Plenty of serious thinkers, including Stephen Hawking, are wary of the proliferation of AI. Many are simply nervous at the thought of an AI with human levels of cognition. Gates told the audience that “it’s pretty clear we have a lot of time before that happens,” but opines that he’s “definitely someone who thinks we ought to start to talk about it more.”
He doubts that a Skynet-like future is inevitable, though. “I do think in the end it will be a resource we can control.” Nothing else could be worse, he notes, than nuclear weapons.
Either way, “the planet’s gonna be fine. It’s a very resilient planet,” Gates says through a slight smirk. “It’s the human race that has to be careful.”
Despite all this talk of the future, Gates is demonstrably someone committed firmly to the betterment of the present. As it so happens, there’s one decidedly contemporary – and rather commonplace – invention that he’s particularly fond of right now: the cell phone.
He told IFLScience that cell phones are given to poorer communities to allow them to not just connect them to the wider world, but to allow them to send money to those who need it with ease, which fosters an effortless, localized redistribution of wealth. “Cell phones are very empowering things,” he mused.
Bill and Melinda Gates pictures during an episode of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images
Throughout our time with Gates, this considerably humble and almost retiring individual is not leaping around the room or pacing up and down the stage, gesticulating wildly with his hands and claiming he alone can save the world.
He has no time for bluster or negativity, and it’s obvious from his elongated, eloquent answers and frequent tangents into tales of scientific derring-do that his mind is a constant thunderstorm of investment opportunities and ideas. Some of these ideas have saved countless lives.
Gates is right when he claims that people love cool science, and with his track record, it’s easy to see why. In a time of freakishly normalized ignorance, the Foundation has effectively weaponized intelligence against the darkest aspects of our planet, all for the greater good.