Bill Gates on the AI revolution in education and new era of the “personal agent”
Bill Gates doesn’t think any one company will dominate AI, but he does see at least one big opportunity that’s ripe for the taking.
“There will be one company that creates a personal agent that will understand all your activities and will read your messages. It will read the stuff you don’t have time to read,” he said in conversation with Stripe co-founder and CEO Patrick Collison at Goldman Sachs and SV Angel’s AI Forward conference in San Francisco.
“That’s a big thing because you’ll never go to a search site again. You’ll never go to a productivity tool again. You’ll never go to Amazon again. Everything will be mediated through your agent,” said Gates. “Whoever wins that will take the current dispersed, high profit areas, and move them into a single area.”
As for whether that agent will come from a large, established tech company or a startup, Gates isn’t sure. “I’d say that’s 50/50,” he said. “I mean, I’d be disappointed if Microsoft didn’t come in there. But I’m very impressed with a couple of startups.”
Education is one of the industries Gates sees as most changed by artificial intelligence, as small-scale improvements can radically increase their reach and effectiveness. Lifelike and infinitely patient online tutoring is one place Gates sees tremendous growth.
“Most problems in education are motivation problems,” said Gates. “A young kid can decide, ‘Math’s not for me. ‘I’m just not going to concentrate on it. It won’t change my life. I don’t like it.’”
“If by eighth grade they decide that,” Gates continued, “they’re twice as likely to drop out as other students. And so one-on-one tutoring is the gold standard. They sit there and explain, ‘Hey, do you want to talk about math in terms of baseball?’” said Gates. “You’re able to frame the problems in a way that the student’s interested in it.”
“If we can capture what the very, very best tutors do in a software agent, then education will have changed in a super deep way.”
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