Bill Gates sounds less worried than some other executives in Silicon Valley about the risks of artificial intelligence.
In a blog post on Tuesday, the Microsoft co-founder outlined some of the biggest areas of concern with artificial intelligence, including the potential for spreading misinformation and displacing jobs. But he stressed that these risks are “manageable.”
“This is not the first time a major innovation has introduced new threats that had to be controlled,” Gates wrote. “We’ve done it before.”
Gates likened AI to previous “transformative” changes in society, such as the introduction of the car, which then required the public to adopt seat belts, speed limits, driver’s licenses and other safety standards. Innovation, he said, can create “a lot of turbulence” in the beginning, but society can “come out better off in the end.”
Microsoft is one of the leaders in the race to develop and deploy a new crop of generative AI tools into popular products with the promise of helping people be more productive and creative. But a number of prominent figures in the industry have also publicly raised doomsday scenarios about the rapidly evolving technology.
In late May, tech leaders including Microsoft’s CTO Kevin Scott joined dozens of AI researchers and some celebrities in signing a one-sentence letter stating: “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”
Gates has previously said people should not “panic” about apocalyptic AI scenarios. In a blog post earlier this year, Gates wrote: “Could a machine decide that humans are a threat, conclude that its interests are different from ours, or simply stop caring about us? Possibly, but this problem is no more urgent today than it was before the AI developments of the past few months.”
In his blog post this week, Gates said he believes one of the biggest areas of concern for AI is the potential for deepfakes and AI-generated misinformation to undermine elections and democracy. Gates said he is “hopeful” that “AI can help identify deepfakes as well as create them.” He also said laws needs to be clear about deepfake usage and labeling “so everyone understands when something they’re seeing or hearing is not genuine.”
Gates also expressed concern over how AI could make it easier for hackers and even countries to launch cyberattacks on people and governments. Gates urged the development of related cybersecurity measures and for governments to consider creating a global body for AI similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Gates ticked through other concerns, too, including how AI could take away people’s jobs,perpetuate biases baked into the data on which it’s trained, and even disrupt the way kids learn to write.
“It reminds me of the time when electronic calculators became widespread in the 1970s and 1980s,” Gates wrote. “Some math teachers worried that students would stop learning how to do basic arithmetic, but others embraced the new technology and focused on the thinking skills behind the arithmetic.”
Gates said “it’s natural to feel unsettled” during a transition period, but added he is optimistic about the future and how “history shows that it’s possible to solve the challenges created by new technologies.”
“It’s the most transformative innovation any of us will see in our lifetimes,” he wrote, “and a healthy public debate will depend on everyone being knowledgeable about the technology, its benefits, and its risks.”