Microsoft hires expert who warned AI could cause 'catastrophe on an unimaginable scale'

SCIENCE & TECH: Microsoft hires expert who warned AI could cause ‘catastrophe on an unimaginable scale’

Microsoft hired renowned artificial intelligence pioneer Mustafa Suleyman – the co-founder of the Google-owned DeepMind research lab who has warned the emerging technology could a “catastrophe on an unimaginable scale.”

Suleyman, 39, will report directly to Microsoft boss Satya Nadella and will run the company’s consumer AI division, the company said. He will lead Microsoft’s efforts to build out its Copilot AI chatbot and to integrate AI features into the Bing search engine and Edge browser.

“I’ve known Mustafa for several years and have greatly admired him as a founder of both DeepMind and Inflection, and as a visionary, product maker, and builder of pioneering teams that go after bold missions,” Nadella said in a blog post Tuesday announcing the hire.

Mustafa Suleyman co-founded DeepMind, the Google-owned research lab. Getty Images

Prior to joining Microsoft, Suleyman headed up Inflection AI, a startup co-founded by tech titan Reid Hoffman and fellow researcher Karén Simonyan that had raised $1.5 billion to date. Most of Inflection’s employees, including Simonyan, will join Suleyman at Microsoft.

The hiring was seen as a major coup for Microsoft as it looks to beat chief rival Google and others in the race to develop advanced AI. Microsoft is a chief investor in OpenAI, the firm best known for creating the ChatGPT chatbot and the Sora text-to-video generation tool.

However, Suleyman has repeatedly urged caution and the need for safe development of AI.

In his 2023 book “The Coming Wave,” Suleyman argued that AI, synthetic biology and other burgeoning technologies could allow “a diverse array of bad actors to unleash disruption, instability, and even catastrophe on an unimaginable scale.”

AI’s potential to fuel the spread of misinformation and cause economic upheaval are among his concerns. In an interview with the FT last year, Suleyman warned that AI could upend the white-collar work and create “serious number of losers” in the job market who “will be very unhappy, very agitated.”

At the same time, Suleyman expressed optimism about AI’s potential benefits if it is properly harnessed, writing that such tools could help “usher in a new dawn for humanity” and “help run our businesses, treat our ailments, and fight our battles,” according to the Wall Street Journal’s review of the book last fall.

Mustafa Suleyman has warned that AI should be regulated. Sportsfile via Getty Images

Suleyman’s arrival at Microsoft is another blow for Google, which acquired his previous startup DeepMind in 2014 but has struggled to find its footing in the race to profit from AI.

Last month, Google suffered an embarrassing misfire after its Gemini chatbot began generating ahistorical or factually inaccurate pictures such as Black Vikings and Native American Founding Fathers. The company was forced to disable Gemini’s image generation tool and apologize.

Google is said to be in talks with Apple on a deal that would see its Gemini chatbot installed on iPhones in the future.

Mustafa Suleyman will report to Microsoft boss Satya Nadella. REUTERS

The negotiations are already drawing criticism from antitrust watchdogs who point out that Google and Apple have faced regulatory scrutiny over a similar deal for online search.

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