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Helen Todd is co-founder and CEO of Sociality Squared and the human behind Creativity Squared.
Dex Hunter-Torricke is the head of Global Communications & Marketing for Google DeepMind, one of the world's leading A.I. companies.

Ep37. Dex Hunter-Torricke: Gemini by Google DeepMind

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Ep37. Gemini by Google DeepMind: Discover A.I.’s Potential for Positive Global Societal Impact with Dex Hunter-Torricke, Head of Global Communications & Marketing for Google DeepMind

If 2023 proved to be a breakout year for generative A.I. (GenAI), then 2024 may fulfill its destiny as technology’s ultimate change agent, transforming vast swaths of human systems and capabilities.

Yet, the realization of that immense promise first requires navigating profound risks as A.I. rapidly evolves more powerful permutations dwarfing existing oversight frameworks.

In this episode of Creativity Squared, Dex Hunter-Torricke contends that inclusive, ethical A.I. development can channel this epochal force toward uplifting lives globally.

As Head of Global Communications & Marketing for Google DeepMind, Dex helps shape public understanding of A.I. advances like Gemini, Google’s new general intelligence model blending capacities across learning modalities. Dex is passionate about driving large-scale, global societal change and believes that amazing possibilities are coming as A.I. tools transform the way billions of people live and work over the coming years. He sees the recently announced Gemini 1.5 as another exciting step towards that future.

In this far-reaching discussion with host Helen Todd, Dex shares his vision for A.I. to help solve humanity’s grand challenges, while ensuring it’s developed safely and responsibly. The pair also discuss key aspects shaping A.I. in 2024, like Google’s new multimodal model Gemini, as well as governance experiments like Meta’s Oversight Board.

As a writer and fan of science fiction, Dex also shares his views on the power of storytelling and why it’s needed now more than ever to make sense of the complexities of A.I., as well as to capture the public’s imagination about the possibilities of amplifying the best of human potential.

What does the future hold? To discover Dex’s optimism, sense of history in the making, and desire to realize A.I. for positive global impact, continue reading below. 

Things that may seem like science fiction right now are coming, and they are going to have a huge impact on the way that billions of people live their lives…So we need to take this stuff seriously.”

Dex Hunter-Torricke

Science Fiction, Society, and A.I.

Currently based in London, Dex’s impressive career includes managing communications for leaders and organizations reaching billions of people and at the heart of global transformation. He’s been the head of communications for SpaceX, head of communications and public policy for Meta’s Oversight Board, head of executive communications for Facebook, and was Google’s first executive speechwriter where he wrote for Eric Schmidt and Larry Page. Dex began his career as a speechwriter and spokesperson for the executive office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He’s also a New York Times-bestselling ghostwriter and is a frequent public speaker on the social impact of technology.

As the conversation begins, Dex shares his frustration at the beginning of his career trajectory at the UN trying to drive change in resource-constrained public sector organizations.

Now at Google DeepMind heading communications and marketing for Google’s consolidated A.I. division, Dex focuses on conveying Google’s A.I. development and thinking about the future potential to solve major global challenges once integrated into products reaching billions of people.

Before diving deeper into Dex’s thoughts on A.I. as a disruptor, Helen presses him on another topic: His love for science fiction. Dex discusses how readers often overlook the genre’s focus on and relevance to society, rather than simply technology. He references Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy and its exploration of economic and ethical issues arising from humanity expanding to Mars as formative reading and a touchpoint while interviewing for communications lead at SpaceX years later.

“Good science fiction mostly isn’t about technology. It’s about society, and how communities evolve when they have access to the kinds of futures that are made possible by technology.

Dex Hunter-Torricke

Dex suggests most sci-fi depictions of A.I. follow extreme dystopian visions, like the Terminator films. However, he highlights thoughtful examples like Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun as avoiding reductive assumptions by exploring nuanced facets of plausible human-A.I. coexistence.

Dex indicates enthusiasm for ongoing exchanges on governance and problem-solving global frameworks needed to responsibly steer A.I.’s benefits while mitigating risks. He shares optimism about shifting societal narratives toward a more balanced consideration of cautions and opportunities instead of only amplifying warnings in ways impeding progress on pressing priorities A.I. may substantially help address.

The Pace of Progress

Dex outlines the furious pace of A.I. development at Google DeepMind in 2023 since he joined in April, enabled by consolidated efforts from merging top internal A.I. units into Google DeepMind.

Google’s Gemini is the company’s largest foundation model yet promising more advanced reasoning and multimodal understanding to unlock new use cases. Dex expects Gemini integration over 2024 to impact billions through enhanced Google products and developer platforms, especially with the recent announcement of Gemini 1.5 (which this interview was conducted before this announcement).

He suggests seamlessly blending perceptual inputs like humans do — as we’re multimodal — holds immense promise for useful applications versus present disjointed singular-modality models. While current A.I. tends to specialize within narrow tasks, Gemini’s flexibility echoes human context switching, exponentially expanding utility.

Dex argues realizing such potential compels investing in frameworks and cooperation to keep pace with exponential change. He proposes that inclusive solutions balancing risk and opportunity can channel A.I.’s promise while retaining public faith.

Asked about his personal use of A.I. as a writing aid, Dex shares his experience testing ideas through rapid prototypes and outlines to validate choices before major time investments. He feels encouraged when initial impulses prove right.

Dex also employs A.I. to tackle “cognitive manual labor” which are mundane tasks like data entry, freeing capacity for higher-order work. Wanting more familiarity with what he called “the bleeding edge of A.I. tools,” Dex reveals his 2024 goal is to investigate communications/marketing A.I. applications to be ready to transform how he works to stay ahead of the curve.

Dex considers anticipatory tech adaptation essential as A.I. inevitably disrupts workflows. He suggests creatives specifically formulate personal disruption strategies embracing new tools before mandated, avoiding forced catch-up through planned skills expansion leveraging A.I.’s exponential reach.

“I think everything we’re doing, both you and me, Helen, I think everything is going to be transformed in a lot of ways both big and small.”

Dex Hunter-Torricke

A.I. Governance and the Need for New Institutions

Asked about oversight frameworks, Dex indicates that experiments like Meta’s Oversight Board responded to technology novelties straining existing governance. He suggests humility and ecosystem thinking help account for interwoven societal challenges exceeding isolated solutions.

Dex argues A.I.’s global reach compels coordinated action on emerging tools, hinting at more powerful pending systems. He advocates responsible development and use given probable future human-level A.I. capabilities outstripping current safeguards.

Dex suggests effective A.I. governance requires diversity and inclusion. He warns that insular tech discussions ignoring everyday leaders risk misaligned solutions when challenges demand broad expertise, and he proposes inclusive representation builds understanding and prevents shortsightedness, allowing safeguards to better suit comprehensive applications.

We really do need to think about diversity and inclusion when we build these institutions…in a future where A.I. is going to have this fundamental impact on society, on communities, and on businesses…most of the challenges aren’t necessarily going to be technological, they’re going to be societal challenges.”

Dex Hunter-Torricke

Questioned on influential A.I. governance proposals, Dex indicates openness to wide-ranging institutional lessons balancing localization and international scope. He favors continuing inclusive, multidimensional action advancing opportunities, not just mitigating risks. Dex suggests A.I.’s potential depends on managing threats while unlocking progress to benefit humanity.

In terms of impact, Dex expects further analysis of extensive policies like European A.I. regulations. But he found UK summits encouraging for assembling diverse actors and urging research toward solutions and opportunities alongside awareness of the downsides and threats.

Dex concludes that A.I. promises societal benefits if steered judiciously by ethical, representative cooperation.

Democracy, Elections, and Building Trust in Technology

Everywhere I go in the world…everyone is trying to figure out what are those biggest points of disruption. What are the things that are exciting opportunities that are going to change the way we live?”

Dex Hunter-Torricke

Helen turns the conversation next to a weighty topic: the vital year for democracy ahead, and A.I.’s role in potential election turbulence.

Dex indicates that despite vital ongoing risk discussions, public curiosity overwhelmingly focuses on grasping A.I.’s impending societal impacts. He suggests mobile and social network revolutions presage A.I.’s coming generational disruption as foundational infrastructure ushers new capabilities.

Dex observes leaders across domains pressing to map disruption vectors and the opportunities afforded. He envisions A.I. elevating healthcare, resource equity, and more over time — provided we can successfully navigate the risks. Dex suggests potential future milestones like mass space habitation hinge partially on model progress.

He expresses, with humility, that while many rewards may await future generations, those taking action today must lay ethical foundations and forge wise governance to best capture positives while limiting harms ahead.

Dex enjoys speculating about coming shifts but suggests urgency in addressing challenges so future innovations optimally uplift lives. He concludes that ignoring seemingly fantastical possibilities of risks forfeits potential ahead when scientifically poised for tremendous change.

Storytelling to Make Sense of Complexity

Dex underlines that A.I. can allow for audacious advances. For example, he references Google DeepMind’s AlphaFold, a breakthrough A.I. system that can rapidly predict the 3D models of protein structures with extreme accuracy, epitomizing A.I.’s potential to dramatically accelerate scientific breakthroughs. Dex expresses awe at the pace at which historical changes are becoming palpable.

Asked about storytelling’s role, Dex suggests impactful tales resonate emotionally while contextualizing complexity. He observes A.I. debates bog down lay audiences lacking specialized preparation. Dex proposes strategic narratives that decode dense technicalities can constitute critical public on-ramps, enabling inclusive discourse guiding development.

Dex argues storytelling proves pivotal in preparing societies, especially given A.I.’s deep disruption. He suggests potent tales drive revolutions by crystallizing imagination and belief. Dex feels communicating A.I.’s societal implications requires fully new paradigms keeping pace with lightning transformation.

Helen then asks Dex about career highlights. In response, Dex names leading communications for Gemini’s launch as humbling and urgent. He describes seeing formidable technology marshaled toward solving humanity’s challenges as proving deeply motivating, given his lifelong focus. Dex indicates that despite playing a seemingly self-described small part, telling stories to accelerate solutions feels meaningful.

In closing, Dex proposes either seriously grappling with the implications of science fiction, or ignoring them at society’s collective peril.

Dex concludes that steering A.I.’s beneficial application requires informed stewardship which appreciates the attendant risks alongside the vast potential of the technology. 

Science fiction is very often science fact before its time.”

Dex Hunter-Torricke

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Thank you, Dex, for being our guests on Creativity Squared. 

This show is produced and made possible by the team at PLAY Audio Agency: https://playaudioagency.com.  

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