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In a blog post yesterday about how personal AI agents will completely change how people use computers — just a few days after OpenAI announced its “baby steps” towards agents with its Assistants API — Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said that personal AI agents will be a ‘shock wave’ in the tech industry and society.
“In the near future, anyone who’s online will be able to have a personal assistant powered by artificial intelligence that’s far beyond today’s technology,” he wrote. “Agents will be able to help with virtually any activity and any area of life. The ramifications for the software business and for society will be profound.”
Bill Gates already has skin in the personal AI game
What Gates does not mention in the post is that he already has some serious skin in the personal AI game: In an interview with Bill Gates this past May during a Goldman Sachs and SV Angel event on AI, Bill Gates said the first company to develop a personal agent to disrupt SEO would have a “leg up on competitors.”
“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 said.
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By June, Gates — along with Nvidia, Microsoft, Reid Hoffman and Eric Schmidt — had invested in Inflection AI as part of an eye-popping $1.3 billion funding round.
Gates had mentioned Inflection at a San Francisco event, saying that “it’s 50-50 as to whether the AI winner behind the digital agent will come from Big Tech or the startup world,” adding that he was “impressed with a couple of startups, including Inflection.”
Gates has been thinking about agents for nearly 30 years
At the time, Inflection AI had just launched Pi, which stands for “personal intelligence” and is meant to be “empathetic, useful and safe” — that is, acting more personally and colloquially than OpenAI’s GPT-4, Microsoft’s Bing or Google’s Bard, while not veering into the super-creepy.
While a chatbot like Pi is still far away from the kind of personal AI agent Bill Gates is imagining — and it’s not clear what other investments he is planning in the space — he obviously wants to be on the AI agent train as soon as it leaves the station. In fact, Gates said in the post that he has been “thinking about agents for nearly 30 years and wrote about them in my 1995 book The Road Ahead, but they’ve only recently become practical because of advances in AI.”
Now, he added, “agents are not only going to change how everyone interacts with computers. They’re also going to upend the software industry, bringing about the biggest revolution in computing since we went from typing commands to tapping on icons.”
In his new blog post, Gates discussed the technical challenges of agents, as well as privacy issues. But, he said, “agents are coming.” In the next few years, he concluded, “they will utterly change how we live our lives, online and off.”
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