I’ve been following the story of generative AI a bit too obsessively over the past nine months, and while the story’s cooled a bit, I don’t think it any less important. If you’re like me, you’ll want to check out MIT Tech Review’s interview with Mustafa Suleyman, founder and CEO of Inflection AI (makers of the Pi chatbot). (Suleyman previously co-founded DeepMind, which Google purchased for life-changing money back in 2014.)
Inflection is among a platoon of companies chasing the consumer AI pot of gold known as conversational agents — services like ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, Microsoft’s BingChat, Anthropic’s Claude, and so on. Tens of billions have been poured into these upstarts in the past 18 months, and while it’s been less than a year into since ChatGPT launched, the mania over genAI’s potential impact has yet to abate. The conversation seems to have moved from “this is going to change everything” to “how should we regulate it” in record time, but what I’ve found frustrating is how little attention has been paid to the fundamental, if perhaps a bit less exciting, question of what form these generative AI agents might take in our lives. Who will they work for, their corporate owners, or …us? Who controls the data they interact with — the consumer, or, as has been the case over the past 20 years — the corporate entity?
That’s why I think Tech Review’s interview with Suleyman is required reading. Suleyman is a new author — his book The Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the Twenty-first Century’s Greatest Dilemma came out earlier this month (I’ve ordered it, but not yet read it). In the interview, Suleyman is asked why he’s excited about the Large Language Model (LLM) technologies driving companies like OpenAI and Inflection. His response bears quoting at length:
The first wave of AI was about classification. Deep learning showed that we can train a computer to classify various types of input data: images, video, audio, language. Now we’re in the generative wave, where you take that input data and produce new data.
The third wave will be the interactive phase. That’s why I’ve bet for a long time that conversation is the future interface. You know, instead of just clicking on buttons and typing, you’re going to talk to your AI.