Dec 19, 2023 - Technology

Bill Gates: AI is about to supercharge innovation

Bill Gates with thought bubbles that resemble Earth

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Even Bill Gates stuck to old work habits in 2023 — but in his annual end-of-year letter, he predicts a massive wave of AI innovation beginning in 2024.

Why it matters: "The work that will be done over the next year is setting the stage for a massive technology boom later this decade," Gates writes.

  • Gates draws on his vast experience with technology and global challenges to urge us to keep the faith in AI's potential — while admitting that even he is confused by the tech sometimes.

What's next: We're 18–24 months away from widespread AI adoption in the U.S., Gates believes, and three years away in Africa, though Gates sees that gap as a major improvement over previous digital divides.

Yes, but: "I thought I would use AI tools for the foundation's strategy reviews this year, which require reading hundreds of pages of briefing materials," Gates admitted, but "I ended up preparing for them the same way I always do."

What they're saying: "If you haven't figured out how to make the best use of AI yet, you are not alone," Gates writes.

  • Gates is focused on how AI can help offer "every child an equal chance to survive and thrive" and says "we can learn a lot from global health about how to make AI more equitable.
  • "The main lesson is that the product must be tailored to the people who will use it."

Gates hopes AI can address antibiotic resistance by making suggestions to health workers for "the best drug, dosage, and duration" for given local populations.

  • Gates Foundation is working on ways for AI to treat high-risk pregnancies from The Bronx to India and Pakistan.
  • The tools include AI copilots, easy-to-use equipment for home-based ultrasounds, and a voice-enabled mobile app to help maternal health workers create medical records for people who lack them.
  • Can AI bring personalized tutors to every student? Gates says "mind-blowing" tools are already available, such as Khanmigo and MATHia.
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