In 2023, Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, celebrated the birth of his first grandchild and witnessed the mainstream adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), particularly propelled by OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Gates, a tech luminary with a deep understanding of technological revolutions, envisions 2024 as a monumental year for AI, particularly in the realms of global health and education.
In a recent blog post, Gates highlighted the transformative potential of AI, recognizing its role as a copilot in certain jobs and its ability to enhance accessibility to education and mental health resources. OpenAI’s ChatGPT, a frontrunner in generative AI, allows over 100 million users each week to leverage AI for generating information and images. The year 2023 saw substantial investments in gen AI startups, reaching nearly $10 billion, more than double the previous year’s figure, reflecting the increasing prominence of AI technologies.
Despite AI’s growing popularity, concerns persist, ranging from job displacement to the dissemination of inaccurate information. The term “hallucinate,” describing the phenomenon when AI produces false information, was chosen as the word of the year by Dictionary.com. Gates, however, remains optimistic about the imminent integration of AI into everyday life, predicting significant levels of AI use by the general population in high-income countries within 18-24 months.
Gates foresees 2024 as a turning point for AI, especially in global health. He highlights AI’s potential applications, such as combating antibiotic resistance, aiding in high-risk pregnancies, assessing HIV risk, and facilitating quick access to medical records. AI-powered tools, including ultrasounds and chatbots, are expected to play crucial roles in addressing these health challenges.
Beyond health, Gates emphasizes AI’s impact on education, applauding the remarkable capabilities of AI education tools tailored to individual learners. He envisions further localization of these tools to cater to diverse cultural contexts globally, marking a significant advancement in personalized education.
Gates extends his concerns and hopes beyond AI, expressing worry about climate change. He anticipates increased investment in innovations to address the climate crisis in 2024. Additionally, Gates enters the debate over nuclear energy, noting a perceptible shift towards acceptance due to its perceived necessity in meeting global energy needs while curbing carbon emissions.
Gates’ journey with AI reflects a transition from skepticism to enthusiasm. Initially skeptical, he became a fervent supporter after witnessing a demonstration of OpenAI’s GPT-4, the model underlying ChatGPT. Although Gates stepped down from Microsoft’s board in 2020, he remains an advisor and actively contributes to the company’s aggressive foray into the AI space, exemplified by substantial investments in OpenAI and the integration of AI across its services, including the Bing search engine and the redesigned Windows 11.
In his year-end reflection, Gates draws parallels between the rise of AI and the adoption of the internet, email, and search engines, envisioning a similar sea change with AI becoming an integral part of daily life. However, he acknowledges the challenges of adaptation, citing personal examples of the difficulty in breaking old habits when attempting to integrate AI into his routine.