AI could teach children how to read and write within next 18 months, says Bill Gates

Priya Walia

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The fast-paced development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its impact on our lives has stirred up numerous discussions. In a recent statement, Bill Gates, one of the co-founders of Microsoft, expressed his views about the future of AI.

According to him, within the next few years, AI is expected to offer a level of guidance and instruction that equals that of a human tutor. Gates further predicted that AI could possess the capability to teach children the fundamentals of literacy, such as reading and writing, roughly 18 months from now.

During his keynote speech at a digital learning conference in San Diego last week, the billionaire shared that the initial impact of the reading research assistant would be particularly noteworthy in terms of improving reading skills and providing feedback about writing. A transcript of the speech is available on his website, Gates Notes.

“If you just took the next 18 months, the AIs will come in as a teacher’s aide and give feedback on writing. And then they will amp up what we’re able to do in math. Our bottleneck in math really is more of how we fit in the overall system and getting that teacher adoption,” he added.

In recent months, OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard have made significant strides in their development to the point where they can compete with human-level intelligence on specific standardized tests. Despite the potential for AI-powered chatbots to come with a fee, Gates remarked that they would remain more cost-effective and accessible than traditional human tutoring.

According to him, if effectively utilized, the highly proficient tools at our disposal today could propel us to achieve more progress in math scores than we have accomplished in the past two decades. The billionaire affirms that his positivity towards Edtech is not solely due to AI; rather, it encompasses a range of advancements and developments being implemented in the field, with a growing level of expertise and insight.

Gates, however, acknowledged that there are still hurdles to clear before AI chatbots can serve as effective tutors, despite the rapid advancements in their technology. One such difficulty involves the complex task of teaching writing skills, which involves evaluating both narrative structure and prose clarity.

Additionally, AI chatbots often struggle to perform calculations, despite their training in algebra and calculus. To unlock their teaching potential in mathematics, Gates believes that improving the reasoning capabilities of AI will be crucial. He is optimistic that in the next two years, AI chatbots will be capable of offering affordable and accessible private tutoring to a wider range of students.

In a blog post last month, Gates expressed his belief that the development of AI is the most significant technological advancement of recent decades. He praised OpenAI’s GPT language model as revolutionary and predicted that any current limitations of AI would soon be overcome. Gates also identified three key sectors that AI has the potential to transform, namely the workforce, healthcare, and education. Regarding education, he foresees AI delivering personalized content to suit individual students’ learning styles and detecting what motivates students and impedes their interest in certain subjects.