Bill Gates says calls to pause AI won't 'solve challenges'

FILE PHOTO: Microsoft founder Bill Gates waits in the basement of the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington., U.S., March 29, 2023. REUTERS/Julia Nikhinson/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Calls to pause the development of artificial intelligence will not “solve the challenges” ahead, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates told Reuters, his first public comments since an open letter sparked a debate about the future of the technology.

The technologist-turned-philanthropist said it would be better to focus on how best to use the developments in AI, as it was hard to understand how a pause could work globally.

His interview with Reuters comes after an open letter -- published last week and co-signed by Elon Musk and more than 1,000 AI experts – demanded an urgent pause in the development of systems "more powerful" than Microsoft-backed OpenAI's new GPT-4, which can hold human-like conversation, compose songs and summarise lengthy documents.

The experts, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, said in the letter the potential risks and benefits to society need to be assessed.

“I don’t think asking one particular group to pause solves the challenges,” Gates said on Monday.

“Clearly there’s huge benefits to these things... what we need to do is identify the tricky areas.”

Microsoft has sought to outpace peers through multi-billion-dollar investments in ChatGPT owner OpenAI.

While currently focused full-time on the philanthropic Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates has been a bullish supporter of AI and described it as revolutionary as the Internet or mobile phones.

In a blog titled "The Age of AI has begun" which was published and dated March 21, a day before the open letter, he said he believes AI should be used to help reduce some of the world’s worst inequities.

He also said in the interview the details of any pause would be complicated to enforce.

“I don’t really understand who they’re saying could stop, and would every country in the world agree to stop, and why to stop,” he said. “But there are a lot of different opinions in this area.”

(Reporting by Jennifer Rigby; Editing by Josephine Mason and Bernadette Baum)

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