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Despite allegedly “never taking a day off” during the early days of Microsoft, Gates said that “the purpose of life is not to do jobs”, during a podcast with former Saturday Night Live host Trevor Noah.
“If you eventually get a society where you only have to work three days a week or something, that's probably OK,” said Gates.
Amid widespread warnings about the risks posed by AI, which were highlighted by figures as diverse as Elon Musk and King Charles at the UK’s recent AI Summit at Bletchley Park, Gates, in contrast, was largely positive on the issue.
Gates argued how AI could help fight the trend of ageing populations in many countries. He said it could improve health care and education in many developing nations.
Gates also hit back at concerns about AI by pointing out how the modern world has transitioned away from agriculture over the past century.
He highlighted how a grandfather from the turn of the century might term any job other than farming as “not a real job”. He said that in modern developed countries such as the US and UK, farming represents only one or two per cent of the economy.
Gates also emphasised the importance of government intervention in helping people retrain and gain skills that are relevant to the post-AI economy. He said, “the demand for labour to do good things is still there if you match the skills to it".
This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen Gates discuss the future of AI. In a blog post in June, he said that though the rise in AI may not be as significant as the Industrial Revolution, it may be as important as the introduction of the personal computer
Despite being hopeful about the future of AI, Gates pointed out how despite chatbot ChatGPT’s achievements, it’s still incapable of many tasks that humans can handle, such as the popular puzzle game Suduko.
Gate’s predictions come as the idea of a three or four-day working week is picking up steam in many developed countries.
In the UK, The 4 Day Week Campaign, which ran until May 2023, involved businesses as diverse as fish and chip shops and game designers trialling a four-day working week for their employees.
In February 2022, Belgian employees gained the right to a four-day working week, without loss of salary. This made Belgium the first country in Europe to introduce such a law.
This doesn't necessarily mean Belgians will be paid the same for fewer hours, however. They simply have the right for such hours to be more condensed.