world we want? It’s not going to be easy, but Suleyman lays a strong foundation. Everyone who cares about the future should read this book.”
—Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, former White House science advisor

“A strikingly lucid and refreshingly balanced account of our current technological predicament, The Coming Wave articulates the defining challenge of our era. Blending pragmatism with humility, it reminds us that there are no stark binaries or simple answers: technology has gifted us with exponential improvements in well-being, but it’s accelerating faster than institutions can adapt. Advances in AI and synthetic biology have unlocked capabilities undreamed of by science fiction, and the resulting proliferation of power threatens everything we’ve built. To stay afloat, we must steer between the Scylla of accessible catastrophe and the Charybdis of omnipresent surveillance. With every page turned, our odds improve.”
—Kevin Esvelt, biologist and associate professor at MIT Media Lab 
Well, then after checking out a bit of the "read sample," buy/download via 1-click.
Halfway through: well worth it. Nice work. Sobering.
Again, sobering. 


I'm now about 3/4ths through this book. Liking it more with every page I read. Full review once I finsish. Had this been one of my required reads in grad school today we'd likely have spent an entire semester on it, a full-bore Argument Analysis & Evaluation.

They cover the field, spanning millenia to the present:
Every previous wave of technology has had profound political implications. We should expect the same in the future. The last wave—the arrival of mainframes, desktop PCs and desktop software, the internet, and the smartphone—delivered immense benefits to society. It laid down the new tools for the modern economy, bolstering growth, transforming access to knowledge, to entertainment, and to one another. Amid the present hand-wringing about the negative effects of social media, it’s easy to overlook these myriad positives. Yet over the last decade a growing consensus suggests these technologies did something else as well: creating the conditions to feed and amplify this underlying political polarization and institutional fragility.

It’s hardly news that social media platforms can trigger gut emotional responses, the jolts of adrenaline so effectively delivered by perceived threats. Social media thrives on heightened emotions and, quite often, outrage. A meta-analysis published in the journal Nature reviewed the results of nearly five hundred studies, concluding there is a clear correlation between growing use of digital media and rising distrust in politics, populist movements, hate, and polarization. Correlation may not be causation, but this systematic review throws up “clear evidence of serious threats to democracy” coming from new technologies.

Technology has already eroded the stable, sovereign borders of nation-states, creating or supporting innately global flows of people, information, ideas, know-how, commodities, finished goods, capital, and wealth. It is, as we have seen, a significant component of geopolitical strategy. It touches on almost every aspect of people’s lives. Even before the coming wave hits, technology is a driver on the world stage, a major factor in the deteriorating health of nation-states around the world. Too fast in its development, too global, too protean and enticing for any simple model of containment, strategically critical, relied upon by billions, modern technology itself is a prime actor, a monumental force nation-states struggle to manage. AI, synthetic biology, and the rest are being introduced to dysfunctional societies already rocked back and forth on technological waves of immense power. This is not a world ready for the coming wave. This is a world buckling under the existing strain.

Suleyman, Mustafa. The Coming Wave (pp. 196-197). Crown. Kindle Edition.
I came to digitech (1986) at the dusk of mainframes and ensuing mass proliferation of PCs. So much has exponentially changed across that span. Difficult to stay abreast of.

“[Google] Search’s devolution is a familiar story in an economy that demands untenable growth. The trajectory always looks like this: Invent a world-changing technology, scale it up, monetize it, print money, and take it public. Then, of course, there is the pressure to expand even more to appease investors. In Google’s case, organizing the world’s information meant conquering the web, books, images, inboxes, and geography. But with every success, there is more pressure to scale further, this time into moon-shot territory — self-driving cars and even a project to “cure death.” It becomes easier to acquire companies with the war chest than to build products from scratch, and to ink exclusivity deals in order to keep competitors at bay.”Charlie Warzel
Good article. Another below.
A flood of new AI products just arrived — whether we’re ready or not
Google, Microsoft, Amazon and OpenAI are in an arms race to push out new experimental products. Some experts worry about the consequences.

SAN FRANCISCO — Big Tech launched multiple new artificial intelligence products this week, capable of reading emails and documents or conversing in a personal way. But even in their public unveilings, these new tools were already making mistakes — inventing information or getting basic facts confused — a sign that the tech giants are rushing out their latest developments before they are fully ready.

Google said its Bard chatbot can summarize files from Gmail and Google Docs, but users showed it falsely making up emails that were never sent. OpenAI heralded its new Dall-E 3 image generator, but people on social media soon pointed out that the images in the official demos missed some requested details. And Amazon announced a new conversational mode for Alexa, but the device repeatedly messed up in a demo for The Washington Post, including recommending a museum in the wrong part of the country.

Spurred by a hypercompetitive race to dominate the revolutionary “generative” AI technology that can write humanlike text and produce realistic-looking images, the tech giants are fast-tracking their products to consumers. Getting more people to use them generates the data needed to make them better, an incentive to push the tools out to as many people as they can. But many experts — and even tech executives themselves — have cautioned against the dangers of releasing largely new and untested technology…



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