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Fareed Zakaria GPS

The Risk Of The Israel-Hamas War Expanding; The War In Ukraine Grinds On; 2024: A Historic Year For Elections Worldwide; China's Economic Woes; The Future Of The U.S. Economy In 2024; The Future Of The A.I. Revolution. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired January 07, 2024 - 10:00   ET



FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from Mumbai, India.


ZAKARIA: Today on the program. What to look for around the globe in 2024? What will happen in the world's wars? Who will win the many major elections this year? How will the most important relationship in the world, between Washington and Beijing, evolve? All that and more with Ian Bremmer and Zanny Minton Beddoes.

Plus, the top economic trends of the world with Ruchir Sharma. I also talk to a major player in artificial intelligence. A tech entrepreneur who is not a computer scientist by training but rather a philosopher. What does Mustafa Suleyman say about fears that A.I. might mean the end of humanity. Find out.


ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take. The start of the new year is often a time of optimism. But look at surveys from the past few months and you'll find that strikingly high numbers of Americans sometimes around three quarters of those polled, think America is on the wrong track. This profound sense of despair is perplexing because I don't find much objective data to support it.

The U.S. economy grew at an astonishing 5.2 percent in the third quarter of 2023. The IMF expects growth for last year to be 2.1 percent which is substantially better than other advanced Western nations such as Canada, the U.K., and Germany. Inflation is dropping sharply, real wages are up, and manufacturing employment is experiencing a boom. It's hard to find another country where so many measures are pointing in the right direction.

The broader picture is even more positive. As I write in the current issue of "Foreign Affairs," the U.S. has been besting its competitors in various crucial metrics for a while now. The "Financial Times" did an analysis of the many ways in which American's economy could be compared with Europe's, and found that in per capita growth, the U.S. has been outperforming the United Kingdom and the Eurozone for 20 years and has dwarfed the economies of Spain, France and Italy.

America's technology sector dominates the world in a way that no country ever has. The value of the top 10 U.S. technology stocks is now greater than the value of the entire stock market of Canada, the U.K., France and Germany combined. The U.S. is the world's largest producer of oil and gas. Larger even than Saudi Arabia or Russia. It has the healthiest demographics of any advanced country and it takes in around one million legal immigrants a year which ensures that while Europe and Japan are expected to slowly sink in population, the U.S. will continue to grow.

The world sees what Americans do not. A recent Pew survey shows that the U.S. is now viewed more favorably than China in 22 of 24 countries surveyed. When asked who contributes to peace and stability around the world, America or China, the margins are huge in crucial Asian countries. In Japan it is 79 to 14, in South Korea 47 to 13, and in India, 70 to 33 all in Washington's favor.


I know that many will raise the numerous global crisis, the bloody stalemate in Ukraine, the tragic war in Gaza, the dangers over Taiwan. Others will concede the positive points but argue that America's domestic politics overwhelm them all. Our deeply polarized society will be paralyzed by looming court cases, a crazy election that will follow and a possible constitutional crisis over the results of that election.

All of this is true. America has serious problems. What nation doesn't? But it has gotten through these kind of crises before. And I am confident it will again. Last summer, Nikki Haley tweeted, do you remember when you were growing up? Do you remember how simple life was? How easy it felt? She was of course aping Donald Trump's central message, which is that he will make America great again.

So let's go back in time to those heady days. Say 50 years ago to 1974. The United States had just suffered its first major military defeat in Vietnam. The Soviet Union was widely thought to be on the offense around the world. The German chancellor had just resigned after an espionage scandal. Spain was still in shock from the recent assassination of its prime minister by Basque terrorists.

Israel was barely recovering from a near-death experience in Yom Kippur War forcing its prime minister Golda Meir to resign. The Arab oil embargo roughly tripled the price of oil leading to a novel combination of slow growth and high inflation that was described as stag-flation. Domestically, American cities were still reeling from the riots of the late 1960s, and forced busing was tearing communities apart.

Oh, and Watergate had upended the political system. To escape impeachment the president of the United States resigned in August 1974. A first in history.

Ah, yes, the good old days when life was simpler. The truth is, the United States has the power and capacity to tackle today's crises. Perhaps even more so than it has had in the past. But it needs to regain a sense of perspective. And above all, regain confidence in its own enormous strengths.

Go to to a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

What are the biggest global challenges of the year ahead? How will the major wars in Ukraine and in the Middle East play out? And what about the dozens of upcoming national elections around the world?

Joining me now are two experts to weigh in on these pressing questions. Zanny Minton Beddoes is the editor-in-chief of "The Economist," and Ian Bremmer is the president of the Eurasia Group, a global risk consultancy.

Zanny, let me start with you and Gaza. It looks awful. Is there a real danger of escalation and is there a path to this getting better? What would it take to make this get better?

ZANNY MINTON BEDDOES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE ECONOMIST: Look, Fareed, I agree with you, it looks awful. It is awful. I think there is a risk of escalation, clearly when you see what the Houthis have been doing, when you see what's going on, on the northern border. When you see the kind of possibility of an Israeli preemptive action toward Hezbollah, there are a real risk of escalation.

My sense is that the major actors are trying very hard to prevent that and I think if you ask me to bet, I think the odds are against it. But it's a real risk, and certainly, you know, I worry that something could happen on the Israeli northern border. But what is very clear is that the situation right now in Gaza cannot continue. It cannot continue because the loss of life is utterly horrific. It cannot continue because Israel can't sustain the way it is prosecuting that conflict for much longer.

There will be a famine in Gaza if things continue as they are. At the same time the Israeli economy can't sustain months and months and months of this scale of mobilization. So you're already seeing, I think, a gradual shift in tactics from the Israelis. But that won't be enough to lead to the answer to our last question, which is, is there a possibility of something permanently better coming out of this horrific episode.


And, you know, I'm a natural optimist as you know. I think that the status quo in the Middle East was clearly dramatically upended on October 7th and I think the strategy that the Netanyahu government had of somewhat cynically undermining the Palestinian Authority in order to ensure that there would be never be any progress towards a two- state solution has been shattered. I think the sense of Israeli security has been shattered.

And out of that, it is possible to envision, if you put your most optimistic hat on, some ingredients for a path forward of two nations living peacefully in that region. Because I think you have several things now that you didn't have after Oslo. One is that you have the Gulf states in particular seeing what their prosperity, that region's prosperity could look like if you have a more integrated peaceful part of the world. They see what the Middle East broadly could be.

Secondly, you have the U.S. administration that really, really needs peace in the Middle East now, particularly in this election year. And so I think the key thing is it can't happen with this Israeli government very, very clearly, and it can't happen with the current Palestinian leadership. And so will in '24, will you see different Israeli leadership that pushes for peace and will you see Palestinians leadership able to do that?

It's going to be really, really hard and if you look at the polling on both sides, I don't put a huge amount of probability on it but the path is there.

IAN BREMMER, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Fareed, I'll take the other side of that, Fareed. You know, first of all, I think a lot of the status quo is holding in the Middle East. We had the Abraham Accords, we still do. Israeli normalization with a bunch of countries. That's a big deal. You also have the Iranian deal that was brokered by the Chinese with the Gulf states. That's still in place.

In some ways it's stronger. Higher level direct engagement between the Iranians and Gulf leadership. The Qataris, which had been essentially blockaded by the Saudis in the UAE. That got fixed. The GCC is more coordinated than it was. The status quo that's irrevocably broken was the unsustainable relationship between Israel and the forgotten Palestinians becoming more radicalized and particularly in the group of Hamas.

And there I -- if it were just one risk, it's a lot of risks. It is true as Zanny just said that all the major states do not want this to escalate and explode. But there are lots of organizations that are hard to deter. You've got, of course, the Houthis in Yemen. You have Hamas itself. You have Netanyahu knowing that if the war is over, that he's out and probably going to prison. And you also have, of course, the incredible radicalization that is leading to more religious conflict, not just Israel-Palestinian, not just in the Middle East, but also in Europe and the United States.

So, I think there are far too many ways for this to go wrong. I'm not sure which of them are most likely to hit, which of those tail risks over the course of the coming months. But I would bet that a few of them will. So I would take the bet that this is going to significantly escalate, unfortunately, in 2024.

ZAKARIA: Ian, let me quickly ask you, what about Biden's strategy which has been to try to hug the Israeli's close and pressure them to change tactics. It feels to me like the Israelis are pocketing the support and resisting any pressure. In other words they are getting rolled, they are basically getting rolled by Bibi Netanyahu.

BREMMER: Well, the United States, of course, is Israel's closest ally. That is not going to change under any president. But it is certainly true that Bibi Netanyahu is not trusted or liked by President Biden. But this has also been a policy not just by Netanyahu, but the war as a policy of the entire War Cabinet. It is a policy that is strongly supported by the entire Israeli people. So it is true that the United States by being essentially stapled to this war cabinet is in a more isolated position globally than perhaps even the Russians were when they invaded Ukraine two years ago which is an astonishingly shocking thing to say given the violence perpetrated against Jews in Israel on October 7th.

But it is where Biden is today. This is a significant electoral risk for him in the United States and it's also a weakness for him on the international stage.

ZAKARIA: Zanny, I've got a very brief time but I want to quickly ask you about Zelenskyy and your interview. He seemed -- in your interview with Zelenskyy, he seemed very frustrated. You know, very quickly, is there -- is there a path for Ukraine to resist Russia? It does feel like the Russians are gaining ground.


MINTON BEDDOES: Yes. He was very frustrated. He senses that people -- that narrative has shifted in the West and people think the Russians have the upper hand. He was pushing against that but mostly I think he was frustrated by the lack of assistance, the aid being held up both in the U.S. and the European aid and his argument was very, very clear. He said, you know, if you are not helping Ukraine, you're helping yourselves and this was particularly at Europe.

And he called Putin an animal who senses weakness and that if, you know, you allowed Putin to win in Ukraine, it would be much, much worse, it would be an existential risk for the rest and that argument just at moment isn't landing, I think, and that's what really is the sort of underpinning his sense of frustration which was very real. So, yes, it's going to be a tough year for Ukraine.

BREMMER: Agree. Agree.

ZAKARIA: Stay with us. Next I will ask our two guests what story in 2024 they are watching most closely. That when we come back.


ZAKARIA: And we are back here on GPS with "The Economist" editor-in- chief Zanny Minton Beddoes and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of the Eurasia Group.

Ian, what is the biggest story you're looking at in 2024? Maybe another way of putting it is what is your biggest worry?


BREMMER: Yes, I mean, clearly, the United States and this electoral season and all of us are worried that the U.S. democracy is nowhere near as robust as the economy that you were talking about in the opening, Fareed. But I'll tell you, irrespective of who wins, we need to recognize that all of 2024 very likely to be so much more divided. Once Trump gets the nomination, which is overwhelmingly likely in the next couple of months, the Republican Party is going to line up behind him. And the media. And the money.

And as a consequence of that, his policy pronouncements will have a lot more importance. So this entire year, before we get to November, before we get to inauguration in January, before we start talking about contested illegitimate elections and the politicization, delegitimization around that, you're going to have a year that is much, much more polarized with implications for domestic and foreign policy that is under appreciated by people around the world right now.

ZAKARIA: Zanny, you guys had an editorial which is was very tough on Joe Biden. The Democrats you say are sleep-walking into disaster. Explain what you mean.

MINTON BEDDOES: Well, you've just had from Ian what is at stake this year. And the bulwark against Donald Trump returning to the White House is an 81-year-old who is showing his age, who is the most -- has the lowest approval ratings of any modern president. That is not a great position to be in for the Democrats. And you know, you know most Americans do not want these two people to be running.

Most, many Democrats don't want Biden to be running. When he first came in, there was a sense that he would be a one-term president. After '22, after the midterms, you know, something changed and there was a clear sense that he's decided that he wanted to do it again. And we argue that that is not only for noble reasons. I think there is some in the party, some complacency and some cowardice, and that has led them to sort of sleep-walk to this position which is not a position a party wants to be in and frankly not a position that anyone in the world wants.

That the consequences of Donald Trump potentially returning to the White House are, you know, terrible in so many ways and you don't need to think that it's sort of end of American democracy, although I think it would have caused real problems. Even without that, it will cause tremendous problems for the U.S. and internationally. And I think it is by far the biggest shadow over a year, which in itself actually as you I think have mentioned before, Fareed, this is the year when over half the population of the world lives in countries that are having elections.

More than 70 countries are going to the polls. Really big ones. Eight out of the 10 most populous countries. But hanging over all of that is the U.S. election. If you're in Beijing, if you're in Delhi, if you're in the Middle East, if you're certainly Bibi Netanyahu, if you're Putin, you are looking at this election and you are rooting for one particular outcome. And I think that is just -- it's going to be an extraordinary year and that's going to dominate everything that we think about.

And for the administration, for the Democratic Party who got itself into this position, I think it's just, you know, a really, really unfortunate place to be in, and that's why we came out so strongly. It's not -- don't get me wrong. Joe Biden has been a good president in many ways. He's a noble public servant. He's doing a lot of very good things but he is -- people are worried about his age. He is 81 years old and that worry is only going to continue.

BREMMER: Fareed --

MINTON BEDDOES: Everyone knows someone in their 80s and knows what is likely to happen.

BREMMER: I want to be very, very clear. If you're a democracy and you have an election where a former president has tried to subvert, to steal the previous electoral outcome, the election should be first and foremost about that. And it is not. And the reason for that is because the legitimacy of the U.S. political system and its institutions have deeply eroded. That is the fundamental problem here.

MINTON BEDDOES: Ian, I don't disagree with that.

ZAKARIA: All right, we have time for a lightning round.

MINTON BEDDOES: But it has allowed to become that.

ZAKARIA: I went -- no, let's -- let me just get a quick sense from you, Zanny. Taiwan, you know, is this election likely to lead to conflict? Is there -- you know, what are the stakes here, 30 seconds?

MINTON BEDDOES: Taiwan, no. It will be not in the short term. There will be more tension if the DPP candidate, the independence candidate wins but it will not lead to conflict. But can I just quickly end by responding to Ian because I don't disagree with him. Of course that is the most important issue, but that is not what many American voters think is the most important issue and that's what's so alarming.

ZAKARIA: All right. We are going to have to close there. We will have you back to evaluate whether it all worked as you said.

Next on GPS, we will try to understand the big economic trends of 2024.


What can we expect to happen with inflation, recession, all the kind of things that affect your wages and bank balance. The author and investor Ruchir Sharma will explain it all when we come back.


ZAKARIA: As you just heard, the new year is a huge one for politics around the globe. As "The Economists" notes, about half of the world's population will vote this year including the world's three most populous democracies, the United States, India and Indonesia. So what else are we going to see around the world in the years to come?

Joining me now is Ruchir Sharma. He is the chairman of Rockefeller International, a financial advisory firm, and the founder of Breakout Capital and Investment firm focused on emerging markets, and of course a very prolific writer and columnist for the "FT."

Ruchir, we've all heard now about these many, many elections that are taking place. The share of global population with the opportunity to vote is, you know, at a kind of all-time high. And that is remarkable. But the most interesting thing to me is you point out that 20 years ago 70 percent of incumbents would win the elections. And now, it is 30 percent. What do you think is going on?


RUCHIR SHARMA, CHAIRMAN, ROCKEFELLER INTERNATIONAL: Yes, so this is global data. We looked at 50 democracies around the world and, I think, it's quite incredible as to how many are losing. Even the U.S. the same phenomenon is there. If you look at the first term approval ratings of presidents in the last 20, 30 years, they tend to wither away as they approach the end of the first term.

So, there is a lot of negativity amplified possibly by social media, and in terms of what is going on. So, the implication is that we have these -- the number of elections but most incumbents are likely to lose. So, when we do this next time this year, I think, we're likely to see a lot of new faces around the world.

So, it used to be that having the public office, the visibility, the pedestal helped you. That used to be the case globally. Seventy percent of incumbents would win elections. Now, it is incredible that being an incumbent is such a major disadvantage, that this term, in fact was coined in India, anti-incumbency which was very prevalent there has gone global now.

ZAKARIA: Of course, ironically in India it's one place that seems to be bucking that trend.

SHARMA: Exactly.

ZAKARIA: But tell me, because you have so many unpopular incumbents, you know, Biden approval ratings look terrible except when you compare them to Emmanuel Macron --

SHARMA: Right.

ZAKARIA: -- or even Justin Trudeau. They're all doing badly. You say that that means they're going to spend a lot. But can they spend a lot? Are we in a different world in terms of deficits and worries about deficits?

SHARMA: Yes. So, one of my big trends of 2024 is this epic clash in the making between politician and investors. Politicians generally tend to spend more in elections years. That's well-known. The incentive to do so now is even much more because of approval ratings.

I looked at the approval ratings of leaders around the world, and across western democracies, the approval rating of leaders currently is close to an all-time low. So, it is not just a Biden problem, as you point out, it is a universal problem.

What is the implication? They want to spend more but they've already run very large deficits going into this election. The U.S. used to run a deficit of about three percent of GDP or so for much of the last decade. Their deficit now is six percent of GDP and likely to be that way. And I think that is going to be there that as -- whether it's the U.S. or other countries too from South Africa or whatever around the world, Mexico, everywhere the deficits have shot up.

So, politicians try and spend more. You're going to have people in the bond market, the vigilantes, as they are known, sort of revolt against this. They're going to be saying, OK, you've got so much supply coming at us, we want higher interest rates. And that higher interest rates, obviously, has implications for everybody.

So, currently you're celebrating the fact that the state has stopped its interest rate hikes, interest rates in general have come down. But if you end up getting these bond vigilantes shift their focus away from inflation to deficits, you're likely to see long-term interest rates not come down as much as you would expect or in fact even go up on the back of the all of these spending plans.

ZAKARIA: I want to ask about a specific country, in your trend list, and that is China. That biggest puzzle of the global economy has been China, fastest growing country in the history of the world has stalled.

And you point out that, you know, China seemed like it was going to overtake the U.S. It was at 76 percent of the U.S. economy, closing in on 100 percent. And it is now started declining. It is now down to 66 percent. Do you think China recovers substantially in 2024?

SHARMA: It is very hard to see that. Because the long-term challenges in China, demographics, for the first time, their population is shrinking, their debt load, their deficits and debt are, in fact, even higher than the United States even though the per capita income is much lower. So, this is a very heavily indebted country.

And then you have Xi Jinping who really wants to make the country much more fortified and less big beneficiary of globalization which is what lifted China. And here is the real problem, which is that they go on printing GDP growth numbers showing that the economy is growing at five percent.

The reality is that it is not growing at five percent. If you look at all the other metrics, what the companies are earning or what their revenues are, but the charade continues. That they claim they're growing at five percent.

A lot of western academics and other China watchers believe they are growing at five percent so why do anything? So, you've got this very strange situation but a charade is on. They claim they are growing at five percent, but they're not growing at five percent and they're not taking any major action to try and rescue the economy to keep the charade on.

ZAKARIA: OK. Finally, people have said this often, the end of the tech boom, bubble, call it what you will, but you think tech is in for some kind of a downturn.

[10:35:01] Explain.

SHARMA: It is already been happening. So, if you look at 2023, the A.I. wave came and swept the world and the seven largest stocks in the U.S. did very well, the Magnificent Seven. But outside of that, the tech sector was about the only sector in the United States to have lost jobs. So, about 70,000 jobs were lost in the tech sector. Whereas, the U.S. economy added nearly 3 million jobs.

And my point is that the A.I. wave will also subside a bit as people figure out how do we make money out of this. And so, therefore, I feel tech is in a bit of a trouble spot for the coming year.

ZAKARIA: Always a pleasure to hear from you, Ruchir. We will do this again.

Next on GPS, artificial intelligence will change the world even if it doesn't change the job market right now. But the pressing question is, can humans stay in control of A.I.? I asked a top A.I. entrepreneur, Mustafa Suleyman, about the opportunities and the risks when we come back.



ZAKARIA: Twenty twenty-three was the year that artificial intelligence burst into public consciousness, stoking the imaginations of many, and the fears of many others. In 2024, Goldman Sachs says generative A.I. will move from an excitement phase to a deployment phase. And in the next 10 years, could raise global GDP by as much as seven percent.

I was delighted to be able to sit down with a fascinating and brilliant entrepreneur who has been at the forefront of AI for more than a decade. Mustafa Suleyman was a co-founder of Deep Mind. His most recent venture is Inflection AI, which he co-founded in 2022.

The company's first product is a chatbot that acts like a personal assistant and offers friendly advice and even companionship. His terrific new book is called "The Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the 21st Century's Greatest Dilemma." I spoke with him recently.


ZAKARIA: Mustafa Suleyman, pleasure to have you on.

MUSTAFA SULEYMAN, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, INFLECTION AI: Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

ZAKARIA: So, you're an unusual tech A.I., you know, scientist entrepreneur. You don't really come from a kind of techie background, right?

SULEYMAN: I'm a philosopher by training. I did philosophy at Oxford and dropped out to start a charity. I'm also, you know, a serial entrepreneur. So, what I love doing is synthesizing ideas, making big bets about the future, and being the kind of translator interlocutor to try and pull things together.

ZAKARIA: What gets you interested in artificial intelligence?

SULEYMAN: Well, I've always been obsessed with the idea that tools and invention are going to make us more capable as a species and that has been the history of human civilization. We've invented things in order to make our lives easier and happier and healthier. And from a kind of social impact perspective, that is the grand offering of science.

You know, if we look back over the centuries, our lives have gotten radically, radically better, and that is real cause to be optimistic. This engine of discovery and creation is fundamental to who we are as a species. Our curiosity drives us to create and do more with less. And that is actually what drew me to A.I. in the first place.

ZAKARIA: So, most people will understand get the A.I. to do something specific. Let's say look at a legal document and find all of the cases that relate to -- or look at an x-ray and figure out -- compare it to all the other x-rays, does this one have cancerous cells?

Help us understand generative A.I. which is the ability of the machine to teach itself, to think, and then to go beyond that to thinking kind of even more complex and creative ways that even human beings might be able to.

SULEYMAN: So, think about it as two sides of the same A.I. coin. For the last decade we've been focused on classification. How can we train deep neural networks to identify patterns in data? And it has done that so well, that it can transcribe speech, for example, or it can understand the content of images. And that has been the classification revolution.

The flip side of that is if the A.I. now understands the difference between cats and dogs and zebras in an image, you can then say, generate me a new example of a zebra that has never been seen with the color purple and with bright blue wings, for example. Because it understands those concepts well enough from having seen the historical patterns.

Now the third phase of A.I. that is coming is interactive A.I. Now that you can have an A.I. generate a new example, it can present that to a human for feedback and interact in order to learn from human and be useful to you, carry out new tasks. In time it will learn to use tools, right? So, it will actually be able to make phone calls to other humans on your behalf.

ZAKARIA: Let me just get an example out so people understand. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think what you are saying is you should be able to have an A.I. that you say to your phone, can you do the following for me? Two weeks from now I want to take a trip to London. Can you get me get me a ticket, book me a hotel? I want to go to this restaurant, make me the reservation. And I also need these three books. Can you order them? And the A.I. will then take care of it all, right?

SULEYMAN: Exactly. Think of AIs in the future as personal assistants. Everybody is going to have a conversational interface, which not just represents you and is there to help you and support you, but can also teach you. It's actually going to help you day-to-day to be better at your job, to, you know, make important life decisions when you're thinking about whether to relocate to a different city, or whether it might be time to put your elderly parents into a care home, or whether to go ahead and have a, you know, serious operation that you are thinking about.


ZAKARIA: So, that gets to a very interesting point which is emotional intelligence. We've often thought that, you know, the A.I. will do the analytic part. But human beings have this special thing, emotional intelligence, E.Q., social skills. You are saying the A.I. can have all of that as well?

SULEYMAN: That is exactly right. I mean, we have developed at my new company, Inflection, an A.I. called Pi, which stands for personal intelligence, and we've specifically conditioned it to be good emotional intelligence.

It is a great listener. It is very even-handed. It presents both sides of an argument. It asks you great questions. It tries to remember what you've said in the past. It will often paraphrase what you've said in order to make you feel heard.

So, these sort of elements of empathy are actually quite learnable by the A.I. and will be incredibly valuable to millions of millions of people to have the comfort and support of a friend, a companion, an emotional intelligence in your pocket. I mean, I think people underrate how significant that is in the world.

Not all of us have a supportive parent, or a husband or a wife or child or friend to help you get through difficult times. And now that is going to be widely available to hundreds of millions of people over the next few years.


ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, what are the steps toward actually regulating A.I.? We'll be back with the author and entrepreneur Mustafa Suleyman.



ZAKARIA: We now know that artificial intelligence will bring us a wealth of benefits and many challenges, too. The question remains how can the world come together to regulate and contain it? I asked author and longtime A.I. entrepreneur Mustafa Suleyman.


SULEYMAN: How do we stay in charge? That's the key question. And, I think, in the limit, it is definitely possible that we may not be in charge. And we have to confront that reality. That isn't desirable. It's not what we want.

We don't want AIs to have autonomy in our world. They shouldn't have rights, as some people have proposed. We don't want new digital citizens hanging around in our everyday society.

ZAKARIA: Just so that people understand technically, is it possible to say, is it as simple as saying, look, at the end of the day, you can always have a kill switch and you could pull the plug? Or is it more complicated than that?

SULEYMAN: Yes. It is going to be possible to do that, I believe, if we focus on it as a research community, as a group of governing actors, as creators of the technology in the open source and in the private companies. We have to make that a priority.

We have overcome huge scientific and engineering feats to contain nuclear power, to get the best out of aviation and not have planes fall out of the sky all the time, to regulate cars and make sure that everybody is trained to drive a car and that there are, you know, airbags and wind screens and vehicle emissions and traffic lights and -- you know, these are important moments in the history of the development of our technology where we've really paid attention. And this is another one of those moments.

The good news is, that over the last decade, as the models have got bigger, they've actually got easier to control. There are fewer hallucinations than there have ever been. There are fewer biases than there have ever been. And with each order of magnitude of computation that we add to these training runs, what we see is that they make fewer mistakes, they're easier to control, and they take instruction more closely.

And so, the real question becomes, whose instruction and what instruction? What is the behavior policy that we're asking these AIs to adhere to, and who is auditing and verifying that the AIs are behaving within the boundary constraints that have been set for it?

ZAKARIA: Tell me, when you look at the future of A.I., do you worry about something that Henry Kissinger and Eric Schmidt have written a lot about, which is that human beings will really be in a position of not understanding the world anymore? That, you know, before the enlightenment, we didn't understand the world and we would attribute anything we didn't understand to divine forces. You know, if the sun rose, because the sun god moved his chariot across the sky.

We will be in a situation where the A.I. will tell us, you know, this is the answer, this is -- this person has cancer. But we won't be able to understand why because the level of computation and analysis will be so much greater.

What kind of position does that place human beings in? We're almost returning to our pre-enlightenment self when the -- in that time we looked up to God and now we look up to this black box called A.I. but in both cases, we're believing, not actually understanding.

SULEYMAN: It is a great point. And it is a real risk. And we can't rest on belief. We have to rest on reason.

You know, belief is a dangerous path to being able to justify actions on the basis of things that we can't interpret. At the same time, we are all behaviorists today. We observe outputs.

I don't really understand what is going on inside your mind, for example. I rely on the things that you say and the things that you do to verify that you can repeatedly act consistently with your own behavior policy, your own set of values. And that is actually how we form trust in society today. We don't form trust by interrogating the precise causal explanation of your own data patterns based on your past personal history.


Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't hold AIs to even higher standards than ourselves, because clearly, we're all in agreement that we don't want to be, you know, disintermediated from our position as, you know, top of the food chain in our species and in civilization today. But at the same time, we have to be realistic about the benefits.

Take health care, for example. These models are performing an incredible role in being able to detect disease at, you know, human level performance across the board, on radiology scans for chest x- rays, for mammograms, for acute kidney injury, for sepsis, for glaucoma and, you know, blinding eye diseases. And the cost of producing a world class diagnosis and the proposed treatment pathway is about to plummet to zero marginal cost. It is going to be essentially free in the next decade, to provide an absolutely world class diagnosis.

That is going to transform health care for billions and billions of people. And we're going to see the same trajectory in education. We'll see the same trajectory in the development of food and synthetic materials. And we'll see the same trajectory for decision-making and entrepreneurship across the board.

So, the benefits are really incredible. The challenge is how can we mitigate those down sides.

ZAKARIA: Mustafa, this is a terrific book and what a fascinating conversation. Thank you,

SULEYMAN: Thank you. It has been fun.


ZAKARIA: Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. And thanks to News 18 in Mumbai for hosting us and making today's show possible. I will see you next week from New York.