Bill Gates says A.I. chatbots will teach kids to read within 18 months: You’ll be ‘stunned by how it helps’


On February 15, 2023, in London, England, at a meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the Imperial College University, Microsoft founder Bill Gates reacts. Reuters, Justin Tallis, and Pool

Soon, artificial intelligence might help your children learn and get better grades.

According to Bill Gates, the millionaire co-founder of Microsoft, AI chatbots are on track to assist kids in learning to read and improve their writing skills in 18 months.

“The AI’s will get to that ability, to be as good a tutor as any human ever could,” Gates said in a keynote talk on Tuesday at the ASU+GSV Summit in San Diego.

AI chatbots have advanced quickly in recent months and can now compete with human-level intelligence on some types of standardized tests, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard. This development has spurred discussion about the potential drawbacks of the technology as well as excitement about its progress.

Count Gates in the camp of people who are impressed. Today’s chatbots have “incredible fluency at being able to read and write,” which will soon help them teach students to improve their own reading and writing in ways that technology never could before, he said.

“At first, we’ll be most stunned by how it helps with reading — being a reading research assistant — and giving you feedback on writing,” said Gates.

According to Gates, teaching writing abilities to a computer has historically proven to be an extraordinarily challenging task. Teachers grade essays based on elements like narrative structure and linguistic clarity; this is a “high-cognitive exercise” that is “tough” for programmers to recreate in code, according to him.

However, proponents claim that the capacity of AI chatbots to recognize and replicate human-like language alters that dynamic.

A tech columnist for the New York Times named Kevin Roose stated last month that he had already used ChatGPT to sharpen his writing by taking use of the AI’s capacity to fast scan internet style manuals.

Some academics claim they are astounded by chatbots’ capacity to summarize, comment on, and sometimes even compose entire essays.

However, those same academics warn that the technology is not yet fully formed, and can inadvertently introduce significant errors or misinformation. And AI technology must improve at reading and recreating human language to better motivate students before it can become a viable tutor, Gates said.

“If you just took the next 18 months, the AIs will come in as a teacher’s aide and give feedback on writing,” said Gates. “And then they will amp up what we’re able to do in math.”

It may come as a surprise that chatbots will perform better in reading and writing than in math: Calculus and algebra are frequently employed to create AI technologies.
Experts point out that chatbots, which are taught on huge databases, frequently struggle with mathematical computations. The chatbot can give you the solution if the math problem is one that has already been solved and is included in the datasets it was trained on. But it’s a different story when it figures out its own solution.

Gates claimed that he frequently queries Microsoft AI developers as to why chatbots are unable to carry out even basic mathematical operations, such as multiplying some numbers. The solution: For AI to manage the complexity of a math problem, it needs to have better reasoning skills.

Although it might take some time, Gates is optimistic that technology will advance, probably in the next two years. Then, it might assist in enabling a large number of students who might not otherwise be able to afford private tutoring to access it.

But that does not imply that it will be free. Both ChatGPT and Bing now provide restricted free versions, although the former launched ChatGPT Plus, a $20 per month subscription service, in February.

However, Gates claimed that it will at least be more accessible and affordable than private instruction from a human tutor.

“This should be a leveler,” he said. “Because having access to a tutor is too expensive for most students — especially having that tutor adapt and remember everything that you’ve done and look across your entire body of work.

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