Artificial intelligence: world improver, profit optimizer or top spy? (Review of 'Scary smart') Mo Gawdat)

Everyone seems to be concerned about COVID, but the impact of the virus on our society is insignificant compared to what is happening to us right now with artificial intelligence. Robots and computers can easily beat humans at chess or the complicated GO-game and an expert audience is hardly able to distinguish a Bach composition by the computer from a real Bach composition. Computers are learning themselves literally everything and this process is irreversible.

Not everyone has a passion for computers, but there is a revolution going on in the world of machines. We should no longer close our eyes for this evolutionary development if we want to improve the conditions for people, animals and the earth. Fortunately for people who are not interested in computers there are people like Mo Gawdat.  They understand the art of explaining artificial intelligence in understandable language.

In his book 'Scary smart’ Gawdat explains in a fascinating way that it is not us who will be at the controls in the future but the robots, algorithms and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI). And he as an empathetic nerd should know. Until he lost his son a few years ago he was involved in a technology development that dominates our world more and more every day. He worked at Microsoft, helped to develop the self-driving car and was Chief Business Officer at Google X.Gawdat's message is alarming.

Anyone who thinks that artificial intelligence will not take over in the future is naive. It absolutlely will, and it actually is a great and indispensable tool for people who want to make the world a better place. If you want to develop this planet into a place where nature and people work together, then this is your chance. If properly nurtured artificial intelligence will bring much joy to mankind in improving its attitude towards planet and fellow man and animal. But there are also risks with the machines of the future. The frightening scenarios from the SF movies could become reality, Gawdat argues, if people continue to use AI for the wrong purposes.

If we continue to use AI only for sales, war, espionage and other destructive practices, the machines of the future will think that that's the norm. As self-learning beings this evil image will become their reality and they will use their brilliance to support humanity in its destruction. The word 'brilliance' is appropriate, because the algorithms have the ability to go through and understand data at lightning speed. You and I are known by machines in a flash. They will for example predict better which choices your partner will make than you do. They are infinitely faster than us and a much smarter too. A billion times smarter, according to Mo Gawdat.

The book 'Scary smart' is a relief when you want to discover what modern and future machines are able to. Your mouth will fall open in surprise. At this moment we people still determine what the computers and robots do.  As an expert Gawdat however knows that this is only a matter of time. The day AI will take over from us will surely come. We should actually stop the development of the machines, the writer reports somewhere, but we can’t because organizations, armies, espionage services and superpowers will continue to develop AI.

If we don't counter this positively with AI future machines will develop a distorted idea about humans and what they should do. Then the horror we know from the Science Fiction world can actually happen, when machines fall exclusively into the hands of villainous power-hungry men. Because the machines are self-learning but still dependent on the basic input we put into them it is vital that we take a very positive view that opposes the destructive AI use of competitive and profit-oriented organizations, armies and secret services.If we feed and 'educate' the machines incorrectly, a lot of trouble awaits us. However, if we fill the systems with positive information (good for humans, animals, plants and mother earth), AI can certainly help us. We will develop loving machines that can do much more than we can, and that is the thrust of Gawdat's argument, whose book is full of tips.


Then 'Scary smart', the book. Part 1 of his book gives an overview of the threats, showing that the road to a bright future will be painful at first. In part 2, however, we get the optimistic messages that promote sustainability, development and diversity. That will ultimately make the world a lot more fun. AI is not a threat, it is a huge opportunity to get out of problems that we cannot solve on our own with our limited minds.Anyway, man will naturally come to see that he is going to lose his superiority to a more intelligent being. That may also teach him to get rid of arrogance and the incline to enrich himself at the expense of others.

According to Gawdat we should tell the machines that most people are good but some are not. It is those people who have disturbed the balance in the world for centuries. With masculine powers they oppress the world, and make a mess of our planet. Above all, when it comes to improvement we may not ignore our personal drive for buying habits, security neuroses, entertainment, comfort and satisfaction of destructive desires we don't really need. Homo sapiens will hopefully learn from those super-fast future quantum machines that it is possible to live different. Gawdat gives a series of interesting tips for that in 'scary smart'. If you want to keep up, you should read this book. That keeps you on your toes, and makes you more optimistic about the future.

Bert Overbeek is an experienced executive coach and trainer. He has written a few top 5-books in Dutch. In his last book 'De schakelaar' (about modern and future leadership) he maintains that plans should be replaced by scenarios because modern developments are changing the world quite rapidly. (

1. Mo Gawdat interview:

2. Marcus du Sautoy on Bach and Computer Composition:


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