For some, artificial intelligence represents nothing more than one tool among many aimed at increasing productivity and maximizing economic output. For others though, AI looks like more of a destination, a couple of words pointing to a tectonic shift in global society capable of ripping the ground out from under humanity’s feet. Which camp do you think Henry Kissinger belongs in?
Yes, the same Henry Kissinger who managed to whisper in presidents’ ears long enough to fundamentally alter the course of events in the 20th century has some thoughts on what advances in AI could mean for the next hundred years. The Cold War veteran started prominently expressing his interest and concern over AI in a 2018 issue of The Atlantic titled “How the Enlightenment Ends.” Since then, the 98-year-old puppetmaster turned AI prophet has worked to refine his ideas into a book in which he enlisted the help of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
Schmidt, for his part, isn’t a stranger to working with governments. After leaving Google, Schmidt made regular appearances in Barack Obama’s White House, where he definitely did not encourage the president to look favorably on the tech industry. In 2019, under Donald Trump, Schmidt was tasked by the US government to formally co-head the National Security Commission on AI, an organization whose goal is to produce lengthy reports for the President and Congress detailing methods and strategies for advancing AI in national defense. Schmidt’s first report called on the U.S. to push back against calls for global AI weapons and encourage a tighter connection between the military and private industry to stave off potential AI threats from China and Russia.
With all this in mind, it only makes sense that Kissinger and Schmidt’s recently released book The Age of AI: And our Human Future goes hard on the heart-thumping, world-conquering American exceptionalism. Though excerpts around the military, power, and China are abundant, the book also weighs in on the supposed ways AI may alter the very concept of “humanity.” Trippy stuff.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways from The Age of AI.