Bill Gates, founder of Breakthrough Energy and co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, speaks on stage at The New York Times Climate Forward Summit 2023 at The Times Center on September 21, 2023 in New York City.
Bennett Raglin | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
From virtually sending money to a friend to ordering food delivered to your doorstep, computer and mobile applications allow us to perform many tasks faster and easier than we could in the past.
Despite its rapid development over the past few years, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates believes today’s software is still “pretty dumb,” according to a Nov. 9 post on his blog, GatesNotes.
“You can use Microsoft Word and Google Docs to draft a business proposal, but they can’t help you send an email, share a selfie, analyze data, plan a party or buy movie tickets,” writes the billionaire.
Currently, we typically use apps to perform a single task, such as booking a flight or checking our bank account. However, Gates predicts that AI will make the use of various apps unnecessary within the next five years.
Gates envisions a future where you would have an AI agent, which would be a type of software capable of processing and responding to natural language and performing a variety of tasks. You would simply ask your AI agent to do something and it would be able to do things for you based on information you shared with it about your work, personal life, interests and preferences.
“In the next few years, they will completely change how we live our lives, online and off,” he says.
Gates uses planning a trip as an example. Normally this would involve booking your hotel, flights, restaurants and other activities on your own. But an AI agent would be able to use its knowledge of your preferences to book and buy these things on your behalf.
“When asked, it will recommend things to do based on your interests and sense of adventure, and it will book reservations at the types of restaurants you’d enjoy,” he writes.
However, there are a few challenges to overcome before we get to this AI-powered future. Here are a few Gates expect to show up:
- There would need to be a new kind of database so that the AI agent can store, retrieve and build on the information it learns about you without sacrificing your privacy.
- Companies need to figure out if people want one AI agent that interacts with other agents, or if a person wants to create AI agents to perform specific tasks, such as guidance or therapy.
- There had to be a standardized way for AI agents to talk to each other.
But despite these lingering questions, Gates predicts that AI agents are not that far from becoming a reality and could transform how we interact with computers and each other.
Despite Gates’ predictions, you probably don’t need to worry about AI completely replacing humans in an instant.
While AI chatbots like ChatGPT are impressive, they are light years away from achieving human-level intelligence, Humayun Sheikh, a founding investor in Google-owned AI startup DeepMind, told CNBC in May.
That’s because we don’t currently have the technology needed to create “artificial general intelligence,” or AGI, which refers to an AI that would be able to perform most tasks as well as or better than a human, according to IBM.
“AGI doesn’t exist yet — there’s a robust debate going on in the computing industry about how to create it and whether it can even be created,” Gates wrote in a blog post in March.
For now we have what is called “narrow AI”. This is when an AI is trained to perform specific tasks very well, such as recommending movies or books you might like based on what you’ve seen or read in the past, according to IBM.
But as technology continues to advance, the algorithms that drive how AI systems learn will also improve, Gates wrote in March.
“We should keep in mind that we are only at the beginning of what AI can accomplish,” he said. “Whatever limitations it has today will be gone before we know it.”
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