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Bill Gates Predictions for AI’s — Productivity and Health
Latest   Machine Learning

Bill Gates Predictions for AI’s — Productivity and Health

Last Updated on July 25, 2023 by Editorial Team

Author(s): Aditya Anil

Originally published on Towards AI.

Bill Gates published a 7-page letter about AI and his predictions for its future in his blog- GatesNote

“Age of AI has begun”: Bing Image Creator

Not too long ago, Bill Gates wrote a letter about AI and its apparent future. In his 7-page long letter, he talked about how AI is as revolutionary as mobile phones and the Internet. And while this letter had heavy criticism amongst the AI community, the letter captured the essence and expectation of the recent AI developments. Gates furthermore also discusses how AI would change the way people worked, learned, and communicated on a large scale.

The letter was self-explanatory, so I didn’t think to cover this in my newsletter. But I have realized now, after further inspection, that the letter was a bit too general — in the sense that we got only a rough overview of the entire AI landscape from the letter.

The following blog post by Bill Gates was posted on March 21, 2023.

In this article titled — “The Age of AI has begun” Mr Gates has essentially told his predictions about AI in the future. And while he is not the first person to have such predictions on AI, we can’t make the same mistake of overlooking what he said — especially after Covid. (Sam Altman seems to have more of a future-predicting role in AI since he and his organization is overseeing the majority of the AI revolution)

I have summarised his 7-page long article and attached relevant facts and insights so that we can relate them well.

(I’ll be using the same outline as that of the original post, just to create a sense of uniformity and walk you through the main points in the article.)

Overall his post consisted of the following heading, each regarded as a single page:

  1. Defining artificial intelligence
  2. Productivity enhancement
  3. Health
  4. Education
  5. Risks and problems with AI
  6. The next frontiers

Note: This is going to be a long essay, where I scrutinise the viral 7-page letter The Age of AI has begun by Bill Gates. And since this is going to be a long-essay format, I have split this into 3 parts (each around 1500 words or around a 10 min read). I have decided to split it up into 3 issues.

Here’s the first one, hope you like it

Defining artificial intelligence

In this section, Bill Gates has provided a brief introduction to artificial intelligence (AI) and touched on the topic of artificial general intelligence (AGI) also. Further, he explained them by using ChatGPT as an example.

Mr. Gates has defined AI as follows — (emphasized by me)

Technically, the term artificial intelligence refers to a model created to solve a specific problem or provide a particular service.

And further he went on explaining about AGI — (again, emphasized by me)

By contrast, the term artificial general intelligence refers to software that’s capable of learning any task or subject. AGI doesn’t exist yet — there is a robust debate going on in the computing industry about how to create it, and whether it can even be created at all.

However, now that AI has become more sophisticated, the presented definition of AI seems to undermine the true essence of AI. I would define AI as –

an intelligence that a software/machine possesses to make inferences on the data it’s being trained on and come up with its predictions.

This is necessary because, a lot of the time, AI is not just a model that ‘solves a problem’. It understands the problem, perceives it, and processes it in a way that it corrects itself iteratively as and when it is trained. Unlike humans, it is very much dependent (or isolated) on the training data it is provided and cannot venture out and ‘create data’ of its own, just like human intelligence.

But if it can, then that’s AGI.

AGI, if at all exists, could be the closest form of human intelligence. AGI is essentially AI that can pretty much learn anything and understand any task or subject that other human beings and animals can. One thing that differentiates AI and AGI is the possession of cognitive abilities. AGI hypothetically could possess a great cognitive ability that is least isolated to the training data it is provided with. In layman’s terms, AGI is conscious, and AI is unconscious.

Though the newest version of ChatGPT powered by GPT-4 seems to have cognitive abilities to some extent, it still hasn’t reached a level as strong as AGI. As of right now, there are nearly over 72 active AGI R&D projects spread across 37 countries.

However, as Gates mentioned, AGI doesn’t exist yet — but we won’t be that far either.

Productivity enhancement

Productivity enhancement is one interesting aspect of Generative AI tools like ChatGPT. Now it is just simple to do many tedious tasks with AI. In this section, Gates showed his views on how AI would affect our workplace and touched on various cases where AI would have a direct effect on the jobs that humans do. Essentially speaking, Gates shares his idea on how AI can replace humans.

Gates says while humans are still better than ChatGPT, there are many jobs in which GPT can work more efficiently than humans. Gates argues that if the training program — that is used to train workers — is instead used to train AI, it could empower existing employees to work more efficiently. Basically, AI can be your ‘co-pilot’, a term that Microsoft has used for quite a while since they launched AI-powered Bing.

Even though you and I saw this coming, Gates listed the following work in which AI could have a direct impact –

For example, many of the tasks done by a person in sales (digital or phone), service, or document handling (like payables, accounting, or insurance claim disputes) require decision-making but not the ability to learn continuously.

A good point to ponder though — AI can do things that need rigorous decision-making very well, but for things that it requires learning continuously, like humans, it seems to fail. Of course, it depends on the scenario in which we are comparing humans and AI.

Gates also emphasized the idea that as computing power gets cheaper, AI gets smarter, and thus becomes more ‘capable’ to becomes your ‘white-collar worker’ assistant. And since we see a huge wave of AI-powered Apps, this could mean a huge boost in productivity for people. Microsoft has already embedded AI in their Office apps, and it is expected to ease the work for the users.

Further, he pointed out that as AI becomes smarter, you no longer have to do manual tasks like tapping on menus, clicking buttons and so on — additionally putting light on recent developments in training AI to understand multilingual responses.

Eventually your main way of controlling a computer will no longer be pointing and clicking or tapping on menus and dialogue boxes. Instead, you’ll be able to write a request in plain English. (And not just English — AIs will understand languages from around the world. In India earlier this year, I met with developers who are working on AIs that will understand many of the languages spoken there.)

He holds the strong belief that advanced AI will enable us to have our own ‘smart’ personal assistants. And this could be true. But can this AI assistant take over you, and become better than you at your work? Maybe or maybe not — it depends upon the nature of your work. As I highlighted in this post earlier, it seems that job professions related to marketing and data-entry seem to have a higher threat.

He also mentions towards the end –

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

As long as humans have their ‘human touch’, the jobs surrounding it seem to be in no danger for now.


Gates, obviously, puts light on AI’s impact on the Health sector. Gates, as you may all know, is much committed to solving the worldwide climate change and healthcare issue (at least, that’s what the media says), and according to him, he sees several ways in which AI will improve the healthcare and medical field.

He mentions that using AI will allow healthcare workers to make the most of their time by taking care of tedious, time-consuming tasks.

For one thing, they’ll help health-care workers make the most of their time by taking care of certain tasks for them — things like filing insurance claims, dealing with paperwork, and drafting notes from a doctor’s visit

Gates mentions.

He further went on to say that AI will have a huge impact in countries where the healthcare facilities are poor — citing an example of AI-powered ultrasound machines, to make the healthcare workers more productive.

While AI is exciting in the field of healthcare, it could be dangerous as well. And Gates has mentioned this by saying that people must admit that AI is not perfect. In his own words, AIs have to be tested very carefully and properly regulated.

He says this, but in a way that seems wrong somewhere for me (emphasized by me)-

AIs have to be tested very carefully and properly regulated, which means it will take longer for them to be adopted than in other areas. But then again, humans make mistakes too. And having no access to medical care is also a problem.

Sure, Humans make mistakes. But AI is not humans, even if they try to ‘mimic’ humans. So saying that humans also make mistakes doesn’t seem to justify the inaccuracies of AI. Me saying this is not an egoistic statement but rather a rational one. AI is a tool that we should be used to enhance the way we work and increase our productivity. If AI is allowed to take over and commit a crime, who would be accountable for it? In the case of humans, you can punish them in order to ‘realize’ their mistakes. But is it the same with AI? No, because they can’t potentially realize their own mistake. It’s straightforward yet important.

Gates then further says that AI can be used in medical research and accelerate the rate of medical breakthroughs. Using AI as a research tool (and not as a researcher itself ) is something that I advocate because, as he said — it could accelerate the rate of breakthroughs. “One of the Gates Foundation’s priorities in AI is to make sure these tools are used for the health problems that affect the poorest people in the world, including AIDS, TB, and malaria,” says Gates in the blog.

Next Part —

Bill Gates Predictions for AI’s — Education and Risks

Continuation of previous post “Bill Gates Predictions for AI’s — Productivity and Health” on Towards AI

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