Technology entrepreneur Bill Gates predicted on Tuesday that artificial intelligence will play an integral role in the education system within the next 18 months.
Business leaders and officials have reeled in the weeks since the advent of ChatGPT, a mass-market AI system that can draft emails or write code in a matter of seconds, with particular controversy emerging in the education sector as some students use the tool to complete essays and cheat on their assignments. Gates contended in a fireside chat at a conference in San Diego that AI solutions will commonly assist teachers with improving reading comprehension and writing abilities among their students by the end of next year.
“What a good teacher does is take your essay and mark it up and say, ‘Oh, this isn’t clear, and the summary should have included this.’ That is a high cognitive exercise, and software, except at the really trivial kind of grammar level, has had essentially zero,” the multibillionaire noted. “Particularly once you get out of a very templated writing exercise, the amount of feedback to help me improve my writing is very low and these AIs actually are good at that.”
Gates, who spends much of his fortune bankrolling education initiatives and supporting progressive social policies across the world, noted that the accessibility of AI language tools will quickly rise as hardware and software improves, potentially diminishing the effective cost of educational advancement for underprivileged students. “Having access to a tutor is too expensive for most students,” he continued, “especially having that tutor adapt and remember everything that you’ve done and look across your entire body of work.”
Microsoft, the software behemoth Gates helped launch and which maintains Gates as its largest individual stockholder, poured billions of dollars into OpenAI, the company which produced ChatGPT. Many educators already leverage the system for purposes such as lesson plans and drafting curriculum, while 73% of teachers and 68% of students concur that the system can aid with learning, according to a survey from the Walton Family Foundation.
Essays produced by ChatGPT, on the other hand, can circumvent conventional plagiarism detection software because the system never writes the same essay twice and does not access the internet for published content. Some developers, however, have produced software that can determine whether an essay was written by ChatGPT or other artificial intelligence tools.
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Gates compared the current rush to develop mass-market AI solutions and use them for consumer products to the dot-com boom more than two decades ago, in which many firms failed and only a handful emerged as bulwarks. “Now, there may be a few that completely surprise everybody and rise to be the next Google or Microsoft based on their AI advances,” he remarked. “But I guarantee you, it won’t be more than two out of a thousand. And it could be zero, honestly, in terms of the base technology.”
Gates added that companies involved in AI development are “super interested” in witnessing the use of their applications in the education sector. Khan Academy, a prominent nonprofit which creates free online tools to assist students with college entrance exams and advanced coursework, meanwhile announced the creation of Khanmigo, an AI system which offers one-on-one tutoring solutions to students.