In an interview, best-selling author and machine-learning expert Pedro Domingos discusses the global competition to take the lead in artificial intelligence, the advance of autocrats and the threats modern technology presents to Western democracies.
It’s a quiet hallway in the computer science department at the University of Washington in Seattle. To the right, young software engineers sit in front of their laptops in the windowless, artificially lit rooms. To the left, computer science professor Pedro Domingos opens the door to his office, which has a view of the massive trees on campus.
Domingos’ book “The Master Algorithm,” about the technology of artificial intelligence (AI), made him famous and is also considered a standard reference work. The best-selling book, published in 2015, describes how machines that can learn are changing our everyday lives — from the social networks and science to business and politics and right up to the way modern wars are waged. The book drew praise from Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
Recently, a third prominent figure noted that he’d read the book: Chinese President Xi Jinping. When state television broadcast his new year’s speech this year, viewers discovered that next to Marx’s “Capital” and “Selected Works” by Mao Zedong, he also has a copy of “The Master Algorithm” on his bookshelf.
“The book is much read in China,” says Domingos. “That’s probably why Xi and his people became aware of it. It’s possible that it has now become even more popular.” The book has also been published in Russian, Japanese, Korean and in many other languages, but not yet in German.