Bill Gates on Reddit: I agree with Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking about artificial intelligence

Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder, has answered a range of questions posed by Reddit users. Image: Reuters/Gus Ruelas

Rosamond Hutt
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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What would you ask Bill Gates if you had the chance? In an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) Q&A session on social news service Reddit, users quizzed the Microsoft co-founder on a wide range of topics, from the encryption dispute between Apple and the FBI to regulating artificial intelligence.

Gates, who was participating in his fourth Reddit AMA, also recreated his 1973 high-school yearbook photo for his verification image in the chat, which he tweeted to his followers.

Source: Twitter

The billionaire philanthropist was asked an assortment of questions, including whether he agreed with Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking that artificial intelligence posed an existential threat and should be regulated.

"I haven't seen any concrete proposal on how you would do the regulation," Gates wrote. "I think it is worth discussing because I share the view of Musk and Hawking that when a few people control a platform with extreme intelligence, it creates dangers in terms of power and eventually control."

When asked for his views on the FBI’s attempt to force Apple to help access the locked iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, Gates replied: “I think there needs to be a discussion about when the government should be able to gather information. What if we had never had wiretapping? Also, the government needs to talk openly about safeguards.

“Right now a lot of people don't think the government has the right checks to make sure information is only used in criminal situations. So this case will be viewed as the start of a discussion.

“I think very few people take the extreme view that the government should be blind to financial and communication data but very few people think giving the government carte blanche without safeguards makes sense.

“A lot of countries like the UK and France are also going through this debate. For tech companies there needs to be some consistency including how governments work with each other. The sooner we modernize the laws the better.”

Another user asked Gates – the world’s richest man, with a net worth of $87 billion – if he found $40,000 at the side of the road, would he pick it up?

Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said that he would, explaining: "Since our Foundation can basically save a life for every $1,000 we spend I would pick it up, as that would be enough to save 40 lives, which is a big deal.”

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