Bill Gates Says A.I.’s Impact on the Legal System Could ‘Change Justice’

In a wide-ranging podcast interview, Gates revealed he plays a role in shaping Microsoft's A.I. strategies.

Man in black suit sits on stage speaking into mic
Bill Gates speaks at the Global Solutions Summit on May 07, 2024 in Berlin, Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Bill Gates has described A.I. as the most revolutionary technology since his company popularized personal computers in the 1980s. The Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder has written extensively on the topic, predicting its potential to transform entire industries. Lately, he has been particularly excited about A.I.’s impact in the legal sector. “Imagine if you could make everybody in the legal system four times more productive,” said Gates during a recent podcast interview with Nikhil Kamath, the billionaire co-founder of brokerage firm Zerodha. “That changes justice, because right now the backlog is kind of nightmarish and here comes a potential solution.”

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In a wide-ranging conversation that touched upon Gates’ interest in nuclear energy start-ups and his fitness regime of vitamins and pickleball, the duo dedicated much of their time to discussing A.I. and A.G.I. (artificial general intelligence). Gates pointed to the ability of A.I. models to quickly read 10,000 legal documents and reason with its contents as evidence that “we’re already superhuman in a dimension that is kind of surprising.”

Gates, who has an estimated net worth of $133.3 billion, said he is fascinated by A.I.’s ability to clear legal backlogs because “it’s a mechanism that helps all business activity.” An average of 14,000 cases are awaiting trial across U.S. prosecutors’ offices, according to a recent survey from Lafayette College which reported a 62 percent increase in backlogged cases since the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020.

Despite A.I.’s broad implications for increased productivity, Gates said a fine balance must be taken with the impact such developments will have on reshaping society as we know it. “We should be aware that so much extra productivity will surprise people and require us to rethink about a lot of different things,” said Gates, adding that A.G.I. could affect the “very organizing principles of society” and alter individual philosophies of value. Gates told Kamath that he doesn’t believe this will occur in the next two decades but conceded he cannot “guarantee that,” pointing out that he was personally surprised by the rapid breakthroughs in reading and writing displayed by OpenAI’s GPT-4 when it was unveiled last year.

Satya Nadella still “engages” Gates in shaping Microsoft’s A.I. strategies.

Microsoft, the tech giant Gates helped create in 1975, has bet big on A.I. in recent years through the launch of features like Copilot and a major partnership with OpenAI. It has been led for the past decade by CEO Satya Nadella, who Gates described as “doing a great job.” While Gates officially left the company in 2020, he revealed that Nadella still “engages” him in a supportive role to help shape Microsoft’s A.I. strategies.

The technology is also used by Gates’ philanthropic foundation for drug discovery research, said the billionaire. In addition to founding the Gates Foundation in the 1990s—which gives around $9 billion annually and counts health and agriculture as its largest priorities—Gates in 2010 helped co-found the Giving Pledge campaign to urge the wealthy to give away much of their fortune to philanthropy. Kamath, who has an estimated net worth of $3.1 billion, became the youngest person to join the campaign when he signed up last year at age 35.

Addressing criticisms that Giving Pledge signees still amass copious amounts of wealth for personal consumption, Gates said “it’s great to debate these things” and noted that while the campaign urges individuals give away at least half of their wealth, some signees, such as Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg, will donate up to 99 percent of their net worth. “Often you’re using the same skills that caused you to be successful and how you’re using it on the behalf of equality,” he said. “That experience, that sense of urgency, can be very helpful in philanthropic innovation.”

Bill Gates Says A.I.’s Impact on the Legal System Could ‘Change Justice’