Bill Gates says AI will boost productivity for all, including ‘bad guys’

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Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Tuesday said artificial intelligence will boost productivity for all, including “bad guys.”

“AI is a brilliant tool for people to be more productive,” he told Bloomberg before acknowledging the technology also “means the bad guys will be more productive, so they can do more cyberattacks, so they can design weapons.”

“You know, the internet, the microprocessor, all these things helped everybody be more efficient, including the bad guys, and so you’ve got to make sure the best AI for cyber defense or measures to defend against bioterrorism are in the hands of the good guys,” Gates said to the outlet. 

Last month, the billionaire made similar comments at an event in New York, where he said society needed to maintain an advantage over bad actors in the rapidly-advancing field of AI, as previously reported by FOX Business.

He said in March of last year that governments and private companies should collaborate “on ways to limit the risks” of people using AI for bad purposes.

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Gates told Bloomberg on Tuesday people “sometimes lose sight of the fact that this [AI] is the biggest productivity advancement in our lifetimes.”

He also noted the particularly “dramatic” impact that AI has on the productivity of white collar workers. He also projected blue collar jobs would see increases in efficiency thanks to robotics in the future.

As a result, the world would “be richer” and spend less time working in the long run, Gates theorized, according to the Bloomberg interview.

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Back in November, Gates also suggested AI could facilitate humans moving to three days of work per week.

An illustration shows a robot hand extending towards the letters AI an is captioned, "artificial intelligence"

Questions about how AI could affect jobs and workers have increasingly arisen as more and more companies decide to embrace the technology in some way. 

Earlier in the week, International Monetary Fund research suggested roughly 40% of jobs around the world will experience an impact, whether that be complementary or negative, from AI. It pegged the proportion of jobs that have AI exposure at 60% for advanced economies, 40% for emerging ones and 26% for low-income ones.

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He talked to Bloomberg while in Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meeting. The gathering, which started Monday, is expected to see participation from around 1,600 business leaders, over 300 political figures and other prominent individuals over the course of its five days. 

Bill Gates headshot

A focus of WEF’s event is artificial intelligence. Other primary topics revolve around global cooperation, economic and job growth and the environment.

Gates touched on the equity of AI as well with Bloomberg, telling the outlet the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a “huge commitment to make sure there’s not this normal 20-year lage between benefit to the rich versus to developing countries.” He pointed to the non-profit’s recent efforts to help launch medical and health AI tools in African countries.

Daniella Genovese and Breck Dumas contributed to this report.

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