Bill Gates calls the invention of AI “as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the Internet, and the mobile phone,” predicting “Entire industries will reorient around it” in an essay titled “The AI Age has Begun.”
In my lifetime, I’ve seen two demonstrations of technology that struck me as revolutionary. The first time was in 1980, when I was introduced to a graphical user interface — the forerunner of every modern operating system, including Windows…. The second big surprise came just last year. I’d been meeting with the team from OpenAI since 2016 and was impressed by their steady progress. In mid-2022, I was so excited about their work that I gave them a challenge: train an artificial intelligence to pass an Advanced Placement biology exam. Make it capable of answering questions that it hasn’t been specifically trained for. (I picked AP Bio because the test is more than a simple regurgitation of scientific facts — it asks you to think critically about biology.) If you can do that, I said, then you’ll have made a true breakthrough.
I thought the challenge would keep them busy for two or three years. They finished it in just a few months. In September, when I met with them again, I watched in awe as they asked GPT, their AI model, 60 multiple-choice questions from the AP Bio exam — and it got 59 of them right. Then it wrote outstanding answers to six open-ended questions from the exam. We had an outside expert score the test, and GPT got a 5 — the highest possible score, and the equivalent to getting an A or A+ in a college-level biology course. Once it had aced the test, we asked it a non-scientific question: “What do you say to a father with a sick child?” It wrote a thoughtful answer that was probably better than most of us in the room would have given. The whole experience was stunning.
I knew I had just seen the most important advance in technology since the graphical user interface.
Some predictions from Gates:
“Eventually your main way of controlling a computer will no longer be pointing and clicking or tapping on menus and dialogue boxes. Instead, you’ll be able to write a request in plain English….”
“Advances in AI will enable the creation of a personal agent… It will see your latest emails, know about the meetings you attend, read what you read, and read the things you don’t want to bother with.”
“I think in the next five to 10 years, AI-driven software will finally deliver on the promise of revolutionizing the way people teach and learn. It will know your interests and your learning style so it can tailor content that will keep you engaged. It will measure your understanding, notice when you’re losing interest, and understand what kind of motivation you respond to. It will give immediate feedback.”
“AIs will dramatically accelerate the rate of medical breakthroughs. The amount of data in biology is very large, and it’s hard for humans to keep track of all the ways that complex biological systems work. There is already software that can look at this data, infer what the pathways are, search for targets on pathogens, and design drugs accordingly. Some companies are working on cancer drugs that were developed this way.”
AI will “help health-care workers make the most of their time by taking care of certain tasks for them — things like filing insurance claims, dealing with paperwork, and drafting notes from a doctor’s visit. I expect that there will be a lot of innovation in this area…. AIs will even give patients the ability to do basic triage, get advice about how to deal with health problems, and decide whether they need to seek treatment.”
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