Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates had a bold prediction for the future of artificial intelligence, arguing that every person will soon have a robot “agent” acting on their behalf.
“In the near future, anyone who’s online will be able to have a personal assistant powered by artificial intelligence that’s far beyond today’s technology,” Gates said, according to report in Fortune. “Agents are smarter. They’re proactive — capable of making suggestions before you ask for them.”
Gates comments come as AI technology continues to develop rapidly, with new platforms such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT gaining mainstream popularity over the last year. While Gates acknowledged the “software is still pretty dumb” as of 2023, that reality will “change completely” within the next five years.
The billionaire tech entrepreneur argued that basically everyone will have a personal assistant adept at carrying out seemingly any task, citing the potential for the technology to plan entire vacations for its users.
“When asked, it will recommend things to do based on your interests and propensity for adventure, and it will book reservations at the types of restaurants you would enjoy,” Gates said. “If you want this kind of deeply personalized planning today, you need to pay a travel agent and spend time telling them what you want.”
The Microsoft co-founder argued the technology will have wide-ranging uses to make life easier, carrying out more complex tasks than users of current voice assistants are used to.
“If your friend just had surgery, your agent will offer to send flowers and be able to order them for you,” Gates said. “If you tell it you’d like to catch up with your old college roommate, it will work with their agent to find a time to get together, and just before you arrive, it will remind you that their oldest child just started college at the local university.”
While the technology Gates envisions may make people think of the widely held assistants many currently hold in their pocket, such as Apple’s Siri, AI assistants will be capable of much more.
“Bill Gates is talking about Natural Language Processing (NLP) as the key to these improved AI assistants,” Christopher Alexander, the Chief Analytics Officer of Pioneer Development Group, told Fox News Digital. “NLP enabled assistants differ from Siri because NLP is actually a coding language. This means the NLP AI assistant will have significantly greater functionality because it possesses far greater problem-solving abilities.”
Samuel Mangold-Lenett, a staff editor at The Federalist, believes the assistants people currently use today could be combined with AI, making them “more precise” than the systems we use today.
“A couple of years ago, having a smartphone with a voice activated digital assistant was considered a luxury. Now, virtually everyone in the West has one,” Mangold-Lenett told Fox News Digital. “AI is becoming similarly accessible and with systems becoming easier and cheaper for programmers to produce. It’s reasonable to think that voice assistants, like Siri and Alexa, will become AI systems. This would be different in that these systems would provide more precise and specific search results based upon holistic analysis of a users’ data.”
Though Gates believse the kind of technology he envisions will be something users have to pay for, he argued that the large amount of competition flowing into the development of such tools will help in bringing the costs down.
“If the number of companies that have started working on AI just this year is any indication, there will be an exceptional amount of competition, which will make agents very inexpensive,” Gates said. “Today, agents are embedded in other software like word processors and spreadsheets, but eventually they’ll operate on their own. Whether you work in an office or not, your agent will be able to help you in the same way that personal assistants support executives today.”
But just how much people will be willing to pay for the technology remains a question, argued Center for Advanced Preparedness and Threat Response Simulation (CAPTRS) founder Phil Siegel.
“At home and for people not in white or gray collar jobs it really depends on the pricing; at $30 per month there is no way high take up will happen,” Siegel told Fox News Digital. “At $5 or $10 per month maybe, but it may need to be free with advertising or promotion. And consumers may demand that a single application be their Angel, which gives better chances for social media and phone makers to play that role. At the office, it’s more likely to be multiple office software makers like Microsoft, Adobe, Salesforce, Workday and others.”
Nevertheless, Gates believes the use of robot assistants will be widespread, eventually helping their users with “virtually any activity and any area of life.”
Jon Schweppe, the Policy Director of American Principles Project, isn’t surprised by the optimism, telling Fox News Digital that such a useful tool has long been one of the billionaire’s goals.
“This has been an aspiration for tech geeks like Bill Gates ever since the advent of Microsoft Bob,” Schwepee said. “Bob failed largely because it wasn’t very helpful, and most users found it to be annoying. The hope is that AI will be able to provide a more beneficial experience to the consumer. The technology is certainly capable of being dramatically more helpful than Siri.”