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Digital Transformation

Bill Gates via Reddit: Technology doesn't make us stupid

By Nesh Pillay | Reporter

January 28, 2015 | 5 min read

Technology is not making people less intelligent, at least not according to Bill Gates during today’s Reddit AMA--Ask Me Anything--session.

During the Q&A, Gates, an avid user of Reddit, responded to an inquiry about whether or not increased reliance on technology was dumbing down users.

"If you just look at the complexity people like in Entertainment you can see a big change over my lifetime,” he wrote. “Technology is letting people get their questions answered better so they stay more curious. It makes it easier to know a lot of topics which turns out to be pretty important to contribute to solving complex problems.”

In coming years, people could expect to have more a lot more questions answered. Gates said that technology was expected to increase at a much faster rate in the next 30 years than ever before.

“Even in the next 10 [years] problems like vision and speech understanding and translation will be very good. Mechanical robot tasks like picking fruit or moving a hospital patient will be solved. Once computers/robots get to a level of capability where seeing and moving is easy for them then they will be used very extensively,” he wrote.

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He added that he was currently working on a project titled “Microsoft Personal Agent,” that seems eerily similar to the operating system featured in the movie, Her. The program was said to have the ability to “remember everything and help you go back and find things, and help you pick what things to pay attention to.”

The agent was expected to work on all devices.

As far as current technology goes, Gates said he was very excited about digital currency and its potential to help the developing world.

“For our foundation work we are doing digital currency to help the poor get banking services,” he wrote.

However, his foundation did not use Bitcoin for two very specific reasons.

First, he wrote, “the poor shouldn't have a currency whose value goes up and down a lot compared to their local currency.”

He added that because Bitcoin was anonymous, mistakes could not be reversed, which would be an essential ability when introducing the currency to poorer nations.

Still, the Gates foundation hoped to continue to grow the presence of digital money internationally.

“We are hoping to have India and Nigeria going in the next two years if things go well,” he wrote. “Kenya and Tanzania and Bangladesh have grown a lot although those systems still need some improvements.”

Still, there was one potential problem Gates saw with quickly growing technology.

“I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence,” he wrote.

“First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern…I don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”

It’s no surprise then that if he hadn’t been involved with Microsoft, Gates said, he would’ve been an artificial intelligence researcher.

Overall, Gates received more than 7,000 questions on the thread, and was only able to answer a handful.

However, when he did answer, the tech mogul kept things interesting by alternating hard-hitting questions, with more light-hearted ones.

Readers, for example, were able to find out whether Gates preferred dry rub or barbeque sauce.

If the interview produce any revelation then it was that Gates loves barbeque sauce too.

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