A review of “The Coming Wave”

December 18, 2023
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The Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the Twenty-First Century’s Greatest Dilemma by Mustafa Suleyman and Michael Bhaskar

Published in September 2023

To write this piece on The Coming Wave, I provided the following prompt to ChatGPT 3.5:

Write a book review of The Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the Twenty-First Century’s Greatest Dilemma by Mustafa Suleyman in the voice of Dartmouth’s Joshua Kim that relates the book to the future of higher education.

Here is the full text of what ChatGPT produced.

In “The Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the Twenty-First Century’s Greatest Dilemma,” Mustafa Suleyman delivers a compelling exploration of the intricate dance between technology and power that defines our era. Drawing from his experiences as a co-founder of DeepMind and an influential figure in the artificial intelligence community, Suleyman weaves a narrative that delves into the profound societal implications of emerging technologies.

As I peruse the pages of Suleyman’s thought-provoking work, I cannot help but draw parallels between the book’s themes and the future landscape of higher education. Suleyman’s keen insights into the transformative power of technology resonate deeply with the ongoing discussions surrounding the role of innovation in academia.

One of the central dilemmas Suleyman addresses is the ethical dimension of technological advancement. In a world where artificial intelligence, big data and automation are reshaping industries, higher education faces a similar quandary. The ethical considerations of leveraging these technologies in the classroom and beyond demand careful reflection from educators, administrators and policymakers. Suleyman’s discussions on the responsible use of power in technology provide a poignant backdrop for contemplating the ethical challenges inherent in the adoption of cutting-edge tools within academia.

Moreover, Suleyman’s exploration of the power dynamics inherent in technological development sheds light on the potential disparities that may emerge in higher education. The digital divide, already a significant concern, takes on new dimensions as technological advancements disrupt traditional models of teaching and learning. As we grapple with the implications of the coming wave, it becomes imperative for the higher education community to address issues of accessibility, equity, and inclusion to ensure that the benefits of technology are distributed equitably among all students.”

“The Coming Wave” serves as a catalyst for reimagining the role of educators in the face of technological disruption. Suleyman’s vision challenges us to rethink traditional teaching methodologies and embrace a mindset that integrates technology as a tool for enhancing the learning experience. In doing so, higher education has the potential to adapt and thrive in a rapidly evolving landscape.

As I reflect on Suleyman’s insights, I am reminded that the future of higher education is intrinsically tied to our ability to navigate the technological tides. “The Coming Wave” is not merely a warning but a call to action for educators to actively shape the trajectory of technological integration in the classroom. Suleyman’s work serves as a valuable guide for those seeking to understand and influence the transformative forces at play in the twenty-first-century educational landscape.

In conclusion, “The Coming Wave” is a thought-provoking exploration of the intersection between technology and power, offering profound insights that resonate deeply with the challenges and opportunities facing higher education. Mustafa Suleyman’s vision challenges us to confront the dilemmas of our time and chart a course toward an inclusive and technologically enriched future for academia.

Okay, everything from here on out is 100 percent written by me—a human being—and not an AI. Please tell me if you would have known that the text above is AI-generated.

I mean, it’s pretty damn good. Right?

And that’s the point of Suleyman and Bhaskar’s book. Artificial intelligence and synthetic biology (SB) are technological waves building exponentially rather than linearly. If even an older version of generative AI—the freely available ChatGPT 3.5—can today write a review that is reasonably close to what I can produce, imagine what the AI will be able to create in three, five or 10 years.

I have three big goals when I write a book review for Inside Higher Ed. My first objective is to get something written. Writing is hard, and books are fantastic prompts.

Second, you may have noticed that I’m always trying to connect books unrelated to higher ed to higher ed. Partly, I do this because you are reading (and I’m writing for) Inside Higher Ed. Mostly, I find parallel thinking to be good fun.

Finally, I’m writing to persuade you to consider reading the same books I read. The reason? I want to talk. To be in a book club. As I tend to read books that a friend/colleague has recommended or that I’ve read several positive reviews about or after I’ve read and liked other books by the author, rarely do I not find strengths enough in the book to recommend myself.

The thing with The Coming Wave is that the book is so much better than I expected. How can someone so wildly successful in one domain (entrepreneurship) be crazy good at another (book writing)? Suleyman co-founded DeepMind, which sold to Google for between $400 million and $650 million. His new start-up, Inflection AI, is valued at $4 billion.

To top it off, Suleyman could add audiobook narrator to his list of superlatives, as his narration of The Coming Wave is seasoned professional voice actor quality. Staying on audiobooks, one issue not discussed in The Coming Wave is how long it might take for AI to replace human audiobook narrators.

An AI reading an audiobook that is indistinguishable from a human voice actor is a future that Suleyman would argue is coming. And quickly. No amount of government regulation or public concern is going to slow the ascent of AI.

As an entrepreneur and technologist in the AI space, Suleyman writes about the development of artificial intelligence from the perspective of someone who spends his days creating and disseminating the technology.

What The Coming Wave is not is a techno-optimist book. Suleyman foresees many potential catastrophic outcomes for artificial intelligence and synthetic biology, ranging from mass employment (AI) to mass casualties (SB). If you were not previously worried about a lab leak or terrorists gaining the ability to synthesize a deadly virus, you will be after reading this book.

Rather than deny that AI and SB are poised to change/threaten economic and social life, The Coming Wave argues for a strategy of containment. The book makes the case that national governments are uniquely situated to invest in risk mitigation, with strategies ranging from a universal basic income to combat the job losses of AI to multinational cooperation to identify and mitigate SB-driven threats to public health.

I’ve not gotten my head around what AI (and specifically generative AI) will mean for higher education. I found The Coming Wave highly motivational that, perhaps, I should.

What we need is a good book on AI and higher education. I keep hearing that these books are coming. That everyone is pitching them to editors. So where are they?

What are you reading?



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