Microsoft founder Bill Gates: AI to make Amazon irrelevant


The Microsoft founder has called time on Amazon’s business as we know it—saying A.I. will make the e-commerce giant obsolete.

Billionaire philanthropist Gates added the developer destined to win the artificial intelligence race will be the one which manages to create a personal agent that can perform certain tasks to save users time.

“Whoever wins the personal agent, that’s the big thing, because you will never go to a search site again, you will never go to a productivity site, you’ll never go to Amazon again,” he explained.

This isn’t the first time that Gates has voiced his hypothesis about A.I. being used for personal agent duties.

In March, Gates theorized that services like large language models will be increasingly deployed as copilots to their human counterparts, or as he puts it: “like having a white-collar worker available to you.”  

Exactly what that personal agent will do remains unclear—however, speaking on Monday during a Goldman Sachs and SV Angel event in San Francisco, Gates suggested A.I. copilots will “read the stuff you don’t have time to read” among other tasks.

The company to release such a model remains to be seen, with Gates expecting the winner to be a toss-up between an established player in Big Tech or a newcomer.

“I’d be disappointed if Microsoft didn’t come in there,” Gates said. “But I’m impressed with a couple of startups, including Inflection.”

Gates was referring to Inflection.AI—a company launched by DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman—which aims to “make personal A.I.s for every person in the world.”

Microsoft is certainly backing itself as the winner of the A.I. race, having invested $13 billion into OpenAI and integrated its newly-relaunched Bing powered with ChatGPT services.

Likewise, Amazon doesn’t see itself as being out of the game, after CEO Andy Jassy told shareholders in a letter that the technology was a “big deal” to the company.

Generative A.I. and the large language models (LLMs) that power it are “core to setting Amazon up to invent in every area of our business for many decades to come,” Jassy wrote in the letter.

Amazon did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

When are we getting these ‘copilots’?

With companies sprinting to lead the A.I. pack it’s not clear when a winner will emerge—and who it will be.

So consumers might be waiting a while before their convenient sidekick is available to them, Gates said, adding until them organizations will continue embedding existing generative A.I. technologies into their own products.

That’s before an additional delay may need to be factored in for regulation to be put in place, with tech leaders like Tesla’s Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak signed an open letter asking for a six-month ban on the development of the technology until guardrails are put in place.

Sam Altman, founder of OpenAI, has also called for regulation—though he didn’t sign the open letter calling for a pause.

Gates similarly demurred, saying a ban wouldn’t solve any of the challenges facing humanity because a global approach is unachievable.

Although Gates has consistently pointed out the dangers of A.I. should it be misused, he has also highlighted the positive outcomes the technology could bring to humanity.

He repeated such hopes again this week, saying he hopes to see the technology deployed to improve drug development and improve the sector overall—despite warnings from the World Health Organization that bias could be built into drug trials if the technology is not adequately monitored and reviewed.

The founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation added that LLMs which can create compelling text will impact white-collar workers, a theory supported by Goldman Sachs, which found 300 million jobs will be lost or degraded by the technology.

Meanwhile, blue collar workers stand to be pushed out of the workforce by robotics, Gates mused, saying that robot humanoids of the future will be cheaper than their human counterparts.

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