Tools and Weapons with Brad Smith

His Excellency Omar Sultan Al Olama: The journey from gaming to government

Episode Summary

As a young child, His Excellency Omar Sultan Al Olama developed his confidence and leadership skills through video games, which sparked his passion for history, strategy, and problem-solving. Today, he’s putting these skills to use as the first in the world to hold a cabinet level position on AI as the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and Remote Work Applications in the United Arab Emirates. In this episode of Tools & Weapons, H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama highlights how the region’s rich history and its aspirations for the future shape its embrace of AI. He shares how the elements that make a great game apply to leading transformational change. And he emphasizes the importance of AI education programs for government decision-makers, not just school kids.

Episode Notes

As a young child, His Excellency Omar Sultan Al Olama developed his confidence and leadership skills through video games, which sparked his passion for history, strategy, and problem-solving.

Today, he’s putting these skills to use as the first in the world to hold a cabinet level position on AI as the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and Remote Work Applications in the United Arab Emirates.

In this episode of Tools & Weapons, H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama highlights how the region’s rich history and its aspirations for the future shape its embrace of AI. He shares how the elements that make a great game apply to leading transformational change. And he emphasizes the importance of AI education programs for government decision-makers, not just school kids.

Click here for the episode transcript.

Episode Transcription

Brad Smith: I am Brad Smith and this is Tools and Weapons. On this podcast, I'm sharing conversations with leaders who are at the intersection of the promise and the peril of the digital age. We'll explore technology's role in the world as we look for new solutions for society's biggest challenges.

H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama: I think what makes the UAE government successful is this, that we learn from our history. And we try to do the wise and the responsible thing today to help propel our economy and our society into the future faster than anyone else.

Brad Smith: That's His Excellency Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for AI of the United Arab Emirates. In 2017, he became the first person in the world to hold a cabinet level position overseeing artificial intelligence. In this episode, we explore the ambition driving Omar and his country to become a global center for AI. He sheds light on how the region's history shapes and motivates the UAE to embrace this breakthrough technology. He shares the role gaming played in pushing the now 33-year old to lead. And why the first pupils of his AI education agenda were not school kids but government decision makers. My conversation with His Excellency Omar Sultan Al Olama, up next on Tools and Weapons.

Omar, it is such a pleasure to talk with you today. You and I had the opportunity to have a conversation in Dubai earlier this year. For me, it stands out frankly as one of the most memorable conversations I've had this year and sort of the year of AI. You became the world's first AI minister starting I believe in 2017. Can you tell us a little bit about where you were and what your reaction was when you first heard that the government of the UAE was creating this position?

H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama: Absolutely, Brad. Thank you very much. And I must say I appreciated the conversation as much as you did and reflected on it as well. So my appointment to the role, and I don't want to dwell too much on this, was during my honeymoon. And so I was planning a one-month-long honeymoon and we were going to go to Japan and to Bali in Indonesia. The funny thing is that I think it was on the second day of my honeymoon, the Prime Minister announced the UAE artificial intelligence strategy. And it was a very noble and important vision with a lot of important, let's say verticals that would've been a burden to whoever is going to lead it. So I remember looking at my wife and telling her, "I'm feeling sorry for the person who has to lead this effort. It's actually a very tough effort to oversee." And she said, "Why do you care, you’re on your honeymoon, enjoy it." And the next day I was appointed as Minister. I was told to come back. So I might have attracted it, I'm not sure.

Brad Smith: Omar, I know there are many people listening to this who have been to the UAE. There are undoubtedly some living and working in the UAE as we speak, and yet there are probably many others who haven't been to the country. Before we talk about AI, can you tell us a little bit about the United Arab Emirates and how you think about it?

H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama: Absolutely, Brad. I think when it comes to the UAE, we need to look at the UAE in a few different lenses to understand what makes this country truly unique. The first is some people think that as a country we just appeared on the map when the founding of the UAE happened in 2nd of December, 1971. But what is very interesting if you are actually a person who looks into history, is that the UAE has been a place on the map for over 4,000 years. There's a location in the UAE called Saruq Al Hadid, which means the melting pot or the melting point of iron. And that is a place where the unearthed artifacts that proved that it was the meeting point where trade happened between the Egyptian civilization at the time and the Indian civilization. What that proves undoubtedly is that the UAE is always going to be a place on the map.

If it was relevant 4,000 years ago and it's relevant today, it means that it's also hopefully going to be relevant in 4,000 years time as well. The other aspect of this is that the UAE is a truly unique country when it comes to the number of people that live here from around the world. So you have 200 nationalities living and thriving in the UAE in a way that really the beacon of coexistence and the beacon of tolerance. And in this essence, you can lure people by telling them for example, that you're going to pay them well or you're going to give them certain benefits. But to keep people is very difficult. To keep people you need to give them more than what just attracted them. You need to give them a better quality of life than what they have. You need to give them certain incentives that make them feel like where they are is truly special.

And the UAE is a place where you can be yourself, you can live your culture, you can speak your language and you can truly feel at home. And there's a statement here that I'd like to make, which is a testament to that. If you look at certain countries, let's say for example Uganda, Uganda is an African country and it is uniquely African. Mongolia is an Asian country and it's uniquely Asian. Colombia is a Latin American country, and it's truly, uniquely Latin American. The UAE is uniquely the world in the country. It's a country that represents the world and that embraces the world. And it's where globalization is not an afterthought, it's the essence.

Brad Smith: I know from our conversation and reading about you, you were born in 1990. So you grew up in your early years when gaming was becoming even more popular, when computing was becoming more accessible. You've been a long time gamer, I think, is that right?

H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama: Well, it's a fact that I'm trying to hide but the reality is I was for many years. I was actually an introverted kid. So I spent many years just trying to focus my energy on games and I must say a lot of my success is dependent on games. And I'll tell you why, this is something that might sound counterintuitive after I mention it to you, but doesn't really look apparent when you first think about it. So what happens with games is the universe that you're going into is a parallel universe to the universe that we actually live in. And that brings with it a set of variables that are very important. The first is you are able to test things that you can't test in real life. So one thing that for example I was reluctant to do in real life, was I wasn't sure if I had the confidence or the charisma to be a leader at a young age. But what games allowed me to do was we got into Guilds and these Guilds in certain games you work together and you, let's say overcome missions together.

And throughout the time that I had in the Guild, I rose up the ranks. And then I actually at one point of time quit the Guild I was in and I created another Guild which became the most successful Guild in my server at the time. And I became this leader and the server that everyone's looking up to, and I was a 12 or 13 year old kid. So I remember at one point of time my deputy, the deputy leader of the Guild calls me up and he says, "I want to meet you. I'm so inspired by you and I want to meet you." So I told him, "Yes, sure. Let's meet at this gaming cafe." And he said, "So can you pick me up?" I said, "No, I don't have a driver's license. I'm going to come with my driver." So he says, "I'll pick you up."

He was at the time I think 21. My mother didn't let him pick me up, she's a stranger, but she said, "You can go meet him at the gaming cafe." So I went and met him and the guy was awestruck that a child, at the time I was a teenager, was able to do what I did. And that led to really improving my confidence that I was able to project the sense of confidence to create something that was meaningful in that server. So that's one. The second is my love of history actually came from gaming. So there's one thing that most people don't know. If you start any game, so if you play a Microsoft game like Halo for example on Xbox, what happens when you first start the game and create your character? You are given an orientation. The orientation talks about the universe, the history, the rules.

It actually tells you what has happened in the past to get you to this point. And it also gives you the rules that will take you forward in the game for the future. And I've always asked myself, why doesn't anyone give that to us when we come into the world? So you are born into this world and you're expected to learn on the go. You are not really oriented what has happened to get us to this point. You are not oriented what you need to be doing to move forward. And the rules you discover by people turning you off, you should not do that or you should do this. It's very reactive, it's not proactive. So one thing that I ended up doing because of gaming is actually reading a lot about history. Someone has been in this position at one point of time, not exactly this position that I'm in. We are here for a reason as a region, for example.

So in the region that I come from the Middle East, why are we where we are? There are probably decisions that were made that got us here. There are certain variables that brought us here. And how can I be a person that ensures that these mistakes don't happen again? Or if certain things are good, how can I ensure that I build on them? So this is why I think there's a link between gaming and history in my opinion.

Brad Smith: I think there's so much that you just covered there. It's fascinating and I think it's worth unpacking a little bit. First of all, I just have to say at Microsoft as you know, we love gaming. And you captured a slice of what I think gaming means for people. It's entertainment but it's a whole lot more. And you're not the first person I've met who really discovered his potential through gaming. But the other aspect that you and I share is this love of history. And I know from talking with you that it includes an interest in the history of technology. And you were just alluding to the historical developments in the Middle East and one of the comments that you made, you've made it elsewhere, is about the role of technology in the Middle East especially around the printing press. Could you share with us a little bit about what happened and how you think about it?

H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama: Absolutely. So one thing that I must say, and it's important I think for more people from my region to think the way that I think, it's great to have role models from every place in the world. To have people that have achieved greatness that look different, that speak different but have actually achieved greatness that has impacted you. But it's also as important to have role models that are similar to you because there is a sense of affinity, there is a sense of connection that you only get when you feel like you can relate to this person culturally and you can relate to this person even historically. So I did a lot of reading on the history of the Middle East because I tried to look for role models that were similar to me, coming from my region. At one point of time, I thought to myself there is probably a reason why the Western world's a lot more advanced.

It's probably because the variables around them were easier, which I then discovered through my reading of history that it wasn't, technology is what made things easier. But in general, I started reading a lot about the different phases of history of the Middle East and the rest of the world. And one thing that struck me was that for a long period of time, from the year 813AD till the year 1455 at least, there is general consensus by all historians that the Middle East was the most advanced hub for science, technology, innovation, economy, whatever you want to call it, art, everything. And there is something that happened, there was a trigger in the year 1455. There isn't one reason though, so I just want to say there are multiple variables. Some of the variables are political, some of the variables are related to climate and that are natural, other variables are societal.

But there is one variable that was the nail in the coffin, if I may use that example or that metaphor, which was the adoption of technology. There was one technology that was so profound it was going to magnify the good and also at times the bad. It was also going to propel people from knowledge being concentrated with the aristocrats to knowledge being democratized by everyone. It was going to elevate the general populace to a level where you are able to accelerate the speed of scientific progress, accelerate the speed of let's say education and many other aspects of society at the time. And it was the Gutenberg printing press, so its invention in the year 1455. The Gutenberg printing press if I'm not mistaken, was banned in the Middle East in the year 1515, so a few years later, for over 180 years. The reasons for banning it, so there are multiple reasons. One of the reasons was the calligraphers were worried that they're going to lose their jobs.

Another reason was the religious scholars thought that this is going to be used to spread information that was going to corrupt society. So there were a lot of let's say, substantiated reasons to ban it. But all other societies in the world or civilizations, whether it was the Western civilization, whether it was the Asian civilization, embraced it. The Arab Muslim civilization at the time banned it, which today we know was the worst decision that you could have taken. And it's made me really reflect on the situation that we are constantly in. So there's always constant innovation. There is constant invention, there are constant new things coming out. And the first thing that people say, and the first thing that people actually work towards is banning these things.

And there's an interesting book that I read which is called “The Ministry of Common Sense” by a gentleman called Martin Lindstrom, if I'm not mistaken. And one thing that he talks about is that government in general inherently is an institution that tries to have red tape come and be put across anything that is new because it disrupts the status quo. And the government works very hard to reach a status quo. So a disruptor has no problem keeping on disrupting because at the end of the day, he's building something new in a completely new domain. Government in general works to maintain the order and the status of what already exists. So they're always extremely resistant to change. And what he talks about is how do you break up mindset, how do you go from being resistant to being embracing?

And I think what makes the UAE government successful is this, that we learn from our history. We learn from the mistakes of others throughout history and as well whoever around us is taking certain decisions. And we try to do the wise and the responsible thing today to help propel our economy and our society into the future faster than anyone else.

Brad Smith: One of the things we've been talking about this year inside Microsoft is we sort of debate what is AI the most similar to in terms of the history of technology. The printing press as you noted, really did more than anything before it to make it easier for people to create and share what they created. It advanced knowledge. It made information accessible and there were all kinds of risks associated with it as well as advances. And here we are again roughly 600 years later, dealing with in many ways similar challenges. And this ability to learn from history is just critical. I think one of the lessons that you mentioned is also key. It's not just how and when technology is developed, it's where it is adopted. And your appointment as the minister of AI was not in isolation. It was part of a larger strategy by the UAE to look actually far into the future with a broad based approach for what the UAE would like to become by the year 2071. Can you describe for us a bit about that strategy and where AI fits into it?

H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama: So the UAE has for a long time now since its founding, always been a country of aspirational vision and also has incredible or monumental achievement. A lot of people today across social media and across different platforms put pictures that you can find online of where the UAE was let's say 30 years ago and where it Is today. And it's an example of miraculous achievement. And there is one question that I keep getting asked, people say is this oil money or are you guys lucky? And my answer always is, you can be lucky for a small period of time. You can't consistently be lucky. And you can't be lucky I think in many different industries. You can be lucky in one industry, you can be lucky in two endeavors, not in many.

And I'll give you a few examples. So there are many oil rich countries around the world and as well in our region, what made us different is the fact that there was a spark that was lit by leaders that were enlightened and really created this vision for a society that extends beyond oil and extends beyond just the locals in the UAE. And they saw it as an oasis of tolerance, an oasis of development for everyone. So you can talk the talk, but for you to get 200 nationalities to come and live openly and freely from around the world in the UAE, you actually need to walk the walk as well. So you need to achieve that on the ground because there's nothing that forces people from every walk of life to come into the UAE and to call it home. The second thing that happens, think about the UAE's achievements across certain verticals in airlines. We did not invent airports, we did not invent airplanes. Some of the best airlines in the world are in the UAE.

And it's not about how much money you pay, it's about really how efficiently you run them, with Emirates and with Etihad as well. If you look at ports, so ports as let's say a business and as an operational system existed long before the UAE even existed as a country. Today the most successful or one of the most successful port operators on the planet is DP World that's owned by the UAE and it has 88 ports around the world. Again, luck does not achieve this. If you think about many of the different industries, and there is one that is very relevant to AI. So there are some articles that people are reading about the AI race heating up and the UAE's doing a lot now in the AI front. What people don't see is the UAE strategy and its continuous, let's say follow-through on this endeavor. So the UAE invested in GlobalFoundries and chip making with AMD many years ago before we had this chip craze.

The UAE announced the AI strategy many years before large language models and all of the hype that we're seeing today around AI took place. And it's because we believe that it's important and we said to ourself just believing is important and waiting for it to become important. We know that we can play a meaningful role the same way we play the meaningful role in tourism, the same way we play the meaningful role in travel, the same way we play the meaningful role in operations, let's say around the world. And it's what makes a medium-sized country like the UAE have a global footprint, the fact that you can do something better at a higher quality and faster than others. On the AI front, the first mover is going to have an advantage. But I think those who are the most agile, those who are able to adapt and adopt the most are going to be the long-term winners. And I can draw a similarity here with a company like Microsoft. Microsoft has been a technology leader since the '80s.

And why you're able to stay relevant is because you have the same mindset, the mindset of we continuously need to push the envelope and we don't sit and get cocooned by our comfort zone. Now with regards to the UAE 2071 strategy, some people will tell you we don't know what's going to happen in five years, how are these guys planning for 50 years? And this is a comment that I get. And my answer is, you don't necessarily need to know exactly what's going to happen in 50 years, but you need to give people something to strive for. What our leadership does is the same, so they give us a vision to rally behind. And the vision for 2071 is we want to be the best country in the world. And we know we can because in the last 30, 40, 50 years, what we achieved, everyone considered it impossible. Today we are a top 10 country in many industries and the global indices has proven. So in 2071 we want to be the absolute best country in the world. What do you need to achieve to be that?

We need to have the best healthcare in the world. Whatever technology comes, to become at the forefront of this you need to embrace and adopt it. We need to have the best education in the world and that goes as well for education. And what we did was the 2071 strategy was broken down into shorter sprints. So each sprint is around 10 years. So we have a sprint for 2031, and that is broken down to cycles and each cycle is up to five years. So on the AI front, we had the five-year cycle. It started in 2013, it ended in 2022. We're starting the next cycle. So the first cycle was actually putting the groundwork. Today you see the UAE has a university for artificial intelligence. Today you see that the UAE has super compute capabilities, the UAE attracted people that are working on the AI front. So infrastructure building took us five years. The next five years are going to be about aggressive responsible adoption. So adopting AI in ways that improve our competitive advantage, and we can go into this in more detail if you'd like.

The next five years after that are going to be about global leadership on this domain. There are going to be other technologies that come up in the coming years that are going to be as important. And we are going to double down on them and continuously work on them as well.

Brad Smith: It is such a broad agenda and such a long-term vision. One of the things that I find interesting about how you pursued it as you became the minister for AI, is you focused in some ways I think first on education. What did you do and how is that working?

H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama: So the very first thing we did, we actually started with government bureaucrats. Going back to “The Ministry of Common Sense” example, is government bureaucrats always tried to restrict rather than enable in general. And I don't think it's uniquely Emirati thing. I think it's universal across governments around the world. Very few governments have a mentality of embracing the ambiguous, not embracing the proven. So the first thing we did, the actual very first program we did was we launched a program for government officials with the University of Oxford with Kellogg College. And that program has so far graduated over 400 people. These are decision makers in government that understand the AI code, that understand what ethics means in the AI front, that have seen good and bad use cases of artificial intelligence. And their job to graduate from this program is to actually sit in front of a judging panel of experts from Oxford University and from the industry as well, and convince them that deploying AI in their government body and deploying it in this way is going to be responsible for the next generations as well to come.

So it's a way for you to ensure that the bureaucrat understands the responsibility on their shoulders, and at the same time doesn't automatically think of restricting as soon as they get something new. The second thing that we did was we focused on the youth. So we did three things. The first is we employed artificial intelligence in our curriculum. So in the curriculum in schools in the UAE, they learn about artificial intelligence. So they learn how to code at an early age, from grade 10 onwards, they actually learn how to work with artificial intelligence, how to code these systems, what neural networks mean and so on and so forth. And we then said to ourselves, we need to take a step further. If people want to pursue this as higher education, we need to have cutting edge world-class education opportunities in the UAE.

And that's why the University for Artificial Intelligence was formed. And a lot of AI courses were launched in the UAE as well as universities were attracted from around the world that are considered very good in this field, like the University of Birmingham for example and others that came to the UAE as a continuation of a very focused agenda with regards to building capabilities. And then we said we need to open up the opportunity for anyone who wants to get exposed to this, whether we are a part of a screening system or not, to actually engage with artificial intelligence. So we launched programs with summer and winter camps during the vacations called the AI camp, in which thousands and thousands of people, so the numbers on the hundreds of thousands have come and actually taken courses on artificial intelligence. Microsoft has been a keen partner with us every year on this, and they've actually dealt with AI.

What we are seeing today and we're actually going to publish this report soon, is the UAE is one of the most embracing countries when it comes to artificial intelligence. So our population instead of fearing AI, is embracing it fully. And we did a quick test with our telcos. We said we want to see the data packets of people actually going to... Because when you register for a line, you have to put your ID details so we know the nationalities of the people. So I told them, let's see if Emiratis are using these technologies or not. And a lot of the Emiratis are using and embracing artificial intelligence. So they're using ChatGPT, they're using Midjourney, they're using others. And what that shows me is they're thinking of them as tools. They're not thinking of them as things that are just going to disrupt their lives and they shouldn't touch.

Brad Smith: As you look at where you are now, several years into all of this and your work with government officials, with students, with youth, what's the biggest challenge you've had to overcome?

H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama: I think the biggest challenge is not abiding by a one size fits all mentality. I think each age group needs to be dealt with differently. To get the youth excited about AI is much easier than people who are near retirement or people that have had a career that span a few decades. There's also another thing, when it comes to dealing with the private sector it's very different to dealing with government. And most people think that you need to have a one size fits all approach for everyone, especially when dealing with this technology. And at the same time and I've been saying this since I was appointed, when people discuss AI, they discuss AI as one technology with a very broad regulation agenda which doesn't make sense. So a large language models are very different. Self-driving cars are very different to many of the different utilities of artificial intelligence.

So what I always worry about is governments think of it as something that there's a silver bullet when it comes to regulation, or there's a silver bullet when it comes to acceleration. Like there's one thing that you'll do and that's it. I will unregulate and that will make me become a leader of artificial intelligence or I'll over-regulate and I'll be protected. And the answer is neither. The answer is this requires a very in-depth analysis of every use case, of every demographic of whether this is a public use or a private use or an academic use. So I'm all for actually letting the academic sector push the envelope on this. The academic sector needs to be at the tip of the spear when it comes to AI development because it gives us a chance to see what the frontier looks like and prepare ourselves. Today what's happening is the regulation means that the private sector's at the tip of the spear here, and governments unfortunately today around the world are operating with this mentality of I need to be restrictive.

The academic sector because they're dependent on grants, worry that they're going to be penalized by the government for going on artificial intelligence or they don't get paid enough so they go to the private sector. And it's a very messy mix at this point of time. There needs to be dialogue globally. I don't think this needs to be a local dialogue. I also think that we need to ensure that every government official working on artificial intelligence actually uses artificial intelligence, because you cannot work on regulating this without knowing what it's capable of. And it's funny, I was actually sitting with a senior official in another country and we were talking about regulating large language models. I asked him, "Have you ever used a large language model?" And he said, "No." So I told him, "How do you know what it means to use this technology and what you're restricting people from if you've never used it?" And he had the point of view which might be right, he said, "I don't want to be biased by actually using it."

And I told him, "It's like trying to regulate the use of cars without having ever gotten into a car in your life." I don't think it makes sense, but this is the current approach that I'm seeing and it's quite concerning.

Brad Smith: I share that reaction. There are so many people around the world right now that have an opinion about AI, just like there's so many people who justifiably have opinions on many things. But when you break it down, oftentimes they haven't yet used the product. And especially when it's now available to the world in a search engine like Bing or elsewhere, it's not like it's impossible to find. If you have a phone, if you have a computer, if you have a browser, you can start to just use it and ask it questions. And I do hope myself that we'll overcome this barrier. It's an interesting thought that knowledge itself can be a source of bias, perhaps there's some truth to that. But I'm not sure that's quite the unbiased future we want, people without knowledge. I am curious about one other thing. You have been so forward looking in how to advance AI, how to create benefits from AI, how to help people learn how to use it. What worries you about AI? Are there problems that give you more concern than others?

H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama: So I would be concerned if there wasn't anything that worried me about this technology. What worries me is what we don't currently know about the technology, and there are many things that are coming up. What I'm realizing, and this is a unique point of view that I would share, so we have conversations about a lot of things and one of the conversations that we have is about hallucinations. So people are now so concerned about the hallucinations of AI. The more I think about it, the more I reflect on it, I'm actually glad that AI systems hallucinate. I think it's a very good thing. It's a good thing for humanity because by default it'll mean that we cannot really substitute the human, A. Second, the person using this technology has to actually recheck the answer. So it's not going to be this one thing that you outsource your brain to.

You actually need to be sure that whatever is coming out of it, it's something that is credible. And third, it'll also ensure that there is a deployment of this technology rather than a sporadic deployment, because now you know that you can't really depend on it everywhere. But there are certain use cases that even if it hallucinates, it'll not really create as much harm as others. So if you look at for example, you're talking about students using ChatGPT or using other large language model to create the essays, I actually think students are going to be better. They're not going to be worse because of these systems, because what's going to happen is one day the teacher's going to ask him, for example, there's an essay they're expected to write about Julius Caesar's path to power and why he decided to cross the Rubicon.

So this could be the statement that you give ChatGPT or whatever LLM. And then the LLM comes and adds a fact there that Julius Caesar had braids, for example. Someone who does not do the research will submit that essay as it is and be very clear for the professor that they have not done it. What will end up happening is you will get such cases once, twice, three, four times until the students themselves through the process of trying to spell check and fact check the actual information will be more educated than if they did the research themselves. So it's going to be a win-win situation. At one point of time the systems are going to be much better and they're not going to hallucinate. But I think your people today are jumping the gun on this. They're so concerned, they want to ban it before it's able to do what it's able to do.

And I'm all for letting the academic sector push the envelope, working with the private sector on deployment and doing it in a way that is responsible both on adoption standpoint and the regulation standpoint for everyone. And I know that it's going to be a very fine balance. It is not a problem that is universal. Each country has different problems. Each country has different sets of challenges that will arise because of this. And I think each country needs to think of where the challenges are going to be crosscutting across geographies, and where the challenges are going to be quite unique to them. What really concerns me is the following, I really worry about the political nature of this technology today. The discussions and the dialogues that need to be happening are not happening. We are having echo chambers which is a big issue. Second is, if I'm going to be very honest, I'm worried more about what artificial intelligence and especially the systems they are going to enable in terms of the utility by bad actors versus other technologies.

So at one point of time... Let me give you an example and this example I think a few others have shared as well. At one point of time, for you to create a global pandemic it would've cost you billions of dollars. Today because of the advancements in biotech, you can actually create diseases that are widespread for less than $100,000 or $50,000. Does that concern me more than artificial intelligence? Absolutely, because we have already seen what happens when the pandemic spreads in the world. There is another element here with artificial intelligence. Whatever you don't understand how to do in this sphere, artificial intelligence is going to bridge that gap. So that really concerns me, how bad actors utilize these tools to unfortunately create more harm. And what is happening instead of governments utilizing these tools as well to ensure that they have proactive steps being taken to ensure that bad actors don't use them, they're shunning it all together and thinking about over-regulating. So that really worries me.

Brad Smith: As we draw this to a close, I would say there's something pretty magical in a lot of what you've talked about here. In some ways the best way to create technology for the world is to have people who come from the world, who reflect the world you're trying to serve. I found early on in my career at Microsoft, I would get in an elevator or walk on a stairwell and I would never know what language I was going to hear. And I felt that I was working at the United Nations of Software. And the other point that you've captured is you can never get comfortable with where you are. If you become too comfortable, you become complacent. And if you become complacent, you no longer are at the forefront and the rest of the world passes you by. What I'm so struck by and it's so typified, illustrated by you and what you're doing and the position that you hold is that you're all so focused on the future.

You're not complacent, you move quickly and you do have this ability to bring people together. I would love to come back and sit down again in a couple of years and we'll take stock of this extraordinary decade in the advances we're seeing in AI and all of the questions that are emerging. Hopefully we'll have more people who are using AI rather than just talking about it. But I know one thing, you're still going to be at the forefront, whatever that forefront happens to be.

H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama: I hope so.

Brad Smith: So Omar, thank you. I hope you will. I believe you will. And I look forward to talking again, thank you.

H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama: Thank you, Brad. It's been a pleasure and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Brad Smith: You've been listening to Tools and Weapons with me, Brad Smith. If you enjoyed today's show, please follow us wherever you like to listen. Our executive producers are Carol Ann Browne and Aaron Thiese. This episode of Tools and Weapons was produced by Corina Hernandez and Jordan Rothlein. This podcast is edited and mixed by Jennie Cataldo with production support by Sam Kirkpatrick at Run Studios. Original music by Angular Wave Research. Tools and Weapons is a production of Microsoft, made in partnership with Listen.