Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to become significantly more prevalent in developed countries like the US within the next 18 to 24 months, according to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. In his year-end letter, Gates emphasized the potential impact of AI on productivity and innovation, stating that it could accelerate the rate of new discoveries in ways never seen before. While Gates primarily focused on the uses of AI in the developing world, he also highlighted the importance of addressing health issues that disproportionately affect the poorest populations, such as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
Gates acknowledged that practical implementation of AI will not happen this year, but rather in the latter years of this decade. He believes that the work being done in the next year will lay the foundation for a massive technology boom later on. Gates provided examples of AI applications in education and healthcare, including an AI-driven software tool being developed in Ghana to combat antimicrobial resistance, an AI-based tutoring program in Nairobi designed to cater to the cultural context of students, and a health worker “Copilot” software program in India aimed at improving maternal healthcare.
Other examples mentioned by Gates include a chatbot for assessing HIV risk and a voice-powered mobile app in Pakistan that allows health workers to fill out medical health records using voice prompts. Gates emphasized the importance of building AI applications that are tailored to the specific needs and realities of each country. For instance, the voice input feature in the Pakistan health records app aligns with the common practice of sending voice messages on mobile devices instead of typing.
Gates predicts that the developing world will not lag far behind the developed world in adopting AI. He estimates that high-income countries like the US will see significant levels of AI use by the general population within the next 18 to 24 months, while African countries may reach a comparable level of adoption in around three years. This timeframe represents a much shorter lag compared to previous technological innovations.
In conclusion, Gates believes that AI has the potential to revolutionize various sectors and address pressing global challenges. He sees AI as a tool that can empower individuals and communities, particularly those in underserved areas, by providing tailored solutions that improve their quality of life. Gates’ year-end letter serves as a call to action for the global community to prioritize the development and implementation of AI technologies that are equitable and inclusive.