Mustafa Suleyman was just a teenager growing up in the United Kingdom when he met Demis Hassabis, his best friend’s brother. The pair quickly hit it off. “We were both obsessives and really long-term thinkers—very interested in how the world would look in 20 years’ time,” Suleyman says.
Those 20 years have gone by, and Suleyman and Hassabis are now both titans of the AI industry. In 2010, the pair co-founded the AI lab DeepMind together alongside Shane Legg, and the company rose to the top of the industry thanks to their development of AlphaGo, an AI that beat human champions of the board game Go.
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While Hassabis still runs DeepMind, Suleyman, 39, has since struck out on his own. DeepMind was acquired by Google in 2014, and Suleyman pivoted to work for Google itself in 2019, before departing to join the VC firm Greylock Partners in 2022. Also last year, he and Greylock’s Reid Hoffman co-founded Inflection, an AI chatbot startup. Suleyman has also positioned himself as a thought leader who is cognizant of AI’s benefits and risks. His book The Coming Wave, released Sept. 5, warns of a “radical transformation” across industries and even nation-states.
Suleyman believes that before AI research labs go too far down the road toward artificial general intelligence (AGI)—meaning systems that can think and learn more efficiently than humans—AI development will need to take some kind of pause. But we’re not there yet, Suleyman says, adding that he hopes before then, we’ll reach what he terms ACI, or artificial capable intelligence: AIs that are smart enough to fulfill all human needs, serving as our personal assistants, medical advisers, and chiefs of staff. “It’s gonna make us all massively wealthier, healthier, and more productive,” he tells TIME.
Suleyman is well aware that AIs are shaped by the people who build them—from their values to the experiences they’ve lived through. His own values have been called into question: in 2019, DeepMind placed Suleyman on leave following accusations that he had bullied his staffers. Shortly afterward, he departed DeepMind to become Google’s vice president of product management and policy for artificial intelligence. Suleyman has since apologized for his behavior. He says he is working with a coach every week and has learned “the importance of giving people lots of space to get on with their work.”
Suleyman says one of his top priorities at Inflection is to create technology that is kind and compassionate. “I definitely feel a heavy responsibility for creating a set of values in my company and hiring people to try to reflect those values,” he says. “Because those are the people that then go off and create the product, which then affects real people in the world.”
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