Bill Gates said recent developments in artificial intelligence, demonstrated by text generators like ChatGPT, makes it the most revolutionary technology he’s seen since the breakthroughs of personal computers in the 1980s. The Microsoft co-founder believes in the near future A.I. will replace white-collar jobs in many industries and eventually achieve the same—or higher—level of intelligence as human beings.
“The development of A.I. is as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the internet, and the mobile phone,” Gates wrote in a nearly 4,000-word blog post yesterday (March 21). “It will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care, and communicate with each other. Entire industries will reorient around it.”
Gates said he has been meeting with teams at OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, since 2016 and is amazed by its progress. In mid-2022, he challenged OpenAI to train an algorithm to pass an Advanced Placement biology exam. “I thought the challenge would keep them busy for two or three years. They finished it in just a few months,” he wrote.
In a demo in September 2022, OpenAI’s language model GPT aced an AP biology exam, scoring 59 out of 60 multiple choice questions and getting a perfect score on six open-ended questions.
“The innovations are going to come much faster than what we experienced after the microprocessor breakthrough,” Gates wrote. “Soon the pre-AI period will seem as distant as the days when using a computer meant typing at a C:> prompt rather than tapping on a screen.”
Microsoft is a large investor in OpenAI and recently signed a $10 billion multi-year partnership with the company following the launch of ChatGPT.
A.I. will soon be smart enough to be a digital personal assistant
Recent advancements in generative A.I. tools like ChatGPT are in part thanks to breakthroughs in computing power and the declining cost of training algorithms. Per one estimate by tech investor Cathie Wood, A.I. training costs are falling at an annual rate of 70 percent.
“As computing power gets cheaper, GPT’s ability to express ideas will increasingly be like having a white-collar worker available to help you with various tasks,” Gates wrote, noting the first job functions to see A.I. application are likely sales, service and document handling, where there are a plethora of good and bad examples for an algorithm to learn from.
For example, advances in A.I. will enable the creation of a digital personal assistant, Gates wrote, who can help read and write emails, attend meetings and even be told to be passive or encouraged to speak up if it has some insight.
That said, super intelligent A.I., or algorithms that can learn any task or skill, is in the far future and will take many years to achieve, Gates said. But the potential is vast.
“Compared to a computer, our brains operate at a snail’s pace: An electrical signal in the brain moves at 1/100,000th the speed of the signal in a silicon chip!” Gates wrote. “Once developers can generalize a learning algorithm and run it at the speed of a computer—an accomplishment that could be a decade away or a century away—we’ll have an incredibly powerful AGI (artificial general intelligence).