‘We’re all scared a bad guy could grab it’: Bill Gates differs with Musk on pausing AI development

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates may share similar concerns with Elon Musk over the threat of developing artificial intelligence (AI), but his response on how to deal with it challenged his tech rival while also destroying his own positions on gun control.

(Video: ABC News)

The nature of technological advancement has allowed for an ever-increasing rate of development, and the implications of that have grown as rapidly as society has witnessed the astounding results of AI-created images and interactions with chatbots. But, unlike Twitter CEO and OpenAI co-founder Musk, Gates’ suggested a greater risk would come from pausing development.

“We’re all scared that a bad guy could grab it,” he said in a conversation with ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis.

Earlier this year, Musk had joined an extensive list of tech leaders and intellectuals in calling for an “AI summer” to impose a hiatus on any further development of software until society had an opportunity to catch up and perhaps to establish regulatory parameters to deal with uncharted territories.

As the letter suggested, “Contemporary AI systems are now becoming human-competitive at general tasks, and we must ask ourselves: Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilizations?”

Gates response to those questions appeared to be yes, because if we don’t then competitors will, and simultaneously made the argument for a “good guy with a gun.”

“If you just pause the good guys and you don’t pause everyone else you’re probably hurting yourself,” he said. “You definitely want the good guys to have strong AI.”

In other words, laws only stop law-abiding citizens.

Gates steered away from the potential negatives of AI and touted the benefits as he stated, “We’re often surprised how good it is. Sometimes we’re surprised at what it can’t do right. It’s early days, but revolutionary.”

“The field, more than any field I know, is actually putting in a lot of the smart people into, OK, what comes next and how do we make sure that’s beneficial,” he continued. “I see that AI, used properly, is providing a lot of benefits that I wouldn’t want to throw away.”

Without going into specifics, Gates highlighted, “In health and education, used properly, it will be fantastic. That’s a big deal. Improving education, you know, making sure students who are in private schools or even suburban schools, that they have this way of getting great feedback. You know, I’m excited.”

Still, the only assurance Gates was able to provide was that “If you stop the good guys, you can guarantee it won’t happen,” regarding their having “strong AI.”

Of course, even as he touted the positives, the Microsoft co-founder suggested it would be up to each individual to determine the trustworthiness of information as deep fakes become increasingly harder to discern across a rapidly shifting digital landscape tarnished with misinformation and bad actors.


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Kevin Haggerty


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