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Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and who’s right about the future of AI

Bill Gates thinks AI is the most important advancement in decades. Elon Musk thinks it’s moving way too fast. They could both be right, in their own way.

  • The big picture: Nearly 50% of organizations are seeing benefits from using AI in the areas of cost savings, improvements in IT or network performance, and better customer experiences. But a rush of experts also warn that putting AI technology into the market too quickly “could lead to disaster.”

Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei — in a recent event with Axios CEO Jim VandeHei — laid out where he sees speed and precision both having their place:

  • What Gates is getting right: “The pace of progress we're seeing is unusual and remarkable. People may think there was suddenly this explosion in the last few months. What happened is there was steady improvement [for years], and it broke above some waterline where suddenly the world noticed. That wasn’t a one-time thing. Progress will continue to be very fast.”
  • Where Musk may have a point: “I do have some worry that the technology is racing at a speed that makes it hard for us to mitigate. We put a huge amount of our effort to try to have the mitigation of the downsides keep up with the general pace and the realization of the upsides. At some point, if the pace gets too fast… regulators are going to want to impose standards.”

For now, we all have to recognize that AI is here — and will rapidly develop and change. Among leaders and organizations weighing where, if, or how they will embrace it, the most important step is acknowledging it’s better to understand its strengths and limitations than try to ignore it. 

And while AI can’t do everything — and human oversight still very much plays a major role —  it’s still brimming with potential. “Some areas that I'm really excited about are productivity software,” Dario said, ”legal and financial related applications…medical and scientific applications.” From managing health records to writing code to fighting cyber threats, AI capabilities are coming into their full potential. And colleagues at all levels need to be primed to use them. 

A few thoughts from Dario:

  • For leaders: “See what's possible with current models… You have to have heavy human oversight… but being able to do that now means that a year from now, the broader, more ambitious vision may be possible when models are safer. There's a lot of advantages to starting now.”
  • For entrepreneurs: “I would certainly advise getting involved and trying to iterate…even if it turns out that, due to limitations in the model's cognitive ability or its safety, it's not time to deploy at large scale yet. Experiment with things at a small scale, iterate, and see what works.”
  • For all users: “There's gonna be lots of context in which the AI is one tool and existing human creativity is another tool, and there's gonna be a lot of skill to learning how to put those together.” 

The bottom line: Watching these models and technologies get better is an exponential process, and “what we're going to see next year is going to be very strong compared to what we see this year,” Dario said. Keep exploring, keep scaling, and keep your mind open to the limitless possibilities AI could bring to your organization. 

  • Axios HQ is a smart workplace communication software helping hundreds of leaders harness the power of generative AI, ensure their organization uses it as a force for good, and simplify writing engaging internal communications.
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