Bill Gates says the winner of the A.I. race will be whoever creates a personal assistant—and it’ll spell the end for Amazon

Bill Gates, Microsoft's founder, on stage at an event in Washington.
Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates believes whoever creates the first personal agent that is taken up by consumers will win the A.I. race—but it’s bad news for Amazon.
Alex Wong—Getty Images

The Microsoft founder has called time on Amazon’s business as we know it—saying A.I. will make the e-commerce giant obsolete.

Billionaire philanthropist Gates added the developer destined to win the artificial intelligence race will be the one which manages to create a personal agent that can perform certain tasks to save users time.

“Whoever wins the personal agent, that’s the big thing, because you will never go to a search site again, you will never go to a productivity site, you’ll never go to Amazon again,” he explained.

This isn’t the first time that Gates has voiced his hypothesis about A.I. being used for personal agent duties.

In March, Gates theorized that services like large language models will be increasingly deployed as copilots to their human counterparts, or as he puts it: “like having a white-collar worker available to you.”

Exactly what that personal agent will do remains unclear—however, speaking on Monday during a Goldman Sachs and SV Angel event in San Francisco, Gates suggested A.I. copilots will “read the stuff you don’t have time to read” among other tasks.

The company to release such a model remains to be seen, with Gates expecting the winner to be a toss-up between an established player in Big Tech or a newcomer.

“I’d be disappointed if Microsoft didn’t come in there,” Gates said. “But I’m impressed with a couple of startups, including Inflection.”

Gates was referring to Inflection.AI—a company launched by DeepMind cofounder Mustafa Suleyman—which aims to “make personal A.I.s for every person in the world.”

Microsoft is certainly backing itself as the winner of the A.I. race, having invested $13 billion into OpenAI and integrated its newly relaunched Bing powered with ChatGPT services.

Likewise, Amazon doesn’t see itself as being out of the game, after CEO Andy Jassy told shareholders in a letter that the technology was a “big deal” to the company.

Generative A.I. and the large language models (LLMs) that power it are “core to setting Amazon up to invent in every area of our business for many decades to come,” Jassy wrote in the letter.

Amazon did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

When are we getting these ‘copilots’?

With companies sprinting to lead the A.I. pack, it’s not clear when a winner will emerge—and who it will be.

So consumers might be waiting a while before a convenient sidekick is available to them, Gates said, adding, until then, organizations will continue embedding existing generative A.I. technologies into their own products.

That’s before an additional delay may need to be factored in for regulation to be put in place, with tech leaders like Tesla’s Elon Musk and Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak signing an open letter asking for a six-month ban on the development of the technology until guardrails are put in place.

Sam Altman, founder of OpenAI, has also called for regulation—though he didn’t sign the open letter calling for a pause.

Gates similarly demurred, saying a ban wouldn’t solve any of the challenges facing humanity, because a global approach is unachievable.

Although Gates has consistently pointed out the dangers of A.I. should it be misused, he has also highlighted the positive outcomes the technology could bring to humanity.

He repeated such beliefs again this week, saying he hopes to see the technology deployed to improve drug development and improve the sector overall—despite warnings from the World Health Organization that bias could be built into drug trials if the technology is not adequately monitored and reviewed.

The cofounder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation added that LLMs, which can create compelling text, will impact white-collar workers, a theory supported by Goldman Sachs, which forecasted 300 million jobs will be lost or degraded by the technology.

Meanwhile, blue-collar workers stand to be pushed out of the workforce by robotics, Gates mused, saying that robot humanoids of the future will be cheaper than their human counterparts.

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