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AI 'will make it easier to combat climate change', Bill Gates claims

Bill Gates has said artificial intelligence (AI) will accelerate innovation and make it easier to combat climate change – but also warned it must be “used by people with good intent”.

The philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder made the comments during an interview with Sky News at the Breakthrough Energy Summit in London.

Gates told The World With Yalda Hakim that AI had so far “played a fairly modest role” in helping to combat climate change, but was going to make innovation “far easier to do”.

He said: “AI helps us model things in the sciences: understand materials better, and catalysts, and how to make proteins.

“AI, in every field of endeavour, will be accelerating innovation, whether that’s in medicine or helping with tutoring, education.

“[With] climate [change], some of the complex things like modelling fusion energy – thank goodness AI is going to make that far easier to do.”

When asked if he was worried about suggestions that such technologies could be used to overthrow governments, Gates said he had “not heard that particular scenario”.

“AI is so important that we have to make sure it’s mostly being used by people with good intent,” he said.

He added that “anytime you have a new technology” it is “mostly used by teachers, doctors and scientists to help them be more effective,” but said “AI could be used by” people engaged in cyber attacks or political interference.

“So you have to make sure the good guys are staying ahead in detecting and preventing that type of usage,” he said.

Read more from Sky News:
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Scarlett Johansson speaks out about OpenAI
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Video AI – what you need to know

‘Penalties for fooling people’

Gates went on to say there was nothing “gigantic” about AI, adding: “Misinformation is there, but that’s nothing to do with AI.”

He said we have to “anticipate” that AI could be used in the making of fake videos, which he said should be marked as inauthentic.

“Because we know when something’s printed on a piece of paper, anybody could have typed it, but we still think of videos as somehow authentic because it used to be hard to fake,” he said, as he urged people to ask themselves: “Where did this come from?”

“There’ll be laws creating penalties for fooling people,” he added.

However, he remained optimistic for the future, adding: “The biggest thing is going to be advancing medical science, advancing education and taking this climate issue and getting that innovation to move even faster.”

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Scarlett Johansson on the dangers of AI

‘Wonderful technology’

Pressed on whether AI could be used in cyber attacks on infrastructure such as hospitals, water or electricity, Gates said: “The defence has to be smarter than the offence. And both sides will use AI to up their game.”

Asked if he was worried about the future of AI, he said it was a “wonderful technology when it’s used to help with teaching and health”.

Gates added: “It’ll bring changes that will challenge governments to think: ‘How do we step up?’ And it’s at a time where – do people trust government to step in and do those things? How agile will government[s] be?

“So this dialogue where governments are starting to pay attention, that’s very important.”


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