Calls to pause the development of artificial intelligence (AI) will not “solve the challenges” ahead, Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates told Reuters, his first public comments since an open letter sparked a debate about the future of the technology.

He said it would be better to focus on how best to use the developments in AI, as it is hard to understand how a “pause” could work globally.

His interview with Reuters comes after an open letter published last week, and co-signed by Tesla Founder Elon Musk and more than 1,000 AI experts, demanded an urgent pause in the development of systems “more powerful” than Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s new GPT-4, which can hold human-like conversations, compose songs, and summarize lengthy documents, among others.

The letter also stated the potential risks and benefits to society need to be assessed.

“I don’t think asking one particular group to pause solves the challenges,” Gates reportedly said on Monday. “Clearly, there’s huge benefits to these things…what we need to do is identify the tricky areas.”

Microsoft has sought to outpace peers through multibillion-dollar investments in ChatGPT owner OpenAI. Gates has been a bullish supporter of AI, and described it as revolutionary as the internet or mobile phones, according to Reuters.

In his blogpost “The Age of AI has begun” dated March 21, 2023, he described AI is one of the two demonstrations of technology that struck him as “revolutionary” he has seen in his lifetime. He sees AI as revolutionary as mobile phones and the Internet.

“The development of AI is as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the Internet, and the mobile phone. It will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care, and communicate with each other. Entire industries will reorient around it. Businesses will distinguish themselves by how well they use it,” Gates added.

“Any new technology that’s so disruptive is bound to make people uneasy, and that’s certainly true with AI. I understand why—it raises hard questions about the workforce, the legal system, privacy, bias, and more. AIs also make factual mistakes and experience hallucinations,” he wrote. “Before I suggest some ways to mitigate the risks, I’ll define what I mean by AI, and I’ll go into more detail about some of the ways in which it will help empower people at work, save lives, and improve education.”

The technologist-turned-philanthropist also said in the Reuters’ interview the details of any pause would be complicated to enforce.

“I don’t really understand who they’re saying could stop, and would every country in the world agree to stop, and why to stop,” he added. “There are a lot of different opinions in these areas.”

Featured photo credits: Gates Notes

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