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Home » What Is An AI Anyway? – Mustafa Suleyman (Transcript)

What Is An AI Anyway? – Mustafa Suleyman (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Microsoft AI CEO Mustafa Suleyman’s talk titled “What Is An AI Anyway?” at TED 2024 conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


I want to tell you what I see coming. I’ve been lucky enough to be working on AI for almost 15 years now. Back when I started, to describe it as fringe would be an understatement. Researchers would say, “No, no, we’re only working on machine learning,” because working on AI was seen as way too out there.

In 2010, just the very mention of the phrase “AGI,” artificial general intelligence, would get you some seriously strange looks and even a cold shoulder. “You’re actually building AGI?” people would say. “Isn’t that something out of science fiction?” People thought it was 50 years away or 100 years away, if it was even possible at all.

Talk of AI was, I guess, kind of embarrassing. People generally thought we were weird, and I guess in some ways we kind of were. It wasn’t long, though, before AI started beating humans at a whole range of tasks that people previously thought were way out of reach.

Understanding images, translating languages, transcribing speech, playing Go and chess, and even diagnosing diseases. People started waking up to the fact that AI was going to have an enormous impact, and they were rightly asking technologists like me some pretty tough questions.

Questions About AI

Is it true that AI is going to solve the climate crisis? Will it make personalized education available to everyone? Does it mean we’ll all get universal basic income and we won’t have to work anymore? Should I be afraid? What does it mean for weapons and war? And of course, will China win? Are we in a race? Are we headed for a mass misinformation apocalypse? All good questions.

But it was actually a simpler and much more kind of fundamental question that left me puzzled, one that actually gets to the very heart of my work every day. One morning over breakfast, my six-year-old nephew Caspian was playing with Pi, the AI I created at my last company, Inflection.

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