Bill Gates Says Artificial Intelligence Is the Most Revolutionary Technology in Decades

From a Wall Street Journal story by Alyssa Lukpat headlined “Bill Gates Says AI Is the Most Revolutionary Technology in Decades”:

Bill Gates said he believes artificial intelligence is the most revolutionary technology he has seen in decades, on par with computers, cellphones and the internet.

“The development of AI is as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the Internet, and the mobile phone,” he wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. “Entire industries will reorient around it. Businesses will distinguish themselves by how well they use it.”

Mr. Gates, a 67-year-old pioneer of personal computers, said he was excited about how AI could improve lives. He and other technologists have theorized about AI’s different applications for years, a debate that has intensified since the startup OpenAI launched ChatGPT in November. Essentially, artificial intelligence refers to a computer’s ability to learn from large amounts of data and subsequently mimic human responses.

“The rise of AI will free people up to do things that software never will—teaching, caring for patients, and supporting the elderly, for example,” he wrote.

He said he believed AI could also help scientists develop vaccines, teach students math and replace jobs in task-oriented fields like sales and accounting. He suggested that one day AI could go through a person’s email inbox and schedule their meetings.

Mr. Gates has said for years that he believes AI will change lives. He helped transform industries after he co-founded Microsoft Corp., a software giant and personal-computing pioneer, in 1975. He has since gotten involved in other fields, including philanthropy, vaccine development and AI. He is a major shareholder in Microsoft, according to FactSet data.

Engineers have been working on AI technology for decades, but ChatGPT is among the most sophisticated versions of it to be released to the public. The chatbot drew attention for its humanlike responses to almost any question. However, some of its answers have been wrong or unhinged, highlighting ChatGPT’s substantial limitations. Certain schools and companies have restricted people from using the chatbot while others have encouraged people to try it.

OpenAI set off a race among tech giants to release similar technologies, including Microsoft’s AI-enabled Bing search engine and Bard, a conversational computer program by Alphabet Inc.-owned Google.

Microsoft said earlier this year it was making a multiyear, multibillion-dollar investment in OpenAI, the startup behind the viral ChatGPT chatbot. Mr. Gates said he had been meeting with people at OpenAI since 2016 and has been impressed by their steady progress. He said that in September he watched in awe as the company’s AI model correctly answered 59 out of 60 questions on an AP Biology exam.

Still, Mr. Gates on Tuesday acknowledged AI’s shortcomings.

“We should keep in mind that we’re only at the beginning of what AI can accomplish,” he wrote. “Whatever limitations it has today will be gone before we know it.”

He said he believed AI should be properly regulated. Elon Musk, another tech entrepreneur, has suggested creating a regulatory body to help guide AI development. Mr. Musk helped create OpenAI but he has said for years that he is concerned about AI technology growing so powerful that it could spark a war or be used to make weapons. Representatives for Mr. Musk didn’t immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday.

Mr. Gates acknowledged concerns about AI in his blog post, saying, “We should try to balance fears about the downsides of AI—which are understandable and valid—with its ability to improve people’s lives.”

Still, he added, “I’m lucky to have been involved with the PC revolution and the Internet revolution. I’m just as excited about this moment.”

Alyssa Lukpat is a breaking news reporter for The Wall Street Journal based in New York. She was previously a fellow at The New York Times, where she covered breaking news. Alyssa graduated from Northeastern University and Columbia Journalism School.

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