Bill Gates weighs in on proposed AI pause: Won't 'solve' challenges

Bill Gates questions how six-month pause on AI development called for by Elon Musk and others would be enforced globally

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates doesn't believe that a temporary pause on artificial intelligence (AI) development will do much to "solve the challenges" ahead.

In his first public comments since Tesla CEO Elon Musk and more than 1,000 tech leaders and innovators signed a letter calling for a six-month moratorium on developing powerful AI systems, Gates told Reuters in an interview he doesn't understand how a pause could work globally.

That open letter demanded an urgent pause in the development of systems "more powerful" than Microsoft-backed OpenAI's new GPT-4, which can hold human-like conversations, compose songs and summarize lengthy documents.

The experts who signed the letter, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, warned that no one "can understand, predict, or reliably control" the powerful new tools developed in AI labs. They called for safety protocols to be developed and implemented and for AI developers to work with policymakers to create governance systems. 

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Microsoft founder Bill Gates

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said a six-month moratorium on AI development doesn't "solve the challenges" inherent with advanced artificial intelligence systems. (Justin Tallis - WPA Pool/Getty Images / Getty Images)

"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 invested billions in OpenAI, the lab that developed ChatGPT.

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Gates, an outspoken supporter of AI, has said the technology carries revolutionary potential similar to the internet and mobile phones. 

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Microsoft - Open AI

Microsoft has invested billions in AI developer OpenAI, which is building AI technology for Bing, Edge, Microsoft 365 and other products.  (Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images / Getty Images)

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.

Speaking to Reuters, Gates questioned the practicality of a pause on AI development, wondering how it could possibly be enforced. 

"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."  

The latest iteration of OpenAI's ChatGPT, GPT-4, is the most powerful yet, capable of responding to images as well as text. 

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ChatGPT welcome screen

In this photo illustration, the welcome screen for the OpenAI "ChatGPT" app is displayed on a laptop screen on Feb. 3, 2023, in London (Leon Neal/Getty Images / Getty Images)

GPT-4 can generate captions, classifications and analyses. It can also handle more than 25,000 words of texts, enabling content creation, extended conversations, as well as document search and analysis, according to OpenAI.  

The lab says GPT-4 is more than 80% less likely to respond to requests for "disallowed content" and 40% more likely to produce factual responses than previous models.

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OpenAI has acknowledged some of GPT-4’s limitations, such as "social biases, hallucinations, and adversarial prompts." 

"We look forward to GPT-4 becoming a valuable tool in improving people’s lives by powering many applications," OpenAI wrote last month. "There’s still a lot of work to do, and we look forward to improving this model through the collective efforts of the community building on top of, exploring, and contributing to the model." 

FOX Business' Bradford Betz and Reuters contributed to this report.