Microsoft founder Bill Gates | Photo credits The Internet Protocol

As Microsoft continues to integrate disruptive artificial intelligence (AI) technology into most of its products, its founder Bill Gates foresees an end to search engines like Google and e-commerce platforms like Amazon.

Gates made the remarks during a speech at the Goldman Sachs AI Forward 2023 event held in San Francisco last week. The billionaire philanthropist said that in the future people will “never go a search engine again.”

Sinking a deeper nail into the e-commerce bandwagon, he added: “You’ll never go to Amazon.”

The AI Race Boils Down to A Single Personal Agent – Bill Gates

Gates said that the race to lead the artificial intelligence revolution would be won by the company that builds the best personal assistant able to carry out various tasks on behalf of humans.

“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,” Gates said in his speech.

For such personal assistants to be effective at performing those time-saving tasks, they will need to learn “the stuff you don’t have time to read.”

According to an earlier report by Fortune, Gates has previously expressed his belief that artificial intelligence can be used to perform personal assistant tasks.

In March, he stated that services such as large language models (LLMs) could be used as “copilots” to augment and assist human workers, similar to having a white-collar worker always available.

AI copilots as a new way to work | Image courtesy of Bleeping Computer

Gates expects Microsoft to be one of the frontrunners for such a model, however, he projects the winner would ultimately be one of the most established companies in Big Tech or a startup.

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

Inflection.AI is an AI-based startup founded by the co-founder of DeepMind, Mustafa Suleyman. The company focuses mainly on building AI assistants for virtually everyone on Earth.

Microsoft is also a strong contender for the personal AI agent, considering its humongous $13 billion investment in OpenAI. Most of the tech giant’s products including Bing, the SwiftKey keyboard, Office 365 Suite, and the Edge browser are currently powered by ChatGPT, the most popular LLM at the moment.

Although Gates has prophesied an end to Amazon’s e-commerce business, the company is not standing by watching the AI ship sail away. In a letter to shareholders, the CEO, Andy Jassy said that the company sees artificial intelligence as a “big deal.”

AI services at AWS | Photo courtesy of AWS

Amazon, like Apple has been on an AI hiring spree to build generative AI and LLMs that are “core to setting Amazon up to invent in every area of our business for many decades to come,” Jassy told the shareholders via the letter.

While companies are racing to release new AI-powered products, Gates said it could take a while before we see the ultimate personal agent. This means consumers will be getting a lot of these copilots until we get the best white-collar assistant.

Moreover, delays due to regulations that are likely to come into effect soon, may make the wait even longer. Opinion leaders in key tech industries like Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak, Apple’s co-founder have called for a pause in the development of AI to allow for regulations.

“AI is more dangerous than, say, mismanaged aircraft design or production maintenance or bad car production, in the sense that it is, it has the potential — however small one may regard that probability, but it is non-trivial — it has the potential of civilization destruction,” Musk said in his interview with Tucker Carlson at Fox News.

Similar AIs in Healthcare Could be Game-Changing

Gates, while speaking on the ongoing developments in healthcare and especially those directly related to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said that AI is bound to speed up innovations in the industry resulting in extremely advanced technology like improved drug development techniques.

According to a recent interview with Forbes, Gates stated that despite the mystery behind the workings of the human brain, advancements in the field of AI could lead to the development of helpful drugs for diseases like Alzheimer’s within the next 10 years.

Gates also discussed the potential impact of generative AI technologies on white-collar workers and the increasing presence of humanoid robots in the workforce that could replace blue-collar workers due to their cost-effectiveness for companies.

It’s possible that AI personal agents specializing in medicine and healthcare take over the industry, replacing doctors. While this seems like it won’t happen any time soon, the rate of AI development is already staggering and may continue to ramp up.

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