Bill Gates says ChatGPT will ‘change our world’

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For those still unconvinced that OpenAI’s ChatGPT heralds major innovation in artificial intelligence, take it from the man who kickstarted the home computer revolution 50 years ago.

The successful launch of ChatGPT in November has pushed Big Tech, including Google and Microsoft, to accelerate their A.I. research and product rollouts. This week, Google released to testers its own A.I.-assisted search engine called Bard, while Microsoft announced a new version of its own search engine Bing to be powered by a forthcoming large language model similar to ChatGPT and also developed by OpenAI.

The technology behind ChatGPT, which enables the chatbot to provide detailed information and write about complex topics, could pave the way for major changes in search engines and in-office apps, and help with everyday tasks.

But ChatGPT’s wide range of uses also has people worried about their jobs. The chatbot can write, compose, and problem solve in response to a prompt in a matter of seconds. While it isn’t always accurate, it leaves technical writers, data analysts, and coders nervous about their future.

But ChatGPT isn’t yet a risk to our livelihoods, according to Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder and tech investor.

“Until now, artificial intelligence could read and write, but could not understand the content,” Gates said in a podcast interview with German business news outlet Handelsblatt.

ChatGPT, he said, has shown us what A.I. is capable of, and its effect on the workplace will be extremely positive. “This will change the world,” Gates said.

Gates added that while A.I. still makes big mistakes, it could nevertheless enhance office work by improving employee efficiency and productivity. “We find ourselves with a tool that can make even white collar type jobs far more efficient—looking at invoices, medical claims, or, you know, writing letters. Reading and writing are now within A.I.’s capabilities and that will have a very broad impact,” he said.

Gates continued: “Think of the time that doctors spend with paperwork; that we should be able to get rid of. Think of doctors who don’t know the latest article that maybe they should be aware of; that we can help with.” 

Gates admitted he is “biased” in favor of A.I., as he continues to do consulting work for Microsoft after stepping down as CEO in 2000. After announcing a $10 billion investment in OpenAI last month, Microsoft is working closely with the startup to develop artificial intelligence products, especially search. The terms of the investment effectively give Microsoft control of OpenAI’s finances until the company begins turning a profit and can pay back the original investment plus interest.

Microsoft is preparing to add its ChatGPT-like A.I. to its office products, including Word, Outlook, and PowerPoint. Features to be unveiled in the coming weeks reportedly include using A.I. to suggest email responses and improve writing, with new developments fast-tracked as competitor Google also begins rolling out its A.I. products.

Other ways ChatGPT and chatbots like it can improve the workplace include having an A.I. sit in on a company meeting, during which it can bring up relevant or recently revealed information in real time, Gates said. He added that A.I. will continue disrupting the workplace as the technology improves over time.

“The progress over the next couple of years to make these things even better will be profound,” he said.

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