Interview with Calum Chace
When and how did your interest for artificial intelligence begin?
I read a lot of science fiction as a boy, and I always thought that humans would one day create an entity smarter than themselves. But until 1999 I assumed it wouldn’t happen until centuries after I was dead.
Reading a book by the controversial genius Ray Kurzweil made me take seriously the idea that it could happen much sooner – maybe even during my lifetime. And I saw immediately that the consequences could be wonderful or grim. I realised it was important for us to figure out how to get the wonderful, not the grim.
How did you begin your speaking career?
I wrote a technological thriller to explore the possible outcomes of the arrival on earth of the first super intelligence, and I started to give talks to like-minded people about the concepts involved.
In 2014 we had the “three wise men” moment, when Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bill Gates all said that super intelligence is probably coming, and will be either the best or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity. That woke a lot of journalists up, and led to lots of pictures of The Terminator appearing in the media. People from different backgrounds started asking me to explain where the reality ends and the hype starts. So I wrote my two non-fiction books about AI, one each about the two singularities (huge changes) that I see coming.
How do audiences gain from your keynote presentations?
A calm, measured, realistic explanation of what the development of artificial intelligence means for all of us. The changes that are coming are enormous, and I try to provide a sober assessment of the impact, while not hiding its importance.
What do you gain personally from being a public speaker?
The opportunity to discuss an issue I care about deeply with smart people from many backgrounds. And the opportunity to encourage people to take seriously what is coming, and the fact that we need to manage the transitions.
What types of unique experiences have you had as a result of your profession?
I have had a lot of media coverage and I have given talks in very august places, but I experienced quite a lot of that in my previous business career. The thing that strikes me powerfully is that while our politicians (apart from some in the USA) are asleep at the wheel in this regard, senior business people are coming up to speed quickly. This gives me a lot of hope.
How are your keynote presentations unique?
I don’t shy away from discussing the astonishing changes that are coming, but I think my 30-year business career grounds me in realism. More specifically, I know of few people who are currently prepared to follow the logic of the argument about technological unemployment to where it inevitably leads. I’m trying to get more people to join me!