(The Epoch Times)—The adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) could lead to humans working just three days a week, but that might not be such a bad thing, according to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
The 68-year-old tech mogul shared his thoughts on the future of the workplace during an interview with comedian and writer Trevor Noah on his podcast “What Now.”
Billionaire philanthropist Mr. Gates said that while he does not believe advanced AI will replace humans entirely, its rapid expansion and adoption could change the labor market “forever,” potentially leading to a three-day workweek for humans.
“In the near term, the productivity gains you get from AI is very exciting,” he said. “It’s taking away part of the drudge work.”
Mr. Gates pointed to an example in which AI would likely be used in the near future, such as for medical professionals who are required to fill in paperwork.
In this case, AI could be used to “listen in” and help fill in the paperwork instead, effectively replacing the individual’s workload. Mr. Gates did not specify exactly what the AI software would “listen in” on.
The technology could also be used to tutor students or provide medical doctor “advice” for individuals in various parts of the world such as Africa, where access to health care is limited, he said.
Elaborating further on AI’s possible influence on the workforce, the billionaire said: “If you zoom out, the purpose of life is not just to do jobs. So, if you eventually get to a society where you only have to work three days a week or something, that’s probably OK. If the machines can make all the food and the stuff we don’t have to work as hard.”
Increased ‘Leisure’ Time
Mr. Gates went on to acknowledge that there would likely be “displacements” in the labor market owing to AI but said these would be “generalized” if they “come slow enough.”
“If it proceeds at a reasonable pace and the government helps those people who have to learn new things, then it’s all good,” he said.
“If you free up human labor, you can help elder people better, have smaller class sizes, you know, the demand for labor to do good things is still there,” he added. “And then if you ever get beyond that, you have a lot of leisure time and you’ll have to figure out what to do with it.”
Mr. Gates’s comments come after the makers of ChatGPT warned earlier this year that AI could “exceed expert skill level” across most domains within the next 10 years as “superintelligence” becomes more powerful than any “other technologies humanity has had to contend with.”
In a blog post published in May, OpenAI executives including CEO Sam Altman—who was recently reinstated to his job—co-founder Greg Brockman, and co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, said it is highly “conceivable” that within the next 10 years, AI systems could carry out as much productivity as one of today’s largest corporations.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) has also warned that widespread use of AI could disrupt employment in the United States over the next five years, impacting roughly 23 percent of jobs by 2027.
According to WEF’s “The Future of Jobs Report 2023,” published in May, 69 million new jobs will likely be created through increased use of AI, while 83 million could be eliminated, resulting in a decrease of 14 million jobs, or 2 percent of current employment.
The WEF found that clerical or secretarial roles, including bank tellers, cashiers and ticket clerks, data entry clerks, postal service clerks, and administrative and executive secretaries will likely see the fastest decline in roles over the next five years relative to their size today.
Amazon to Train Millions on AI
Meanwhile, certain tech jobs, including those focused on AI and machine learning, would likely see a rise in employment.
Other experts, including Goldman Sachs economists, have forecast that two-thirds of occupations across the United States could be partially automated by AI.
More recently, JPMorgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon told Bloomberg that the next generation of workers will likely only need to go to the office 3.5 days a week thanks to AI.
“Your children are going to live to 100 and not have cancer because of technology,” Mr. Dimon told the publication. “And literally they’ll probably be working three-and-a-half days a week.”
Multiple companies in the United States and abroad have taken part in pilot programs testing four-day work weeks in recent years, during which employees still receive 100 percent of their wages.
Advocates argue the reduction in office hours will improve business productivity, worker health, and well-being, boost recruitment, retain employees, and reduce the carbon footprint of firms by reducing both commuting and energy use.
Mr. Gates’s comments came just after Amazon revealed plans to train and educate millions of people across the globe on AI amid a growing need for an AI-savvy workforce.
Amazon said it aims to provide training and education on AI skills—including how to make use of the generative AI technology behind language-based models such as ChatGPT—free of charge to 2 million people worldwide by 2025.