Bill Gates sees GPT’s AI as revolutionary tech breakthrough
Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates said OpenAI’s language generation artificial intelligence tools are one of two revolutionary technologies he’s come across in his lifetime.
The 67-year-old billionaire and philanthropist sees the promise of the new technology as the “most important advance in technology since the graphical user interface,” which allowed people to more easily interact with computers by using icons, menus and windows, and set the standard for modern operating systems.
“The development of AI is as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the internet, and the mobile phone,” Gates wrote on his Gates Notes blog. “It will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care, and communicate with each other. Entire industries will reorient around it. Businesses will distinguish themselves by how well they use it.”
Gates had been meeting with the team from OpenAI since 2016 and last year he challenged them to train the system to pass the Advanced Placement biology exam. More than a straightforward recitation of facts, the test asks students to think critically about biology, he said. He thought it would take a few years, but it took only a few months for the AI model known as GPT to get the equivalent of an A in a college-level biology course.
OpenAI, now backed by an additional $10 billion of investment from Microsoft, last week released GPT-4, the latest version of a massive AI model that generates text. It can also be used for tasks like coding and creating images, and the newest version also answers questions about images the user provides. OpenAI has touted GPT-4’s success on standardized tests, but a Princeton University professor and a PhD student argued in a blog post this week that these may be the wrong benchmarks for assessing the technology’s ability.
Gates, who spends most of his time involved with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said he is inspired about the potential for AI to reduce some of the world’s worst inequities, from health care in the developing world to climate change and education. His foundation will provide more details about how it hopes to use AI in the coming months, he said.
Still, Gates acknowledged the technology “raises hard questions about the workforce, the legal system, privacy, bias, and more,” he wrote.
“The world needs to make sure that everyone—and not just people who are well-off—benefits from artificial intelligence. Governments and philanthropy will need to play a major role in ensuring that it reduces inequity and doesn’t contribute to it. This is the priority for my own work related to AI,” he wrote.
Gates also noted the threat of “humans armed with AI,” concluding that governments need to collaborate on setting limits with private companies. There’s also what he sees as a more long-term risk — that of AI that’s not aligned with humans or working in opposition to people. Those questions will grow more significant over time, Gates said.
“Could a machine decide that humans are a threat, conclude that its interests are different from ours, or simply stop caring about us?” he asks. “Possibly, but this problem is no more urgent today than it was before the AI developments of the past few months.” Boomberg
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