Bill Gates says A.I. like ChatGPT is ‘every bit as important as the PC, as the internet’

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Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates knows a thing or two about paradigm shifts, having played a key role in personal computers becoming a thing. Today, he believes, an equally important development is beginning with ChatGPT and similar artificial intelligence tools.

“A.I. is going to be debated as the hottest topic of 2023. And you know what? That’s appropriate. This is every bit as important as the PC, as the internet,” Gates recently told Forbes, adding that he now spends about 10% of his time talking with Microsoft teams about their product road maps, despite having been long retired and focused on philanthropy.

ChatGPT, of course, is the A.I. chatbot that’s been making waves with its ability to respond to typed questions with eerily human-like responses. Launched a few months ago, ChatGPT now attracts more than 100 million monthly active users, according to a research note published Wednesday by UBS. It easily reached 100 million faster than TikTok or Instagram, the bank’s analysts noted, adding, “In 20 years following the internet space, we cannot recall a faster ramp in a consumer internet app.”

Microsoft announced last month that it will invest billions more in ChatGPT maker OpenAI, adding to the $1 billion it invested in 2019. OpenAI also makes DALL-E 2, which can generate impressive images from text prompts entered by users. 

The success of ChatGPT comes despite it often delivering wrong answers and being frequently inaccessible. But as Elad Gil, a Google alum and angel investor, said on a recent episode of the Logan Bartlett Show podcast, “if a product is broken all the time but everybody keeps using it, there’s clearly product-market fit.”

Now, the company that Gates co-founded nearly 50 years ago plans to incorporate OpenAI’s “generative A.I.” technology into a variety of its products, including the Bing search engine. 

That in turn has lit a fire under Google, with many wondering if its search dominance could be upended. Parent company Alphabet called in Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to help address the challenge, the New York Times reported last month.

Gates also weighed in on ChatGPT last month in an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit. Asked for his views on the A.I. chatbot, he replied, “It gives a glimpse of what is to come. I am impressed with this whole approach and the rate of innovation.”

And asked if there are any “mammoth” technology shifts underway now, he responded, “AI is the big one…AI is quite revolutionary.”

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