The capitalist model embraced by countries around the world is failing to serve humanity in many areas.
That was the message of DeepMind cofounder Mustafa Suleyman this week — the highly educated entrepreneur who sold his artificial intelligence (AI) startup to Google for £400 million in 2014.
“We believe today that in some sense, capitalism in many ways has delivered so much for us over the last couple of centuries,” said Suleyman at a Google ZeitgeistMinds event in London on Tuesday. “We’ve delivered so much progress. No other construct or idea has been able to distribute benefits so broadly and so rapidly.
“And yet in many areas, capitalism is currently failing us,” he said. “We actually need a new kind of set of incentives to tackle some of most pressing and urgent social problems and we need a new kind of tool, a new kind of intelligence, that is distributed, that is scaled, that is accessible, to try and make sense of some of the complexity that is overwhelming us.”
Humans need help from the machines
Addressing the audience of global thinkers and leaders, Suleyman went on to say that humans are struggling to grapple with the complexity of the systems that we have created, adding that our current financial systems “need to serve the interests of the many and not just the few”.
Suleyman, the son of a Syrian-born taxi-driver father and English nurse, supported his argument by making a number of points.
“800 million people don’t have access to clean water today and that’s going to more than double over the next decade,” said Suleyman.
A lack of food is another big issue. Suleyman said 800 million people are malnourished “yet almost a third of the food that we produce goes to waste each year.” He added: “It would take 3.1 planets worth of resources if all of us across the world were to consume at the rate we do in the UK. How is that sustainable? What does that say about the mechanisms and the incentives that we’ve created and evolved over the last thousands of years of our species?”
The issues of clean water and food availability are only going to intensify as a result of global warming, Suleyman said, adding that the concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is higher than ever. “We have ticking time bombs that our current systems are struggling to address,” he said.
On wealth equality, Suleyman (who is a multimillionaire himself) said that he’d like to see capital spread more evenly around the world. “The incomes of the top 1%, most of us [at the Google event], have risen 300% over the last 30 years, while the bottom 2/3 have seen their incomes stagnate or fall. How can we change that to ensure benefits are distributed as widely and as fairly as possible?”
Using AI to make the world better
Suleyman believes that AI, and more specifically the AI being created by DeepMind, can play a crucial role in making the world a better place for everyone.
The company’s most famous algorithm to date is AlphaGo — an AI agent that taught itself how to play, and master, the Chinese board game Go.
But DeepMind is now looking to apply similar algorithms to real world problems.
Last July, Google announced that it has been using a DeepMind-built AI system to control certain parts of its power-hungry data centres over the last few months as it looks to make its vast server farms more environmentally friendly. This week, Suleyman said the DeepMind technology has now been deployed in all of Google’s data centres, as he said it would be.
DeepMind is now in talks with the National Grid in the UK about a potential partnership that could help the entire nation to reduce its carbon footprint.
Elsewhere, DeepMind’s AI is also being used to help medical experts in the NHS to diagnose patients and treat them accordingly. The company has developed an app called “Streams” which is able to detect AKI (acute kidney injury) and other conditions. It is also using its software to help clinicians spot head and neck cancer, and early signs of eye conditions that human eye care experts might miss.
The company’s work with the NHS gives DeepMind access to large amounts of patient data and the collaboration has been criticised for not being transparent enough, with the first deal (made with the Royal Free NHS Trust in North London) coming under the most criticism.
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