Fifteen years ago, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates made a long-shot, somewhat shocking, prediction that, by all accounts, turned out to be accurate: Within years, he guessed, the world would rely almost entirely on the internet for everyday activities.
Now, the business magnate and humanitarian is suggesting that despite some common -- and perhaps warranted -- concerns that artificial intelligence (AI) could upend and replace the U.S. workforce, he sees the technology as a chance for an economic revival.
“You’ll be far more efficient using resources, you’ll be far more aware of what’s going on,” Gates, who’s currently attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo. “And it’s very cheap now: Computers can see and hear as well as humans can.”
The software, Gates said, can be used to supplement workers by monitoring “high-value environments” -- including jails, factories, courthouses or operating rooms -- and transcribing the ongoing occurrences with computers that can record what’s going on. If there are safety violations, like an employee on a construction site who’s not wearing a helmet, or an inefficient use of resources, the system can be changed, he said.
With the use of AI, production will likely increase two-fold, which means the use of less labor. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be fewer jobs for people, Gates noted. Increasing levels of production may have several effects: Longer vacations for employees, and a redirecting of positions to re-focus on helping the elderly, working with children with special needs and reducing the class divide.
“In case of adjusting and having a safety net that works so people can get re-trained, it will get challenging,” he said. “Change will be faster in these next 20 years than it’s been before.”
While enthusiastic about the inevitable implementation of AI, the founder-turned-philanthropist, whose estimated net worth totals $90 billion, was lukewarm about President Trump’s tax overhaul, $1.5 trillion in business-friendly cuts that were signed into law in late December.
“I don’t see it as a huge plus or a huge minus when you step back and look at what we’re focused on, which is helping the world’s poorest,” said Gates, who established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000.